Wednesday, November 12, 2014

René Magritte, The Lost Jockey

René Magritte, The Lost Jockey, 1948

René Magritte (1898-1967) was a Belgian artist, generally considered a Surrealist but his particular brand of avant-garde Surrealism differed greatly from most members of the movement.  Most of Magritte's best known work are witty, thought-provoking images, such as his famous painting The Treachery of Images which shows a painting of a pipe and then claims it is not a pipe.  The phrase seems sarcastic and contradictory, except that it is in fact not a pipe--it is a painting of a pipe.  Magritte is also well known for his 1964 painting The Son of Man.  The Lost Jockey is a watercolor gouache (combining watercolor with a thick gum or glue to make it opaque) that depicts a favorite subject of Magritte's.  The jockey riding through unfamiliar and surreal surroundings is a theme Magritte depicted several times, such as in 1926, another from the same year, and in 1942. The version I chose is fascinating to me for several reasons.  For one thing, the surroundings are much less unusual than in the other versions.  These are normal trees that appear to stand on normal land, as opposed to the branches growing out of columns that appear in the others. Therefore the jockey's situation seems quite different; he is not in any danger or under threat from his surroundings, merely riding quickly, trying to reach his destination.  I find this image quite engaging.  The geometric shapes of the trees are quite pleasing and the gradient of yellow, from golden at the top of the sky to off-white on the ground, creates an unusual rendering of our world that is familiar and recognizable, but still somewhat unsettling.

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