Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Treachery of Images

The Treachery of Images is a painting by the Belgian René Magritte, painted when Magritte was 30 years old. The picture shows a pipe. Below it, Magritte painted, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe", French for "This is not a pipe." The painting is not a pipe, but rather an image of a pipe, which was Magritte's point:

The theme of pipes with the text "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" is extended in his 1966 painting, Les Deux Mystères.

French literary critic and philosopher Michel Foucault discusses the painting and its paradox in his 1973 book, This Is Not a Pipe (English edition, 1991).

Scott McCloud uses this painting as an introduction to the second chapter of his book Understanding Comics. McCloud points out that not only is the version that appears in his book not a pipe, it is actually several printed copies of a drawing of a painting of a pipe.

Douglas Hofstadter also discusses this painting and other images like it in Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, a work on cognition and consciousness.

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