The Wednesday Painting – The Treachery of Images by Magritte

This week’s Wednesday Painting is Belgian Surrealist Magritte‘s The Treachery of Images. It’s currently housed in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, so I probably won’t be seeing it any time soon!


René Magritte, The Treachery of Images (1926). (Ceci n’est pas une pipe; “This is not a pipe”). Oil on canvas.

The significance of the painting is incomplete when we consider each in isolation. The image of the pipe alone isn’t especially interesting, and there doesn’t seem to be anything unusual about that sentence or the script. The dominant contrast (or what Barthes would call the punctum) in the painting is the pipe, so we might initially think, “That sure does look like a pipe.” Then we read the sentence that tells us it is not a pipe. What is it then? Magritte offers us the image of the pipe, then tells us that it’s not a pipe. Enculturation

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