Compare the Pair #18 | The Lovers

[Left: Jeremy Park – Lovers (2002) c-type photograph; Right: Rene Magritte – The Lovers (Les Amants) oil on canvas (1928) 54x73cm National Gallery of Australia]

Sydney photographer Jeremy Park pays homage to Rene Magritte’sThe Lovers‘. Magritte’s original (painting) is one of a small group of pictures he painted in Paris in 1927-28, in which the identity of the figures is mysteriously shrouded in white cloth. The group of paintings includes L’histoire Centrale (The Central Story) 1927 (collection Isy Brachot, Brussels); L’invention de la vie  (The Invention of Life) 1927-28 (private collection, Brussels); and Les Amans (The Lovers) 1928 (collection National Gallery of Australia).

  • The origin of this disturbing image has been attributed to various sources in Magritte’s imagination. Like many of his Surrealist associates, Magritte was fascinated by ‘Fantômas‘, the shadowy hero of the thriller series which first appeared in novel form in 1913, and shortly after in films made by Louis Feuillade. The identity of ‘Fantômas‘ is never revealed; he appears in the films disguised with a cloth or stocking over his head.
  • Another source for the shrouded heads in Magritte’s paintings has been suggested in the memory of his mother’s apparent suicide. In 1912, when Magritte was only thirteen years of age, his mother was found drowned in the river Sambre; when her body was recovered from the river, her nightdress was supposedly wrapped around her head.

Magritte himself disliked explanations which diffused the mystery of his images. His matter-of-fact style deliberately eschewed the assumption that these images were simply the expression of personal fantasy or private neurosis. They are images calculated to unlock the darker side of the mind.

  • Lloyd, Michael and Desmond, Michael. (1972) European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery p.173.

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