“We are surrounded by curtains. We only perceive the world behind a curtain of semblance. At the same time, an object needs to be covered in order to be recognized at all.” René Magritte
Known for his artistic questioning of our perception of reality, René Magritte (1898 – 1967) was a Belgian Surrealist painter that didn’t achieve recognition until he was in his 50s. Before he established himself as a Surrealist painter, Magritte worked for many years in advertising as a graphic designer and illustrator, jobs which influenced his painting style and poster-like technique. In his artwork he often rendered everyday inanimate objects in unusual circumstances, being a source of inspiration for Pop art painters like Andy Warhol and Ed Ruscha.
The Lovers (Les Amants) is the first from a series of variations done in 1928 that shows a couple kissing with their heads concealed by cloths. It is left to the viewer’s interpretation whether the cloth is supposed to mean the universality of love, since it could be any face beneath it, or a barrier to free-form love, because it impedes the physical expression of affection and attraction. The cloths are also suggestive of the secrecy and concealment that come with a clandestine love affair, the lovers having to live double lives, their true selves hidden from others. After all, in French “amants” means secret lovers.
In the end, however, there is no categorical answer in explaining Magritte’s art. The only right answer is the persistent questioning of reality and appearances, a process which ultimately alters the painting, depending on who is looking at it.