Hyperallergic: A Painter Speaks, so that His Paintings Can Remain Silent

By Barry Schwabsky

Magritte_René coverYou might be surprised to hear that I was surprised to find a collection of René Magritte’s writings. I was surprised because I think of his paintings to be as deafeningly silent as paintings can be. They seem to stop language short. Of course, you might object that all paintings are silent. I know, I know. But some paintings make more of an issue of it than others. But still, you might say, what about that famous “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (1929)? And isn’t another of his most celebrated works, precisely “L’usage de la parole” (ca. 1929) — the one in which a bunch of dumb nondescript shapes are tauntingly given rough narrative identity by being labeled “horse,” “gun,” “cloud” and so on? Wasn’t Magritte an artist who directly incorporated language into his paintings?

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