Rene Magritte's Ceci n'est Pas Une Pipe and Les Deux Mysteres

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Rene Magritte's Ceci n'est Pas Une Pipe and Les Deux Mysteres

The aesthetic value of Rene Magritte’s paintings is driven by a relationship manufactured by the artist. By specifically targeting an audience who can recognize that a set of established artistic interpretations are being challenged in his paintings, Magritte generates a dialectic argument that attempts to deconstruct Plato’s mimetic interpretation of art. As a result, the painting of a negated representation contained within a painted representation of that same object necessarily appeals to a subjective and not objective desire to comprehend Magritte’s intent. In other words, because we (the audience) know that you (the artist) know that your breaking the “rules,” a specific interest rather than a disinterested idea of beauty influences the aesthetic judgment of Magritte’s work.

The we know that you know concept in Magritte’s paintings Ceci n’est Pas Une Pipe and Les Deux Mysteres effectively illustrates the nebulous connotations of beauty and the difficulty of determining an objects aesthetic value. Because of the complexity of ideas created by the different perspectives inherent in all creative endeavors, critics and philosophers, such as Joseph Addison and Immanuel Kant, have attempted to define the parameters of aesthetic judgment. Consequently, Addison and Kant each developed an argument that identified the parameters of aesthetic judgment and highlighted the sense of taste necessary for the recognition of beauty. As a result, in the interpretation of Magritte’s paintings, both Addison and Kant would conclude-- from different reasons drawn from their respective arguments--that Magritte’s work fails to attain a level of achievement consistent with the beautiful.

At the top of Addison’s triarchy of aesthetic judgment or taste is the idea that “true wit” (an Addison synonym for beauty) is grounded in the “resemblance of ideas… that gives delight and surprise” to an individual (Addison, 264). Working primarily as a source of literary criticism, Addison’s argument about the judgment of taste appears in his Spectator essays that are nonetheless dedicated to the defense of all “higher” forms of artistic endeavors and to the supremacy of “polite society” as the guardians of true wit (Lecture). For Addison, the ability to recognize true wit represented a necessary prerequisite for an individual’s acceptance into polite society. Further more, Addison’s argument implied that the judgment of beauty, although based on an ideal of objectivity, is in part an empirical knowledge gained from the “rules and arts of criticism” that provided the “accuracy and correctness” for contemporary true wit to exist (Addison, 261).

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