From the Domain of Arnheim

The Domain of Arnheim, René Magritte, 1962

 
 

“And so that all these ages, these years
we cast behind us, like the smoke-clouds
dragged back into vacancy when the rocket springs –

The domain of Arnheim was all snow, but we were there.
We saw a yellow light thrown on the icefield
from the huts by the pines, and laughter came up
floating from a white corrie miles away, clearly.
We moved on down, arm in arm.
I know you would have thought it was a dream
but we were there. And those were trumpets
-tremendous round the rocks-
while they were burning fires of trash and mammoths’ bones.
They sang naked, and kissed in the smoke.
A child, or one of their animals, was crying.
Young men blew the ice crystals off their drums.
We came down among them, but of course
they could see nothing, on their time-scale.
Yet they sensed us, stopped,
looked up-even into our eyes.

To them we were a displacement of the air,
a sudden chill, yet we had no power
over their fear. If one of them had been dying
he would have died. The crying
came from one just born: that was the cause
of the song. We saw it now. What had
we stopped but joy?
I know you felt the same
dismay, you gripped my arm, they were waiting
for what they knew of us to pass.
A sweating trumpeter took
a brand from the fire with a shout and threw it
where our bodies would have been –
we felt nothing but his courage.
And so they would deal with every imagined
power seen or unseen.
There are no gods in the domain of Arnheim.

We signaled the ship; got back;
our lives and days returned to us, but
haunted by deeper souvenirs than any rocks or seeds.

From time the souvenirs are deeds.”

Edwin Morgan

First published in The Second Life (1968)

Home of the Eagle

“…the world has never seen–and…unless through some series of accidents goading the noblest order of mind into distasteful exertion, the world will never see–that full extent of triumphant execution, in the richer domains of art, of which the human nature is absolutely capable.”

“…from the violation of a few simple laws of humanity arises the wretchedness of mankind–that as a species we have in our possession the as yet unwrought elements of content–and that, even now, in the present darkness and madness of all thought on the great question of the social condition, it is not impossible that man, the individual, under certain unusual and highly fortuitous conditions, may be happy.”

Edgar Allan Poe
The Domain of Arnheim
1847

 
 

From the series The Domain of Arheim, by René Magritte

 
 

The Domain of Arnheim (the word is German for “Home of the Eagle,”) is one of Edgar Allan Poe’s lesser-known stories. The critics have taken little notice of it, and when they do, it’s generally interpreted in vague terms of death imagery, or as a treatise on gardening. It is actually one of Poe’s most profound and beautiful works, and one of the very few where we are given a glimpse into his true inner self.

On the surface, The Domain of Arnheim is a tale of a fantastically wealthy man the unnamed narrator calls only “Ellison,” who desires to express “the true character, the august aims, the supreme majesty and dignity of the poetic sentiment.” He achieves his goal through creating “Arnheim,” a castle and landscape-garden of supreme loveliness. As Ellison says, man can’t affect the “general condition of man,” but must be “thrown back…upon self.” The first half of the story is a discussion of Ellison’s philosophies about man and nature, the second a detailed description of Arnheim itself.

The story is, in brief, Poe acting as our tour guide through the human mind and soul. The unprecedented beauty and serenity of Arnheim–the domain of the soaring eagle–is accessible to each individual who follows the path Poe blazes within the realm of imagination. He states that “in landscape arrangements alone is the physical nature susceptible of imagination.” These landscapes, as we see them in nature, are all susceptible to improvement. Ellison explains that “there may be a class of beings, human once, but now invisible to humanity, to whom, from afar, our disorder may seem order–our unpicturesqueness picturesque; in a word, the earth-angels, for whose scrutiny more especially than our own, and for whose death-refined appreciation of the beautiful, may have been set in array by God the wide landscape-gardens of the hemispheres.” Man, by improving the arrangements in nature, in a way that “shall convey the idea of care, or culture, or superintendence, on the part of beings superior, yet akin to humanity” can create “nature in the sense of the handiwork of the angels that hover between man and God.” Perfecting these landscapes in our eyes–thus being able to see them as the angels do–brings us closer to these higher beings.

Poe uses the physical description of Arnheim as an analogy for what human beings can do in their mind’s eye. By creating a mental “domain,” by using meditation to create an inner “landscape-garden,” one grows closer to the world of the spirit. The visitor’s lengthy journey to Arnheim in the story’s closing paragraphs is a journey to the higher recesses of the mind. The traveler who reaches that destination has achieved a genuine meditation–found Nirvana. Upon departing for “the Paradise of Arnheim,” the visitor is “bidden to be of good cheer–that the fates will take care of him” as he finds the true expression of the “poetic sentiment” among the seeming “phantom handiwork, conjointly, of the Sylphs, of the Fairies, of the Genii, and of the Gnomes.”

 
 

To read Poe’s short story, click on the next link: http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/eapoe/bl-eapoe-domain.htm

In Tribute to Magritte and Kintrye

MULL OF KINTRYE

“Mull of Kintyre, oh mist rolling in from the sea
My desire is always to be here
Oh Mull of Kintyre

Far have I traveled and much have I seen
Darkest of mountains with valleys of green
Past painted deserts the sun sets on fire
As he carries me home to the Mull of Kintyre

Mull of Kintyre, oh mist rolling in from the sea
My desire is always to be here
Oh Mull of Kintyre

Sweep through the heather like deer in the glen
Carry me back to the days I knew then
Nights when we sang like a heavenly choir
Of the life and the times of the Mull of Kintyre

Mull of Kintyre, oh mist rolling in from the sea
My desire is always to be here
Oh Mull of Kintyre

Smiles in the sunshine and tears in the rain
Still take me back where my memories remain
Flickering embers go higher and higher
As they carry me back to the Mull of Kintyre

Mull of Kintyre, oh mist rolling in from the sea
My desire is always to be here
Oh Mull of Kintyre

Mull of Kintyre, oh mist rolling in from the sea
My desire is always to be here
Oh Mull of Kintyre”

 
 

45 Single front cover artwork inspired by Magritte

 
 

Mull of Kintyre is a song by Paul McCartney and Wings, written by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine. The song was written in tribute to the picturesque Kintyre peninsula in Scotland, where McCartney has owned High Park Farm since 1966, and its headland, the Mull of Kintyre. The song was Wings’ biggest hit in Britain where it became the 1977 Christmas number one, and was the first single to sell over two million copies nationwide.

McCartney explained how the song came into being:

“ I certainly loved Scotland enough, so I came up with a song about where we were living; an area called Mull of Kintyre. It was a love song really, about how I enjoyed being there and imagining I was travelling away and wanting to get back there”

Mull of Kintyre was recorded in August 1977 in London, during a break in recording the London Town album caused by Linda McCartney‘s advanced pregnancy, which led to the departure of Jimmy McCulloch and Joe English from Wings. Bagpipes from Kintyre’s local Campbeltown Pipe Band were included as a prominent part of the recording.

 

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A Painting Within a Painting

The Human Condition (1933)

 
 

One of René Magritte‘s most common artistic devices was the use of objects to hide what lies behind them.

In The Human Condition, the cover-up appears in the form a painting within a painting.

Magritte had this to say of his 1933 work:

 

In front of a window seen from inside a room, I placed a painting representing exactly that portion of the landscape covered by the painting. Thus, the tree in the picture hid the tree behind it, outside the room. For the spectator, it was both inside the room within the painting and outside in the real landscape.

 
 

The Human Condition (1935)

 
 

The Key to the Fields (1936)

 
 

The Call of the Peaks (1942)

 
 

The Domain of Arnheim (1942)

 
 

The Fair Captive (1947)

 
 

Euclidean Walks (1955)

 
 

Evening Falls (1964)

 
 

Paintings within paintings appear frequently in Magritte works. Euclidean Walks  is a work perhaps most like The Human Condition. It places a canvas in front of a high window depicting the tower of a close building and a street below. In The Fair Captive, there is a beach scene with an easel set up. As in the previous cases it holds a canvas depicting what the viewer might expect to be behind it. This time though, flames from a burning tuba in front of the frame are seen “reflected.” The Call of the Peaks (1942) shows a mountain canvas in front of a mountain background which is buffeted on the right by a curtain.

The list of similar works can easily be extended to include such paintings as The Key to the Fields, its reincarnation Evening Falls and The Domain of Arnheim, all of which feature broken windows whose shattered glass pieces on the floor still show the outside world they used to conceal.

 
 

The Alarm Clock (1957)

 
 
Another series of pieces which show both strong similarities and strong differences from The Human Condition are the works titled The Alarm Clock. In these works, a painting is placed on an easel in front of a window or on a balcony with a simple landscape in the background. However, the painting does not show what may possibly be behind, but is instead an upside-down basic fruit still life.

To Bring into Confusion

The Great War on Façades, René Magritte, 1964

 
 

The English word war derives from the late Old English (c.1050) words wyrre and werre; the Old French werre; the Frankish werra; and the Proto-Germanic werso. The denotation of war derives from the Old Saxon werran, Old High German werran, and the German verwirren: “to confuse”, “to perplex”, and “to bring into confusion”. Another posited derivation is from the Ancient Greek barbaros, the Old Persian varhara, and the Sanskrit varvar and barbara. In German, the equivalent is Krieg; the Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian term for “war” is guerra, derived from the Germanic werra (“fight”, “tumult”). Etymologic legend has it that the Romanic peoples adopted a foreign, Germanic word for “war”, to avoid using the Latin bellum, because, when sounded, it tended to merge with the sound of the word bello (“beautiful”).

People who need war for psychological or/and material profit (to feel themselves greater and to make themselves richer) always embellish and glorify war to recruit the young people for possible victimization. To make the young kill and be ready to die in the process the war decision-makers offer satisfaction to youth’s unconscious narcissistic need to be admired for their self-sacrificial heroism. Young people, after the endless wars of human history and their passionate aggrandizement by social leaders throughout the centuries, developed the masochistic taste for exchanging their self-sacrifice for people’s grateful admiration.

René Magritte has represented War as an unattainable woman, seducing us with her very inaccessibility. Her face, so we believe, should be as beautiful as her garment. We dream to enjoy seeing it but this pleasure is never available – even the most obvious, the most justifiable wars are ambiguous! Wars are always too costly in terms of lost lives and bodily mayhem. A war is never won, it is just a Pyrrhic victory.

A Pyrrhic victory inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has been victorious in some way; however, the heavy toll negates any sense of achievement or profit (another term for this would be “hollow victory”). The phrase Pyrrhic victory is named after Greek King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War.

 
 

Guinevere van Seenus photographed by Tim Walker, Vogue Italia, December 2006

The Perpetual Tension Between the Hidden and Visible

“Those of my pictures that show very familiar objects, an apple, for example, pose questions. We no longer understand when we look at an apple; its mysterious quality has thus been evoked. In a recent painting, I have shown an apple in front of a person’s face at least it partially hides the face. Well then, here we have the apparent visible, the apple, hiding the hidden visible, the person’s face. This process occurs endlessly. Each thing we see hides another, we always want to see what is being hidden by what we see. There is an interest in what is hidden and what the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a fairly intense feeling, a kind of contest, I could say, between the hidden visible and apparent visible”.

René Magritte

 

René Magritte photographed by Bill Brandt, 1963

 

The apple is one of the most frequent and recognizable of Magritte’s motifs, appearing in various guises such as a floating orb in the sky, a masked entity, and perhaps most famously hiding the face of a man wearing a bowler hat. The ambiguity of its role in the present scene invites the viewer to contemplate possible interpretations without ever offering a definitive meaning, sustaining a sense of enigma that the painter prized above all else. For Magritte, the apple came to symbolize this perpetual tension between the hidden and visible, and he even used it to obscure his own visage in some of his self-portraits.

Suzi Gablik suggests that “Magritte’s paintings are a systematic attempt to disrupt any dogmatic view of the physical world. By means of the interference of conceptual paradox, he causes ordinary phenomena to inherit extraordinary and improbably conclusions. What happens in Magritte’s paintings is, roughly speaking, the opposite of what the trained mind is accustomed to expect. His pictures disturb the elaborate compromise that exists between the mind and life. In Magritte’s paintings, the world’s haphazard state of consciousness is transformed into a single will”.

Magritte’s transformation of a humble apple into an impressive boulder also reflects the enduring impact of the Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico‘s pittura metafisica on his oeuvre. De Chirico’s images such as Le Chant d’amour (1914), which was a seminal discovery for Magritte during the early years of his career, portrays inconsequential objects such as a ball or a glove as monumental symbols with mysterious and ultimately indeterminate import. Similarly, Magritte confers the qualities associated with rocks, such as heaviness and immobility, to the apple, creating a seemingly permanent monument to what is ordinarily a highly perishable foodstuff.

 

Postcard (1960)

 

The Beautiful World (1962)

 

The Straight Path (1962)

 


The Taste of the Invisible (1964)

 

The Song of Love I (1963)

 

Fine Realities (1964)

Turned to Stone

La parole donée (The Pledge or The Word Given), René Magritte, 1950

 
 

La parole donnée is part of a series of twenty paintings depicting organic objects turned to stone that René Magritte started in 1950. Sometimes referred to as his “stone age pictures,” these works celebrate Magritte’s love of paradox; the first of these images, for example, depicts a monumental stone chair whose aura of primeval significance is undercut by the minuscule wooden chair that is perched delicately upon its enormous seat. This punning yet eerie transformation of mundane objects through alterations in scale and material also occurs with living things such as a large petrified fish that would undoubtedly sink if plunged into water and the giant stone apple seen here, whose leafy stem underscores both its arrested growth and its incongruous presence amongst forebodingly angular outcroppings of mottled grey stone. Indeed, Magritte regarded the state of petrification as a visual expression of disaster and death. As Abraham Hammacher has stated, “One can trace this preoccupation with a petrified world in all. Magritte’s works Magritte did not regard petrification as a process, but as a kind of catastrophe, like that at Pompeii, when lava transfixed the world and brought all movement to a halt”. As David Sylvester notes, the preternatural calm displayed by these four images possesses an eerie quality, and he has commented that “La parole donnée has the violence of an earthquake at the start of time”.

 
 

From the series The Great Table, c. 1963

 

The Ongoing Conflict of a Voyeur

Le Viol (The Rape), René Magritte, 1934

 
 

The Rape, one of Surrealism’s most powerful images — Georges Bataille could never suppress a nervous laugh whenever he was confronted by this painting — likewise works with a subversive idea. The selection of the work’s title indicates the ongoing conflict of a voyeur; René Magritte comes very close here to Hans Bellmer’s erotic perversion, albeit without the latter’s sadness.

In 1935, Andre Breton published his speech Qu’est-ce que le Surrealisme? with Magritte’s drawing, Le Viol on its cover. The image, a view of a woman’s head in which her facial features have been replaced by her torso, was meant to shock the viewer out of complacent acceptance of present reality into “surreality,” that liberated state of being which would foster revolutionary social change. Because Le Viol is such a violently charged image and because of the claims made for it by Magritte for its revolutionary potential, the drawing has been the subject of many arguments, both for and against its effectiveness. The feminist community has had a particular interest in this image (and in Magritte’s work as a whole) not only because of the controversial treatment of the female subject in Le Viol, but also because of the ways in which our culture has been so easily able to strip surrealist images of their political content and subsume them back into mainstream culture for use in those very categories of social practice which Surrealism wanted to eradicate.

 
 

Single sleeve

 
 

Angie is a song by the rock band The Rolling Stones, featured on their 1973 album Goats Head Soup.

Contrary to popular belief, the song was not about David Bowie‘s first wife Angela or Angie Dickinson; nor was it about Keith Richards‘ first daughter, Dandelion Angela. The song was written before the sex of his upcoming baby was known. He says in his memoir, Life: “I just went, ‘Angie, Angie.’ It was not about any particular person; it was a name, like ‘ohhh, Diana.’ I didn’t know Angela was going to be called Angela when I wrote Angie. In those days you didn’t know what sex the thing was going to be until it popped out. In fact, Anita named her Dandelion. She was only given the added name Angela because she was born in a Catholic hospital where they insisted that a ‘proper’ name be added.”
(Life, p. 323, Ch. 8.)

 
 

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The Married Priest

Le Prêtre Marié (The Married Priest), René Magritte, 1951

 
 

La Valse Hésitation (1950)

 
 

Souvenir de voyage (1961)

The apple with a mask became a series of paintings later titled, The Married Priest (around from 1950 to 1961). Eroticism, understood both in light of the Marquis de Sade and Sigmund Freud, was fundamentally important to the Surrealists.

 
 

Jules Amédée Barbey D’Aurevilly (1808-1889), an autor forgotten by many, was a French novelisy and a short story writer known by Les Diaboliques (The She-Devils). As a young man, he was a liberal and an atheist, and his early writings present religion as something that meddles in human affairs only to complicate and pervert matters. In the early 1840s, however, he began to frequent the Catholic and legitimist salon of Baroness Amaury de Maistre, niece of Joseph de Maistre. In 1846 he converted to Roman Catholicism.

A Married Priest had first appeared in 1864. He was revered by the decadents of the late nineteenth century and had a decisive influence on writers like Henry James and Marcel Proust.

While seemingly opposed themes from Catholicism, Marquis de Sade and dandyism appear interwoven in his texts, like many of his free thinking contemporaries he takes a stance against the usefulness of his age (or the utilitarianism of the bourgeois world-order) and sees Christian inspiration in one of the leading principles of modernity, laicism.

A Married Priest, D’Aurevilly’s “most forgotten work”, is the story of a rebellious priest, Sombreval, who reneges on his priesthood and gets married because he ceases to believe (marriage becomes, for him, a way of protestation). D’Aurevilly does not present the interior life of his main character; instead the reader is faced with a strong, sovereign, Promethean man who in many aspects symbolizes an ideal of the positivist century and its revolt against God. From his marriage Sombreval has a daughter, Calixte, a sublime beauty afflicted with maladies. The father-daughter bond is very strong, and a rumor of incest spreads, reinforced by Calixte’s refusal of the young Nöel, To protect his daughter from slander, Sombreval decides to separate from her and goes back to the Church. Calixte comes back to life and marries Nöel. Sombreval is now an impostor priest who does not believe in his own truth. Finally Calixte dies in a cataleptic crisis of vision, dragging her father along.

The Principle of Archimedes

Le principe d’Archimède, René Magritte, 1952

 

The most widely known anecdote about Archimedes tells of how he invented a method for determining the volume of an object with an irregular shape. According to Vitruvius, a votive crown for a temple had been made for King Hiero II, who had supplied the pure gold to be used, and Archimedes was asked to determine whether some silver had been substituted by the dishonest goldsmith. Archimedes had to solve the problem without damaging the crown, so he could not melt it down into a regularly shaped body in order to calculate its density. While taking a bath, he noticed that the level of the water in the tub rose as he got in, and realized that this effect could be used to determine the volume of the crown. For practical purposes water is incompressible, so the submerged crown would displace an amount of water equal to its own volume. By dividing the mass of the crown by the volume of water displaced, the density of the crown could be obtained. This density would be lower than that of gold if cheaper and less dense metals had been added. Archimedes then took to the streets naked, so excited by his discovery that he had forgotten to dress, yelling “Eureka!” (Greek: “εὕρηκα,heúrēka!”, meaning “I have found [it]!”). The test was conducted successfully, proving that silver had indeed been mixed in.

The story of the golden crown does not appear in the known works of Archimedes. Moreover, the practicality of the method it describes has been called into question, due to the extreme accuracy with which one would have to measure the water displacement. Archimedes may have instead sought a solution that applied the principle known in hydrostatics as Archimedes’ principle, which he describes in his treatise On Floating Bodies.

Surrealist Dinner Party

Château de Ferrières, the suburban Parisian mansion of Baron Guy de Rothschild and Marie-Hélène

 

 

On December 12, 1972, Baron Guy de Rothschild and his wife Marie-Hélène hosted a costumed ball stranger than fiction. Château de Ferrières was on fire, sleeping cats the size of men littered the staircase, and all-enveloping cobwebs lined the hallways.The acid-laced zeitgeist of the 70s had trickled up and finally reached the ranks of the Parisian elite in the form of the Rothschilds’ theatrical Dîner des Têtes Surréalistes.

 

The MenuMenu

 

Detail of a table with a fur dish, Mae West red lips and blue bread

 

the dîner des têtes surréalistes invitation with reversed writing inspired by a magritte sky

 

The invitations for the ball—scrawled backwards so that it had to be read in a mirror—stated simply: black tie, long dresses, and Surrealist heads. When such requests are made of those with limitless time and money, the results are impressive. What manifested at the chateau that evening was a trippy tableau vivant comprised of the most notable personalities in the worlds of art and literature and their perception-bending headdresses.

 

 

The actress Jacqueline Delubac came as René Magritte’s Son of Man painting, a large green apple hiding her face. Audrey Hepburn’s head was ensnared in a bird cage. There was a two-headed woman, a horse, a grotesque Mona Lisa, and more than one bouquet of flowers. Not to be outdone, the hostess wore a giant stag’s head that wept diamond tears. And, of course, the master of Surrealism himself was there—Salvador Dalí came dressed as himself.

 

Audrey Hepburn

 

The Baroness Thyssen-Bornemizza & Guy Baguenault de Puchesse

 

Salvador Dalí and the Italian princess Maria Gabriella de Savoia

 

Charles de Croisset, Marisa Berenson snd Paul-Louis Weiller

 

Claude Lebon and Charlotte Aillaud

 

Hélène Rochas & François-Marie Banier

 

For desert: a sugar made woman laying in a bed of roses

 

Table of the swaying dolls

Mr. Apple

Mr. Apple, Norman Rockwell, 1970

 
 

Norman Rockwell’s interpretative painting, measuring 13″ x 17.5”, is a playful rendering of René Magritte‘s famous The Son of Man using a red apple rather than a green one – and with the apple replacing the man’s head rather than just obscuring it as Magritte had painted. Rockwell painted Mr. Apple in June of 1970 at his home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

 
 

Typed letter signed “Norman,” dated 11 June 1970 on his personal stationery, in part:

 
 

“… I must tell you that I got the two apples, and I haven’t eaten them, but I have put them in the refrigerator so they will keep bright and shiny…

It will be fun doing such a unique painting …”

 
 

Autograph letter signed on his personal stationery:

 
 

“Dear Mr. Blum – Here it is! I really enjoyed painting Mr. Apple. I sure hope you like it. The painting may still be wet when you get it. But do not varnish it for a couple of months. If you use a fine mastic varnish it will preserve it forever. Cordially, Norman Rockwell.”

The Son of Man in Popular Culture

The Holy Mountain (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973) movie poster

 
 

René Magritte‘s The Son of Man appears in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s film The Holy Mountain, on a wall in the house of Jupiter. The film was produced by Beatles manager Allen Klein of ABKCO Music and Records, after Jodorowsky scored an underground phenomenon with El Topo (The Mole) and the acclaim of both John Lennon and George Harrison (Lennon and Yoko Ono put up production money).

 
 

Robin Williams in Toys (Barry Levinson, 1992).

The set design, costumes, and promotional poster reflect the painting’s style.

 
 

A parody of the painting, with Bart behind the floating apple, can be seen briefly at the start of The Simpsons episode No. 86  Treehouse of Horror IV (1993)

 
 

The painting appears briefly on the video for Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson’s song Scream , on the “Gallery” section:

 
 

Still from Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson’s Scream music video (Mark Romanek, 1995)

 
 

The Thomas Crown Affair (John McTiernan, 1999)

 
 

The Son of Man appears several times in the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair, especially in the final robbery scenes when men wearing bowler hats and trench coats carry briefcases throughout the museum to cover Crown’s movements and confuse the security team.

 
 

Stranger Than Fiction (Marc Forster, 2006)

 
 

This is not an Apple, illustration by John Cox, 2007

 
 

In the film Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (Zach Helm, 2007), the painting is seen hanging on the wall half finished; at the end of the film Mr Magorium is seen to be painting the rest of it.

 
 

This painting also shows up at the end of the film Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2008). British prisoner Charlie Bronson takes a hostage and turns him into this particular portrait

 
 

 In the movie 500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009), the bowler hat and green apple can be seen in Summer’s apartment

 
 

The cover of the book Rubies in the Orchard: How to Uncover the Hidden Gems in Your Business (2009) has a version of the painting, with a pomegranate

 
 

In Jimmy Liao’s illustrated book Starry Starry Night (2011), the protagonist girl, with the painting illustrated behind her, imitates the painting to express her protest against her parents’ long term fighting.

 
 

In Gary Braunbeck’s novel Keepers (2005), the antagonist figures (the “Keepers” of the title) resemble the nattily-dressed, bowler-hatted figures of Magritte’s painting. Also, in the opening scene of the book, the reference is directly made and explained to this resemblance because of an apple-scented car air freshener printed with the image of the painting hanging in the protagonist’s car.

In Lev Grossman’s 2009 novel The Magicians the antagonist is a man wearing a suit, with his face obscured by a leafed branch suspended in midair.

Hidden the Visible

The Son of Man (1964)

 

René Magritte painted it as a self-portrait. The painting consists of a man in an overcoat and a bowler hat standing in front of a low wall, beyond which is the sea and a cloudy sky. The man’s face is largely obscured by a hovering green apple. However, the man’s eyes can be seen peeking over the edge of the apple. Another subtle feature is that the man’s left arm appears to bend backwards at the elbow.

 

 

About the painting, Magritte said:

“At least it hides the face partly well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. 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 does not 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 present.”

 

The Great War on Façades (1964)

 

Man in a Bowler Hat (1964)

 
The Son of Man resembles The Great War on Façades (La Grande Guerre Façades), another Magritte painting featuring similar imagery. Both feature a person standing in front of a wall overlooking the sea. The Great War on Façades, however, features a woman holding an umbrella, her face covered by a flower. There is also Man in the Bowler Hat, a similar painting where the man’s face is obscured by a bird rather than an apple.

The Night Apple

Le fils de l’homme, (The Son of Man), René Magritte, 1964

 
 

“Last night I dreamed
of one I loved
for seven long years,
but I saw no face,
only the familiar
presence of the body:
sweat skin eyes
feces urine sperm
saliva all one
odor and mortal taste.”

Allen Ginsberg
Empty Mirror: Early Poems
1961