If Not a Pipe, Then What?: Magritte’s Meta-Painting

When first I came across René Magritte’s famous painting, which says in French “This is not a pipe,” I was quite confused. Of course it is a pipe. Just look at the painting. I propose a simple test to check: put something in the pipe and smoke it. You can’t? Why not? If not a pipe, then what is it?

A meta-painting reminds the viewer that they are not looking at natural objects in the real world, they are looking at a painting. It’s astounding how readily we forget.

5 thoughts on “If Not a Pipe, Then What?: Magritte’s Meta-Painting”

  1. We’re not just looking at a painting; I think more importantly we’re looking at a representation or even more specifically an interpretation- we are looking at what a pipe means to renè Magritte; for this may not in fact be a pipe to some people who are of a different time/ place/ experience.

  2. c.f. Michel Foucault’s “Ceci N’Est Pas Une Pipe” (1983 University of California Press, isbn 0-520-04916-0) for more on the intersection of 20th c. art the philosophy of language.

  3. Specifically what I am looking at are some red, yellow, and blue (I think) lights all combined together to make colors in a shape that I recognize. But I am only looking at colored lights. From that I make my interpretation of what it symbolizes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *