Tuesday, 26 March 2013


“Human identity is the most fragile thing that we have, and it's often only found in moments of truth.” - Alan Rudolph
René François Ghislain Magritte was born on November 21st, 1898 at Lessines, a province of Hainaut in Belgium. This surrealist artist is renowned and very popular for his thought-provoking images, which sometimes cause amusement, sometimes shock and often wonder and puzzlement. Magritte in his art, wishes to put an end to our sense of familiarity with the world. Although he depicted ordinary things in his canvases, he modified them with his imagination and presented them in absurd contexts and with such illusory blends and counter-logical associations that very often the viewers are moved to challenge their beliefs and question their frame of reference. Magritte’s work is thought provoking and his canvases present visual enigmas, which are sure to puzzle and challenge the spectators. Many contemporary artists have been influenced by the remarkable works of René Magritte. He died at the age of 68 on August 15th 1967, in Brussels of pancreatic cancer.
Magpie Tales has chosen Magritte’s “Not to be Reproduced” (La reproduction interdite), as the springboard on which we launch our creative endeavours this week. The painting is owned currently by the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. This painting was commissioned by poet and Magritte patron Edward James and is considered a portrait of James although James’ face is not depicted. This painting was one of three produced by Magritte for the ballroom of James’ London home. The other two were “The Red Model” (1937) and “Time Transfixed” (1938).
The book on the mantel is a well-worn copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (written here in French as Les aventures d’Arthur Gordon Pym). Poe was one of Magritte’s favourite authors and he made other references to the author and his work. Magritte painted another portrait of Edward James titled “The Pleasure Principle” (1937). It depicts James from the front, sitting at a table; however, his face is obscured by a bright flash like that produced by a camera flash.
Here is my poem based on Monsieur Magritte’s painting, which I have reproduced shamelessly and counter to his imperative.
Whence have I come?
Where am I at?
Whither shall I go?
The stranger I am looking back at in the mirror
Stays silent and will not answer my questions.
Who is he?
Why does he remain silent?
How will I get to know him?

The years pass by, all too swiftly now,
As the sand grains run out of my hourglass.
How many years more?
Which way to the finish?
Wherefore have I lived?
My life before outweighs the life I have after the present minute
A ratio tending towards infinite minuteness.
Who is that man?
Why does he not speak?
How shall we become acquainted?
My life spirals downwards, and as I descend in ever smaller whorls,
The infinitude below overwhelms me.
Whence have I come?
Where am I at?
Whither shall I go?


  1. Such a sad poem. It picks up the darkness of the painting so well.

  2. I enjoyed this ... love how you shamelessly reproduced!!!

  3. Thanks for the history. A commpelling read, and I loved what you did with the art, too.