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Magritte (Colour Library) Hardcover – September 1, 1994
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You will recognize many of the paintings in this book, and you will find several "new" favorite paintings here too. Sunny blue skies. bowler-hatted gents, ambiguous figures, and hooded mystery men abound, of course.
Magritte's most popular works are still indeed very popular and reproduced as posters, calendars, etc. They also are an important influence on advertising and commercial art. In fact, Magritte's imagery (along with Dali's melting watches) are the go-to graphics for when an art director wants something a bit surreal. (Pink Floyd's album covers make this point quite well). Suzi Gablik doesn't touch on this aspect of the Magritte phenomenon, but she does include information on Magritte's background in advertising and his philosophy on reproductions as being just as satisfactory a conduit for spreading ideas as the original artwork.
If all you want are Magritte's "greatest hits," then buy a calendar. If you'd like an informative monograph about the artist, buy this book!
I had the pleasure of seeing Magritte on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2006. The exhibit was entitled, "The Treachery of Images," and it toyed with many of Magritte's most famous surrealist images. Further intrigued, it was Suzi Gablik's book that I subsequently picked up. As Suzi Gablik explains in her Preface, she met Magritte and his wife in 1959 and that visit resulted in an eight month stay and what would become this monograph (book). Included are excellent essays on Pop and Surrealism, The Human Condition and The Use of Words, not to mention the myriad illustrations. She lifts this curtain in concise and detailed accuracy.
In life, Magritte maintained an inconspicuous presence unlike the vainglorious and flamboyant Salvador Dali whose personality was as famous as his paintings.
The Magritte paintings I find of particular interest are the paintings within paintings: "Evening Falls" and "Le Seducteur" (The Seducer) are two of my personal favorites because of his brilliant blend of inside and outside mental phenomena. He teaches us a new way to see and interpret the mysterious world around us. His influence can even be seen in pop culture, take for instance, Jeff Beck's Beck-Ola (Exp) or the scene with Johnny Depp in Once Upon a Time in Mexicothat harkens back to Magritte's "The Magician" in my opinion.
Freud once said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar..." Not so with Magritte. If he said, "This is not a pipe," the journey would begin there. A jumping off point. He was always on the lookout for what has never been. The treachery continues...
We will never forget the Bowler-Hatted man and his work. At least, I know I won't.
Although there is a decent several-page overview of Magritte at the start of the book, the main focus is the 48 full-page reproductions, each accompanied by a brief commentary. These commentaries do not offer much, but I personally am not really interested in someone else's interpretations of an artist's pictures, and Magritte himself said there was no 'required' interpretation for his paintings anyway.
The book was a real 'grower' for me - some of the pictures that I didn't initially like I came to love over time - I feel they can have the power to speak to you very personally, and as a consequence this is a book I keep coming back to.