Querelle des universaux

Thursday, March 12, 2009 12:38:20 PM


This blog is one featuring a word and image painting of Rene Magritte.

René Magritte, Querelle des universaux, early 1928 Oil on canvas 53.5 x 72.5 cm

This painting is one of the first in the series of "alphabet paintings" or "word paintings" produced by Magritte in the course of his time in Paris from 1927 to 1930. These works form a basis for establishing a new relationship between words and painting, thus disclosing the ambiguity of the connections between real objects, their image and their name. This problem is also tackled by Magritte in "Les mots et les images" (Words and Images), an article published in La Révolution surréaliste in December 1927 and showing a picture comparing linguistic statements with illustrative vignettes. For example, the first sentence tells us that "an object is not so attached to its name that we cannot find another one that would suit it better".

The Querelle des universaux might well illustrate this other statement taken from the article: "sometimes the name of an object stands for an image". Indeed, the words "foliage", "horse", "mirror", "convoy", written on the canvas, replace the image they designate. Placed at the tip of the points of a mysterious star and each inscribed on a brown stain, "any form whatsoever that can replace the image of an object", these words play a full part in the spatial composition of a new fantasy image. This painting undoes the connection that we spontaneously establish between objects, images and words.


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