The Lovers

7:00 AM

The Lovers, Rene Magritte, 1928
By LIBBY ROHR

Surrealism, the LSD of the art world, began after World War I at the breakup of the Dada-ism as a movement to reveal the subconscious and examine the human mind through art. Inspired by the ideas of Freud, surrealists were obsessed with the unknown depths of the brain that govern our lives without our awareness. Often times surrealists painted dreamscapes or organic abstractions meant to represent visions. Most features nearly blank backgrounds and centered around unexpected juxtapositions of subjects and color. In subject, the movement was a lonely one, often focusing on scenes of isolation as a way to express the post-World War I "lost generation." Surrealism doesn't make sense conceptually, but it isn't supposed to. Instead, the intention was to warp the perception of the viewer and express the inner workings of the artist's mind.

Pioneered by great artists like Salvador Dalí, Joan Miro, André Masson, and René Magritte, this movement took off in the twenties and lasted into the 50s for some of the more integral members. Magritte's work has a quality that other surrealists do not, it often serves as a social commentary as well. In Magritte's The Lovers, he puts a spin on a classic image, a kiss between two in love, but subverts the image while incorporating the surrealist motif of masks and disguises. The gradient depressing blue of the sky beyond sets the mood as two cloaked lovers meet in an embrace. Magritte is referencing human sexual frustration and the hidden subconscious in the realization that no part of these two are actually touching. Despite their intimacy, the two subjects don't really know each other. They can't even see each other. The desire for connection is our most human trait, and yet these two can never hope to be as close as they wish with the shrouded faces.

Magritte's style was clean cut in comparison to many modernist movements. The Surrealists weren't interested in playing with the harsh distinctive brush strokes of impressionism and the like. They weren't concerned with the exceptionally bright in color. They weren't interested in abstraction for the sake of newness. What marks Surrealism is the surprising juxtaposition of color and subject that one could only have hope of relating to the subconscious human mind. Surrealism seems shocking and confusing and perplexing, but like any good work of art, the realization comes in sitting with it and getting to know the style and the subject. In a flurry of what seems like random shapes or figures, you might even find a deep dark part of yourself you never knew about.

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