Masterpiece Stories

Painting Of The Week – René Magritte, The Treachery of Images

Zuzanna Stańska 6 November 2016 min Read

As you can see, this painting shows a pipe. Underneath it there is a French sentence explaining, that "This is not a pipe". You may ask - what the hell is going on here? [caption id="attachment_2280" align="aligncenter" width="620"]René Magritte, The Treachery of Images , 1929, Los Angeles County Museum of Art René Magritte, The Treachery of Images , 1929, Los Angeles County Museum of Art[/caption] René Magritte, the Belgian surrealist painter created The Treachery of Images when he was 30 years old.  Magritte loved word games. He was also determined to prove that the painting and poetry were on an equal footing despite the Surrealists' constant flaunting on the pre-eminence of the written word. Magritte caches the gap between the language and the meaning. His statement is taken to mean that the painting itself is not a pipe; it is merely an image of a pipe.  Magritte explained it: "It's quite simple. Who would dare pretend that the REPRESENTATION of a pipe IS a pipe? Who could possibly smoke the pipe in my painting? No one. Therefore it IS NOT A PIPE." The painting is sometimes given as an example of meta message. "The word is not the thing" and "The map is not the territory". Magritte likely borrowed the pipe motif from Le Corbusier's book 'Vers une architecture' (1923), since he was admirer of the architect and painter, but he may also have been inspired by a comical sign he knew in an art gallery, which read, "Ceci n'est pas de l'Art." The painting is the subject of a famous book-length analysis by Michel Foucault. Surrealism was heavily influenced by Freudian psychology. It represented a reaction against the "Rationalism" that some believed led Europe into the horrors of World War I. It attempted to join the realm of dreams and fantasy to the everyday world. The Treachery of Images, now in the collection of Los Angeles County Museum  of Art became an icon of modern art and it influenced a big group of a younger generation of conceptually oriented artists, including Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Edward Ruscha, and Andy Warhol.

Find out more:

[easyazon_image align="none" height="160" identifier="0870708651" locale="US" src="" tag="dailyartdaily-20" width="138"]   [easyazon_image align="none" height="160" identifier="3822863181" locale="US" src="" tag="dailyartdaily-20" width="130"]   [easyazon_image align="none" height="160" identifier="1933045930" locale="US" src="" tag="dailyartdaily-20" width="113"]


Frants Henningsen, Funeral, 1883, National Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark. Detail. Masterpiece Stories

Masterpiece Story: Funeral by Frants Henningsen

Funeral by Frants Henningsen is a Danish masterpiece of emotions. It examines the different psychological reactions to love, loss, and...

James W Singer 23 May 2022

Plate with Arabic Inscription, ca 975-1000, painted and glazed earthenware, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France. Detail. Masterpiece Stories

Masterpiece Story: Plate with Arabic Inscription

Plate with Arabic Inscription is a masterpiece of 10th century Islamic art. It combines minimalism, abstraction, and morality into a beautiful and...

James W Singer 5 May 2022

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge, The Dance, 1890, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA. Masterpiece Stories

Masterpiece Story: At the Moulin Rouge, The Dance by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Tonight the Moulin Rouge is bursting at the seams. Men in dark coats and distinguished women dance and converse on the buzzing floor. Each has a...

Ruxi Rusu 29 April 2022

Carl Gustav Carus, Woman on the Balcony, 1824, oil on canvas, Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden, Germany. Detail. Masterpiece Stories

Masterpiece Story: Woman on the Balcony by Carl Gustav Carus

Woman on the Balcony is an intimate portrait of a person lost in thought. There is no action and no obvious story to interpret. However, its quiet...

James W Singer 25 April 2022