Museum Notes: René Magritte

I went the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to see a special exhibition: “René Magritte: The Fifth Season.” Here are some of the notes I took.


A sunset scene. We see silhouettes of several trees, a multistory house, and the head of a man wearing a bowler hat.

Shingeki no Kyojin

La fin du monde, 1963


An oil painting of a rose, holding a dagger.

“Do you bite your green thumb at me, sir?”

Le coup au coeur, 1952


An oil painting of a tuba, on fire.

This is the most Burning Man painting I’ve ever seen.

La découverte du feu, 1959


A mask of pearls, with human eyes and mouth. It stands on a beach with sea and clouds in the background. Next to it lies a metallic orb with a line runnling along it's equator.

What a weird episode of Doctor Who.

Shéhérazade, 1950


Part of a series of paintings used as reference for a large mural, this section has on the left a tree with a human face embedded in its trunk in profile. Behind the tree, a curtain. On the right, in the distance is a tremendously large stone chair. On it sits a wooden chair, which appears to be normal sized. In the distance, mountains rise out of a desert landscape. One of the peaks appears to be the head of a bird, and the entire mountain range is its wingspan.

Kirby’s Adventure for the Nintendo Entertainment System, 1993.

The Enchanted Domain, 1953


An oil painting of a mountain range, but the central peak appears to be the head of an eagle, and the mountain range its wingspan. A crescent moon sits above the mountains. In the foreground, a nest of twigs sits on a stone wall. Three eggs sit in the nest.

But for real? Goofs aside, for real though?

Le domaine d’Arnheim, 1962 is wonderful. A mountain peak that’s a bird but its wingspan extends across the entire mountain range works for me. It works for me more than the heavy-handed sort of surrealism that says “behold time itself is melting.”

I’m not the right person to go to if you want to understand or learn about René Magritte. I’m here only to recontextualize some of these works within a current cultural setting. Which is to say make bad jokes. So there we go.