Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cigars Help in The Difficult Crossing

We have had a couple of postings on the Belgian artist René François Ghislain Magritte (1898-1967) who was famous for his surrealist paintings. One should refer to the prior postings Ceci n'est pas un cigare and The Cigar in a State of Grace for background. In this posting, we look at another of Magritte's works that incorporates a cigar. It is one of a series of paintings that attempt to depict the "difficult crossing," la traversée difficile. These paints all seem to have several fixtures. First, there is something akin to to a column or a baluster-like object, a bilboquet. In some of these paintings, it looks like a white pole similar to a pawn or a bishop's piece in a chess set.

In this particular painting dated 1946, the bilboquet shows itself in the form of a lamp. It may be called the "hero" or protagonist of the painting, and seems to be the center or stability in the piece. An additional common feature of all these paintings is the presence of a table. Most of the time, the legs of the table are depicted. In this particular version, only the tabletop remains. When there is a table, there is always an object on the table. In one of his paintings, for example, it is a wooden hand holding a bird. In this instance, the object on the table is a cigar box holding a lit cigar. Though the other paintings of this kind all have steps, in this instance the steps are only implied in the balustrade in the background. The curtain and the ambiguity between the outer and inner space are also frequent objects, in this case the presence of a window is extremely disguised. Always, the outside is stormy weather tied to the energetic and frothy sea.

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