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the lovers Painting by Rene Magritte

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the lovers Oil Painting
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The Lovers
René Magritte
Paris 1928
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 21 3/8 x 28 7/8" (54 x 73.4 cm)

In this unsettling image—the first in a series of four variations of Les Amants that Magritte painted in 1928—the artist invokes the cinematic cliché of a close–up kiss but subverts our voyeuristic pleasure by shrouding the faces in cloth. The device of a draped cloth or veil to conceal a figure’s identity corresponds to a larger Surrealist interest in masks, disguises, and what lies beyond or beneath visible surfaces. The melodramatic scene may also relate to the graphic illustrations that accompanied pulp fiction and thriller stories, which Magritte's friend Paul Nougé, in a letter from 1927, encouraged the artist to emulate.

The Lovers II (1928), is an oil on canvas depicting two individuals locked in an embrace. The figures are kissing one another through veils. They are situated in a room with the back wall, side wall and ceiling showing. The back wall is blue-grey with a lighter shade on the bottom half and a darker shade on the top half. The side wall is brick red with it lighter at the bottom blending to a darker shade through to the top. The ceiling is white and has a decorative trim along the border of the red wall, but it does not continue along the border of the blue-grey wall. The male figure wears a black suit and tie with a solid white shirt. He embraces a woman clad in a red, sleeveless garment with white trim. The woman's tanned arm is exposed. The man is in a dominant position relative to the woman. She tilts her head up while he leans down to kiss. Both figures have a whitishveil completely covering their faces and necks. On both figures the veils are tight against the front of the face and top of the head and then relax towards the back. The woman's face is tilted slightly to the left making her lover more prominent and revealing the distinct outline of his nose.
The elements that make up this painting are the room and the lovers. The way the room is painted makes it seem almost insignificant. The bold colors are shadowed and there are no windows to give perspective. However it is unusual to see a room with such a variety of colored walls. The lovers are the primary object and the one that adds the most mystery and intrigue. The way they are both positioned is suggestive. The man is in a dominant position with his shoulders angled. The woman appears to be tilting her hear up towards him but after looking at the position of her body as well it appears more like she is leaning backwards. The most significant aspect of the lovers is the veils. It is actually a rather bland painting however by simply covering the faces with veils it becomes far more interesting and thought provoking. The psychological impact however is far greater with all of these elements. The color blue is associated with calm or water which is associated with life. The color red is associated with anger, lust and love while white is associated with purity which also happens to be the least shown. Black is commonly associated with death which the man may be representative of. The woman is dressed in red which may mean love or passion. The veils are of a whitish or grayish color and depending upon how you see it could mean purity or could mean the purity is fading or tainted. Trying to put all of these elements together to form a single meaning is rather difficult. It is the culmination of elements that are supposed to impact the viewer.

It is amazing how a seemingly simple painting can arouse the most complex meanings. The meanings of this painting can stem from first glance, strictly surface based, and even hidden psychological meanings. The viewer can be impacted by it or not. Art is purely subjective and so too are the interpretations. It seems that all who see this painting are interested in the veils covering the faces of the main figures. For this reason Magritte was ingenious. The fact that all people kiss and the two in his painting seem to be unable to physically meet in such an intimate way strikes people. Art is supposed to be inspirational, controversial, provocative and everything in between. Rene Magritte's The Lovers is one such painting that intrigues and provokes thought.

 

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