|Courtesy of www.ReneMagritte.org|
The central idea running through the work of Rene Magritte was that painting must be poetry, and that poetry must evoke mystery. The key word is "mystery". His whole ceuvre was committed to an attempt to evoke this mystery - to evoke it, not to reveal it. But just what is mystery? There is no lack of definitions. All of them, incontestably, have something to do with the idea of something hidden, something secret. Some of them are also marked by religious or mystical connotations. In other words, according to the churches or to religious dogmas, it is necessary either to receive some sort of initiation in order to penetrate these "mysteries", or else they are forever inaccessible to human understanding and have to be accepted as they are. This is the case with the mysteries practised by the Christian religion as embodied in its sacraments. It is the domain of esoterism, more beloved of Surrealism in general than to Magritte in particular.
A man with a bowler hat stands with his back to the viewer, a figure of Flora from Primavera by Sandro Botticelli placed over his coat. This work exemplifies a device that Magritte commonly utilized: partially hiding an object by placing a smaller object in front of it and, therefore, denying the viewer complete access to the larger image. Of this work Magritte states, "Man is a visible apparition like a cloud, like a tree, like a house, like everything we see. I don't deny his importance and neither do I accord him any pre-eminence in a hierarchy of the things that the world offers visually"