1907 – 1960
Age of Global Conflict

Magritte's The Treachery of Images (Ceci n’est pas une pipe)

René Magritte, The Treachery of Images (Ceci n’est pas une pipe), 1929 (LACMA)

Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris, Dr. Steven Zucker


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Previous Comments

Satchel wrote on Saturday, March 02, 2013

Rene Magritte challenges the viewer to reconsider the relationship between the reliability or the authenticity of both the image and the text. This is a question of which holds more power, more authority linguistics or imagery? And how does this effect how we understand signs and what they represent? A sign is not an object so there is a tension between the signs (text and image) that depict the pipe, neither are actually the object of the pipe – it is the mental idea of what a pipe is as well as the denial of the pipe, saying it is not real. What I find interesting is the idea of flash cards that was mentioned in the video. Flash cards tend to have a similar lay out, image on top and text underneath stating what the object is, and is a way of teaching children how to connect the visual depiction of the object to the text they are reading. Both text and image are only the signs neither are the tangible object that we associate with the sign. Magritte is challenging this notion by confusing the viewer and forcing them to question are the signs real...is it a pipe?

Sarah C wrote on Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Treachery of Images, portrays a very realistic image of a pipe with the words “Ceci n’est pas un pipe” (this is not a pipe) written underneath it. As the video mentions, this is a seemingly humorous and lighthearted stab at semiotics. However, what draws me to this painting are the questions that it probes. This painting certainly makes me question the relationship between text and symbols in artwork. I find myself asking, does semiotics matter in artwork? Obviously symbols and iconography have served an imperative role in art history, but what about text? At what point is text necessary, or unnecessary? I am sure that we have all found ourselves in an art gallery, completely surrounded by didactic text. Did you find the didactic text necessary and helpful, or overwhelming and annoying? I believe that Treachery of Images is important in causing viewers to question the relationship between text, symbols, semiotics, and iconography in all works of art.

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