Discuss a painting (what?) by René Magritte

Discussion in 'Photographic Aesthetics and Composition' started by Michel Hardy-Vallée, Mar 6, 2008.

  1. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    I think it puts to shame the idea of "exposure latitude" or "dynamic range..."

    [​IMG]

    (L'empire des lumières, 1954)
     
  2. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    Interesting painting. Do you know how much detail the original has in the shadows? Is it pretty much as represented in the image?
     
  3. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    I've seen the original in person many years ago during a big Magritte exhibit in Montreal, and it's detailed as far as night paintings go. It took me a while actually to register the dissonance between night and day.

    I think it's brilliant, because it relies on the twofold meaning of a dark tree: either seen from night, or as underexposed shadow of a contre-jour. In that sense, I think it owes a little bit to photography (our own eyes would see more details) but at the same time is gently mocking it by showing the impossible.
     
  4. sun of sand

    sun of sand Member

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    I don't like it. I'd never buy it or put a copy on my walls.
    I like the lamp and it's illumination of the home and the reflection on the water, that's all. Those tepid morning skies make me as sick as those empty pits of darkness. I don't care whether it's impossible or how it doesnt/does relate to photography
    I don't see the idea as being brilliant. If it's brilliant in any way imo it is its ability to make you sick ..but that has nothing to do with the idea
     
  5. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Geez son of sand, get a grip! We're talking about 1920s surrealism, people doing weird stuff for the first time of their lives. Of course it ends up gimmicky after a while.

    Oh and the fact that it makes you sick does not mean anything about making other people sick as you imply!
     
  6. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    I looked at a lot of Magritte's work in the Brussels Art Museum a few years ago and liked this one maybe because it was closest to a contre jour photo. Until you look twice it seems like a normal painting unlike almost all of his surrealist work such as the " Lost Jockey" and others even more surrealistic. It stands out because it is almost normal. Equally some might say that IR shots especially on HIE are almost surrealistic because of the strange light and glow.

    A lot of surrealism has to be looked at very closely. Most of it doesn't reveal itself fully otherwise. One problem is that Magritte took years to do all his paintings and each demanded a great deal of his time and thought. We try and view them all in say a couple of hours and wonder why only one or two strike any chords immediately!

    pentaxuser
     
  7. sun of sand

    sun of sand Member

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    a better/another reproduction
    http://cgfa.sunsite.dk/magritte/p-magritte17.htm

    I included IMO
    I don't need to get a grip ..you wanted discussion I added to it.
    To me, it's not all that brilliant. Its an idea put to canvas. An idea we all have at some point. He seemed to have used this a lot in his paintings. It's not new, really ..just put on canvas by a great painter. They -for the most part- either seem easy or there isn't anything TO understand
    A lot seem to get their greatness by the viewers bowling themselves over with artsy-farsty intellectualism trying to understand them
    Sick. Disturbing. What else can it be? Most all of his works are disturbing. His greatness comes from his ability to disturb you, if you ask me. Either by disturbing your senses or disturbing you into finding what isn't really there ..all the same. If you caught a fish that once landed started to sing Elvis tunes what would you think? Disturbing? Easy to understand what would motivate a person to paint that, though.
    So easy the viewer would probably delve deep into Elvis life to try and find new ways of associating the fish to Elvis so that he can seem smarter than everyone else/secure a job.
    His works are little thoughts on canvas that force you into thinking about your own little thoughts ..asking you to believe in them as much as you would be inclined to believe in a great painters ..his. IMO


    A large %age of paintings took/take years and required/ great thought. ? It takes time to paint ..and condense all that thought into a pretty simple painting that when viewed for a short time is understandable
    Any painting that requires years of study has a fool for a student
    If "you" write a pages long critique I truly think you're just giving yourself pats on the ass for thinking of everything you're writing
    It's nearly instantaneous your response to works of art. Who is that person writing for?
    IMO that writer is himself an artist.
     
  8. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    OK, so let me get this straight: the only important response to an artwork is the first ten seconds, during which we either fall in love or turn our stomach over in disgust?
     
  9. sun of sand

    sun of sand Member

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    I might say it depends on just how critical/sensitive you were during those first "10" seconds.
    You may be the type to try and find out exactly why the artist created but I am not
    Trivial to me.
    I believe all artists are trying to say the same types of things as all artists -and all people- have been trying to say since the beginning
    No real reason to relearn what you know, you know?
    The "tricks" employed may change but the message hardly ever does. Art has to be new but there is little new about it. What makes "new" art exciting is how it makes one realize that it really isn't all that "new" at all. It ..disturbs. After a while that feeling goes away because we have accepted another way of seeing.
    If you need to analyze for years to understand something you've either overlooked what was under your nose or the painter perhaps didn't do much. IMO.
    A person isn't going to like all art even if they can ..."understand".... all art
    Art is about much more than just the message it conveys/tries to convey/if it is trying to convey something "real" at all ..that is where I come from.


    I might ask you why it is/seems you're trying to belittle me

    "It took me a while actually to register the dissonance between night and day.
    I think it's brilliant, because it relies on the twofold meaning of a dark tree: either seen from night, or as underexposed shadow of a contre-jour. In that sense, I think it owes a little bit to photography (our own eyes would see more details) but at the same time is gently mocking it by showing the impossible."

    "Geez son of sand, get a grip! We're talking about 1920s surrealism, people doing weird stuff for the first time of their lives. Of course it ends up gimmicky after a while.
    Oh and the fact that it makes you sick does not mean anything about making other people sick as you imply!"

    Those two posts seem to come from two different people IMO
     
  10. arigram

    arigram Member

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    I like Magritte.
    He doesn't try to overwhelm you with a plethora of elements like Dali
    but he sticks to one simple idea that he presents clearly.
    He follows the aethetics of naturalistic painting with one major element
    out of the ordinary, enough to transcend to the realm of surrealism.

    Sun of Sand's argument is largely incomprehensible to me because of his
    confusing command of the language. I think his point is that its ok
    not to like a work of art, one that to him is not of any interest. He seems
    to find that the central idea of the painting, "to disturb", is unsuccessful
    because of its lack of originality.
    Surrealism was a response to the infatuation of its time with "logic" and
    a matter-of-fact attitude and their playful but serious play with the instinct,
    the irrational and the subconscious.
    One is very much excused for not finding their work original or imaginative
    or artistically important but I believe that is very much because of the
    influence they had on the artworld and culture.

    Maybe we could also discuss surrealist photography?
     
  11. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    It's a wondeful, thoughtful painting, in my opinion.

    I do have a question for art historians: how much colour drift might one expect from the paints he used? As far as tone scale is concerned, I see no un-reality in the separate halves, but joining them together is problematic. The shadowing suggests a sunrise and hence one expects a rather different blue in the sky- a different colour temperature. Hence I ask whether that blue is the same blue he saw when he put it to canvas.

    Regardless of colour temperature, I do enjoy it as a study of unusual contrast in light and statement on how inside light is used.

    The idea that comes to me is that a person-secluded in the house, with the light on and perhaps reading a book- is oblivious to the scene unfolding outside. I think the painter wants to suggest that this person is missing the bigger show, so to speak. I get the strong idea of confinement inside the house, versus blinding beauty outside.

    Actually, this strikes me as the least surreal of the Magritte work I have seen.
     
  12. arigram

    arigram Member

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    Ha, I didn't see it as being that complex.
    Its simply a day sky with a night landscape mixed together and the "disturbing" part is that they are combined very naturally in a way that many people would totally miss the unnatural phenomenon.
    The existence of day and night together would be something that wouldn't register in most people's minds.
    So, I can't see it as "HDR" or very well developed shadow detail.
    Photographically is a montage of two separate frames.
     
  13. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    It takes two to tango. Aren't you the one trying to belittle me as an artsy-fartsy who is bowled over by complex theories?
     
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  15. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Well, if you guys are going to keep fuming then I am going to post this album cover, which I just learned from Wikipedia was inspired by the Magritte.

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    I see the relationship to photography as a negative one: a kind of bras d'honneur of painting towards the limitations of photography. Manet also did a few paintings that went against the laws of optics to prove the point that painting had abilities beyond what the camera could do.

    So there is the representation of the impossible, or the fictive, implicitly in opposition to the common perception of photography as an art petrified in the here and there. Other Magritte paintings, like the pipe, the painter creating a woman, or the apples, are representations of the impossible, but I think it's the use of light to represent impossibility that makes the painting more relevant to photography.

    Magritte is drawing with light, but what's more he is drawing light itself, and having a ball doing so.
     
  17. arigram

    arigram Member

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    I agree, to go past, nay, to defeat realism was his and the other surrealists' goal.
     
  18. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Keith, I really like that interpretation. I forgot about the light in the second floor windows.

    It's a bit like the 4am time, when night eventually turns into day, but for a while we keep the electric lights on until the morning is clear enough to pierce through the windows.
     
  19. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    The Surrealists' relationship to photography is all the more interesting. I'm not sure if my interpretation of this painting toward photo is accurate, but I would not be surprised to see these people having very ambivalent feelings toward the silver plate.

    Man Ray of course comes to mind as someone who was trying to defeat realism in photography; Magritte took a few photos as well; Dali was obviously a great subject for a photographer.

    Conversely, I was struck, but ultimately not surprised to know that Cartier-Bresson was drawing his inspiration from the surrealists in his manner of composing.

    I think everyone must have realized at some point that the camera was seeing something more, or something else than plain reality.
     
  20. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Indeed it's not as clear as Kertesz.

    I don't think I've ever seen any of HCB's paintings; this makes me curious.
     
  21. arigram

    arigram Member

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    A photograph is by its very nature surrealistic:
    A picture of a pipe "is not a pipe", after all.

    I remember how at the university I used Plato's argument against art (that creates lies because of the artists' lack of knowledge)
    to support modern art that went against naturalism and realism.

    Cartier-Bresson's work is very surrealistic in the sense that although it draws from the physical reality,
    its compositional and presentational aspects slightly escape from the normal perception enough to give
    the necessary nudge towards irrationality.
     
  22. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    P.S. Before somebody points out that dadaism preceded surrealism, I'll confess that at my [low] level of art categorization, they are the same in spirit.
     
  23. donbga

    donbga Member

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    HCB was a self described surrealist; he was referencing his photography.
     
  24. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    g'day all

    Don, i'm currently reading a joint bio of Roland Penrose and Lee Miller, Miller is described as a surrealist both for her early work and much of her photojournalism, i think i need to reassess what this term means
     
  25. sun of sand

    sun of sand Member

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    "He seems to find that the central idea of the painting, "to disturb", is unsuccessful because of its lack of originality."
    No. In fact, I don't even agree with that thinking. How can something not be what it is simply because it's been done before? Makes no sense at all.
    excused?
    Frankly, if you cant comprehend what it is I'm saying I'm not sure you should be writing for the world what it is you think I could be saying as it only makes me have to work even harder
    I not only have to clarify myself but erase what you've written from the minds of people that have read your misconceptions
    You should ask me whether or not what you're thinking is correct. Not publish those thoughts as "possible" fact cause people on average do not note the "possible" aspect and just take it as truth
     
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  26. sun of sand

    sun of sand Member

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    More for restorers, I'd think. I doubt any "color drift" This was only 50-80 years ago. Paintings can be cleaned up to like-new condition much older than that. How much color drift has there been in cave paintings thousands of years old? I doubt much. THeir stuff was pure