Rene Magritte Not to Be Reproduced René surrealism paintings meaning pronunciation facts biography inspiration analysis list timeline watercolor symbolism
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Rene Magritte – Not to Be Reproduced 1937 analysis

Rene Magritte Not to Be Reproduced René ‘s “portait” of Edward James

The story behind the painting

Not to be reproduced (La reproduction interdite) painted in 1937 by of course René Magritte’s.We are looking at a portrait of his friend and patron Edward James, but we can’t see his face. It is truly an irony for the ages when you realize that the setting in Magritte’s Not to be Reproduced has been reproduced in another of his bizarre paintings.

When Did Magritte paint the Not to be reproduced painting

During the early stages of his career and without a job , the British surrealist patron Edward James allowed Magritte to stay rent-free in his London home, where Magritte studied architecture and painted. James is featured in two of Magritte’s works painted in 1937, Le Principe du Plaisir (The Pleasure Principle) and La Reproduction Interdite, a painting also known as Not to Be Reproduced. Beginning in the late 1930s Magritte received a fair amount of large commissions and international popularity.

Rene Magritte – The eternal evidence 1930

Not to Be Reproduced by René Magritte painting analysis

The painting depicts the back of a darkly dressed man standing into what appears to be a mirror. When someone see this painting for the first time will automatically look for the man’s reflection in order to see his face and what he looks like.The book on the mantelpiece is reflected correctly but the man can see only the back of his head.

The book on the mantel is a copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.

What was the inspiration of the Not to Be Reproduced

Noone really knows what was the inspiration of this masterpiece. We are actually trapped within the same, strange world that Magritte created in James’s portrait! And lord help us if we are left to the whims of this strange Surrealist.

See also Rene Magritte series “The empire of Light”

Magritte Not To be Reproduced paintings meaning and title analysis

The whole idea of a title about reproduction is interesting here. We think about reproduction as something that tells us the truth. Reproduction also suggests multiplicity. All of that plays into the image that we see on this canvas.The Not to be reproduced exemplifies Magritte’s interest with what is hidden in our visual reality. Throughout his career, Magritte employs surrealist imagery that confronts our fascination with the hidden—hidden faces in particular. An apple conceals the face of his iconic bowler hat man in Le Fils de l’homme while white clothes cover the faces of his subject in Les Amants. In one of his few recorded interviews ( Magritte detested publicity and discussions of his own work), Magritte relates that,

“Everything we see hides another thing; we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible doesn’t show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is apparent”

Rene Magritte

Magritte himself has warned against interpretations and analysis of his titles: “The titles of pictures are not explanations and pictures are not illustrations of titles. The relationship between title and picture is poetic, that is, it only catches some of the object’s characteristics of which we are usually unconscious, but which we sometimes intuit, when extraordinary events take place which logic has not yet managed to elucidate”

Edward James

Edward James, a poet and a lifelong collector of art, is particularly remembered for his patronage of Surrealist painters including Dalí, Margritte, Tchelitchew, Fini and Carrington. He provided space for his artist friends to develop their creative practice. Dalí, Tchelitchew, Magritte and others were given studio space during extended stays in Edward’s homes at West Dean and in London. He supported them further through commissions and collaborations, building one of the finest collections of Surrealist art in the world. Le Principe du plaisir remained in James’ collection until 1964 when it became a part of his eponymous Foundation. It was acquired by the present owner in 1979 and has remained in the same private collection for nearly forty years.

Edward James by Man Ray


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