This is not a pipe or according to its original French title Ceci n'est pas une pipe will surely be the best-known work of all the artistic production of the surrealist painter Rene Magritte and one of the images most controversial and questioned in the history of art in general. Even those who are not connoisseurs or passionate about art will have seen this canvas on more than one occasion, which despite its simplicity hides a complicated iconographic and conceptual reasoning.
René François Ghislain Magritte (1898 – 1967) is one of the most prominent surrealistartists of the Belgian school. There is not much information that we know about his childhood and adolescence, but it seems that the artist had to face some gruesome events such as the suicide of his own mother that would condition the artist throughout his life. Regarding his artistic training, we know that his first studies were completed in Châtelet and shortly after the artist entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels, from this time his works follow the line of the Impressionist masters. He was influenced by the first artistic avant-gardes but, nevertheless, it will be the canvas of Chirico Canción de Amor that leads Magritte to search for a much more personal and independent style.
It is at this same time, at the end of the twenties, when the artist made the canvases of the Treason of theimages a series of works among which the canvas that concerns us here stands out. This is not a pipe, it is a small painting painted in oil on canvas with a horizontal format and small dimensions, the canvas is less than ninety-five centimeters wide and sixty-three centimeters high and its composition could not be simpler: on a neutral background the artist has represented a smoking pipe in a very realistic way and under it an inscription that with only five words dismantles any traditional artistic theory, this is not a pipe.
The artist exposes with the simple inscription the fact that we are not actually before a pipe but as Magritte himself clearly explained, it is the representation of a pipe and not the object itself. In this way, Magritte stands between the traditional conception of art and the viewer's perception, granting the latter a new point of view. In this context, the artist himself affirmed that despite the fact that the images are incomplete, they often manage to deceive our senses.
On the other hand, the artist also elaborates on the fact that this clarification is necessary to transform the conception of the canvas so that without it the canvas would not be in the eyes of the spectator more than a simple pipe and not the representation of the object.
The work that is currently housed in the County Museum of Art in Los Angeles was the first to use this resource and yet the artist used it again a few years later, in 1930 with the canvas the keyof dreams.