Rene Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist, who sought to create work that challenged people’s perceptions of the everyday. He belonged to the Surrealist movement, which began in 1920’s Paris and made its way across the world over several decades. Congruent with the exploration of the unconscious mind, as uncovered in the avant-garde movement, Magritte experimented with portraying the dreamlike state. Working with oil paint on canvas, he painted in an illustrative style. However, his central focus was with the subject of the painting, rather than its realism.
From pieces of fruit wearing masks and apples filling the space of a room, to a train emerging from a fireplace, Rene Magritte played with the irrational juxtaposition of images. His paintings are regarded as both intelligent and irreverent. Repeated images distinguish his work: the bowler hat, fluffy white clouds in a blue sky and round steel balls make appearances throughout his paintings. His iconic study shows a pipe, with ‘’Ceci n’est pas une pipe’’, French for ‘’This is not a pipe’’, painted below it. It challenges the assumption that language, images and objects are consistent with one another. He reminds us of the gap between language and object: ‘’Just try to stuff it with tobacco.’’ The title of this piece,The Treachery of Images, encompasses the essence of what his paintings seem to tell us – to never take what we see too seriously.