I stayed in Frankfurt the last weekend and was very happy to attend the meetup at Schirn Kunsthalle as well as the new René Magritte exhibition. As I am moving to Frankfurt in April, I enjoyed having a chance to meet some new people there and – important – I am a big Magritte fan.
In a concentrated solo exhibition devoted to the great Belgian Surrealist (1898–1967), the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt explores his relationship to the philosophical currents of his time until the 5th of June.
Magritte never saw himself as an artist and never called himself one. Funny enough he used to be the Surrealist most ignored by art historians, completely different from the Parisian Surrealists like Salvador Dali or Max Ernst. So no wonder it is the first large-scale solo show of Magritte in Germany for twenty years.
The exhibition sheds light on Magritte’s philosophical investigations in five chapters presented in different rooms. Throughout his life, Magritte sought to imbue painting with meaning equal to that of language. Driven by his curiosity and his affinities with some of the leading philosophers of his age, such as Michael Foucault, he created a remarkable body of work and developed an altered view of the world that is reflected in a unique combination of masterfully precise painting and conceptual processes. His word pictures reflect his fundamental views on the relationship between language and visual imagery. Other essential pictorial formulas are concerned with legends and myths associated with the invention and definition of painting. The quasi-scientific method Magritte applied in his painting bears witness to his distrust of simple answers and simplistic realism.
The Schirn is presenting 70 of Magritte’s paintings including masterpieces from the 1920s to the 1960s like his emblematic self-portrait entitled La Lampe philosophique (The Philosopher’s Lamp) (1936), La Condition Humaine (The Human Condition) (1948), Les Mémoires d’un Saint (The Memoires of a Saint) (1960), Le Beau Monde (The Beautiful World) (1962), and L’Heureux Donateur (The Happy Donor) (1966), and of course La Trahison des images (Ceci n’est pas une pipe) (The Treachery of Images [This is not a Pipe]) (1927).
Magritte used recurring objects such as the apple, the pipe, the bowler, the curtain, and the dove, the blue sky with white clouds, the iron bells, the egg, the lion, the fetter balloon or people with a cloth in front of their faces. Usually, these works referred to childhood memories such as the fetal balloon, which crashed on the parents’ house, or the mother who had been found dead with a nightdress over her head. He used astonishing opposites in his pictures.
In La Condition humaine (The Human Condition) (1935), for example, Magritte focused on the problem of the window establishing links between inside and outside, the seen and the hidden, nature and culture, picture and landscape. The dialectical pairs that structure the world of his imagination appear in painting after painting: natural and artificial, interior and exterior, impulsive and rational.
I like those dreamy, recurring elements in Magritte’s paintings, which makes them fun to look at, and stimulating to think about. The exhibition is well curated and gives you a nice overview and entry to Magritte’s fascinating works. You can just stroll through the rooms and enjoy every painting for itself or you can start with the wall texts and follow the five chapters. I would recommend the strolling first if you don’t know much about him yet or you use the extensive digitorial the Schirn prepared to find your own way of exploring Magritte’s world.
#museum | Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt
#exhibition | Magritte. The Treachery of Images
#until | June 5, 2017
In cooperation with Schirn Kunsthalle.