Quick Study: ceci n’est pas une pomme

ce n'est pas une pomme

“ceci n’est pas une pomme” (c)2012, Acrylic on Canvas Board, 12″ x 9″

This piece was a quick-study of using negative space boldly. After completion, the title “ceci n’est pas une pomme” (this is not an apple)—an alteration of Surrealist artist René Magritte’s statement, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (‘This is not a pipe’), in his “La trahison des images” (‘The Treason of Images), 1929—seemed appropriate and a fitting tribute to Magritte and his fascination with language and perception.

“Ceci n'est pas une pipe” ('This is not a pipe'), in “La trahison des images” ('The Treason of Images), 1929, by René Magritte.

“Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (‘This is not a pipe’), in “La trahison des images” (‘The Treason of Images), 1929, by René Magritte.

From what I’ve read, Magritte was very much a philosopher-artist, and in “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” he provocatively toyed with perception and reality. In it he states that this is not a pipe—which is true, it’s an image of a pipe—and if you don’t believe it, Magritte challenges, “just try to fill it with tobacco.”

So go ahead, just try eat my apple.

If you are interested in semiotics and linguistics, you might want to check out the excerpt from “This Is Not a Pipe” (1968), by the French literary critic and philosopher Michel Foucault. But as Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson), my writer colleague on Twitter, would say: “Pack a lunch!” For Foucault discusses the painting in-depth, in terms of its apparent paradox(es). But keep in mind that his argument was published a year after Magritte’s death and is based on assumptions of “resemblance” and “similitude” that the artist may not have agreed with.

“Ceci n'est pas une pomme” (This is not an apple), 1964, by René Magritte.

“Ceci n’est pas une pomme” (This is not an apple), 1964, by René Magritte.

And now, dessert. In addition to his pipe—I mean, image of a pipe—Magritte later created at least three works in the “’Ceci n’est pas…” motif of apples. One image from 1964, found on Christie’s —which harvested no small prize of $1,136,639 US—has Lot Notes worth reading. I will leave you with an excerpt:

“Ceci n’est pas une pomme (‘This is not an apple’) unites two of René Magritte’s most famous iconographical elements, the apple and the ‘Ceci n’est pas…’ concept. The apple only really began to play a significant part in Magritte’s works in 1950, but reappeared in so many guises, on so many scales, that it has become one of his dominant trademarks. Here it is given a monumental status slightly shocking for a fruit – the canvas and the apple on it are gigantic, as are the words, written in such a controlled calligraphic manner. Magritte’s apples were often monumentalized, shown made of stone or on a disproportionate, impossible scale compared to the accompanying objects. In giving such predominance to such a simple fruit, Magritte managed to discreetly disrupt artistic tradition, for instance upsetting the entire concept of the still-life by giving predominance to the fruit, not to the artist or the tromp-l’oeil effect of the painting . . .

The ‘Ceci n’est pas…’ motif first appeared in 1929 in La trahison des images (‘The Treason of Images’), which depicts a pipe and underneath it the words ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ (‘This is not a pipe’). Its simple yet profound iconoclasm guaranteed its amazing success, and it has become the most famous of Magritte’s images . . .

The reuse of the ‘Ceci n’est pas…’ concept is part of a general movement in Magritte’s later work, when he showed renewed interest in his earlier subject matter, revisiting favorite themes and treating them with a new maturity and the benefit of hindsight. The apple replacing the pipe is thus not a continuation of an old theme, but an extensive revision.”

Bon appetite!

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