The Treachery of Images

7:00 AM

Rene Magritte, The Treachery of Images, 1929

Speaking of the most impactful painting for me, this one can hardly be qualified. But it's no doubt one of the most unforgettable ones. If I recall correctly, my first encounter with this painting came with an assignment sheet on Candide, the sophomore year summer reading. Back then, I was no better a fool than Candide—didn't know what was going on and spent too much time sitting around idly. I certainly hope this situation has changed, if at all. Sadly, I still have no clue what this painting has to do with Candide. 

But I've always remembered it, and I always find a strange sense of humor in it. A pipe. Not a pipe. And a pipe. And not a pipe. It will mess with their minds, if some kids get a stack of flashcards with this one in it—apple, baby, cat, dog...and not-a-pipe. When Magritte was asked if the painting was a pipe, he suggested them to stuff it with tabaco. Funny. But children ought to stay away from such logic. Otherwise, where is the authority? Do we choose to believe in what we see or what we are told?

Another, more philosophical approach would probably be: where do we draw the line between reality and the the representative of reality? Magritte has brought up such deep questions with a simple object and a single line of text. Powerful. But if you are not a big fan of profoundness, the humor is equally amusing. After all, when Magritte and his friends got together, they didn't just sit down and create esoteric profoundness. So why not just have some good laugh? Everybody loves a joke.

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