Surrealism is an art movement that started in 1920’s Paris. The leaders of the movement wanted to create an alternative that celebrated the absurd, the irrational and the spontaneous. They wanted to unlock the subconscious mind, to capture thoughts and ideas that came to them in sleep …living the dream.
The most prominent artist of Surrealism was Salvador Dali with his melting clocks and fascinating expression of dreams. René Magritte (1898-1967) took a different approach to his dreamscapes. He was as traditional as Dali was wacky. Magritte made the ordinary, extraordinary in an edgy uncomfortable way, a bad way.
Concealed faces were a common theme in Magritte’s art. He has said that everything we see hides another thing and there is always a curiosity to see what is hidden, which the visible does not show. There is tension created between “the visible that is hidden and the visible that is apparent.”
Suppressed feeling was also a common theme that Magritte used paintings to expose.
The lovers I and II (1928) was part of a small group of paintings in which the figures are shrouded in white cloth. In one, the shrouded heads are posing for a photograph. In the other, the heads are in an intimate kiss with each other.
These images are deliberate in its attempt to provoke and unlock the darker side of the mind.
The gestures of the man and woman pressed together depict a warm closeness ready to be photographed but the simple device of the shrouds redirects the vision to be one of alienation, isolation, perhaps even suffocation.
The familiarity of the intimacy of a kiss is transformed to one of isolation and detachment by the shrouds.
In an intimate relationship between two people, these paintings also suggest our inability to fully know the true nature of our closest partner.
Outwardly so ordinary, Magritte’s paintings make us think about the apparent and the obscured reality.
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