The Treachery of Images

by arianambrand

It was raining in Vienna, so I went to an art museum. The Albertina is housed in one of the half-dozen former Hapsburg palaces scattered around Eastern Austria, and I was drawn there by promises of a Monet & Picasso exhibit, which was a bit dull and weird and not well-laid out at all. But I wandered upstairs and found myself in the middle of a massive (200+ painting!) exhibition of the art of René Magritte.

Doesn’t sound familiar? Well, I didn’t recognize the name, but I definitely recognized this:

and also this:

The exhibit was amazing. Magritte was transfixed by certain images and objects, and he used them over and over again– apples, bowler hatted anonymous men, mirrors, fragmented body parts, endless horizons, windows, and clouded skies.

My favorites (and probably the most disturbing images in the collection) are pieces from a series called The Empire of Light. They feature nocturnal street scenes, lit by a single lantern placed beneath the brilliant sunlight of Magritte’s trademark clouds and sky.

Unfortunately, these little thumbnails don’t convey the scale of the paintings. The one on the bottom was easily five feet wide, and the contrast between the sunlight pouring in from the blue sky and the dark on the street level was…well, really weird.

The Human Condition. Apparently sometimes Magritte wanted to make a point with his art, and therefore used painting titles with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

Lucky for us, he was sometimes a great deal more obtuse. This is Mysteries of the Horizon, and I don’t know what it means but I like it.

The Tomb of the Wrestlers. This painting is life-size, or rather, the room in the painting is painted at life-size. The rose would fill a Scripps dorm room.

Anyway, it was insane, and beautiful, and reminded me of why I like art museums in the first place. More on Vienna when I can get my photos up.

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