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The Treachery of the Image

until January 4 2015

René Magritte, Au seuil de la liberté (On the Threshold of Freedom), 1930, Collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, photo: Studio Tromp René Daniëls, Title Evening, 1987, Collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

This is an exhibition of works that compels the viewer to consider the meaning of what we see or think we see. René Magritte, whose picture inspired the title of this exhibition, and artists like René Daniëls, Daan van Golden and David Hockney all explore the relationship between reality and the painted image. The museum is showing twenty works from its own collection in two rooms.

Realistic abstract

Even though these artists often depicted reality very precisely, the result is nonetheless abstract. The relationship between the object—the reality—and the image—the painting—is constantly put to the test. Words, in the form of a title or painted on the canvas itself, are mixed into this game they play with meaning—as they are in the work of René Daniëls. He describes his approach as ‘visual poetry’, because of the associative wordplay and visual jokes he includes in his works. The ambiguity of language and the relationship between image and language likewise lie at the heart of the objects, installations, films, photographs and prints by ‘word artist’ Marcel Broodthaers.

Artist as illusionist

Some of the artists in this exhibition use the frame and the canvas to emphasize the illusion of the painted flat surface. The artist acts as an illusionist. In La saignée, René Magritte uses the trompe-l'oeil technique to fool the viewer—it is a painting within a painting. The smaller painting is not blank; it is of a brick wall. Combining part of an interior wall with a section of an exterior wall in one image is absurd. This is not reality; it is a world of ideas that takes shape on the canvas.