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01. The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season by Rene Magritte, 1943. The start of a new period for the artist.

A day spent surrounded by art is both refreshing and inspiring. So, on a recent weekday afternoon I happily made my way to SFMOMA to view the current exhibit Rene Magritte: The Fifth Season, on now through October 28, 2018.

Rene Magritte (1898-1967) was a Belgium Surrealist painter known for his use of everyday images such as pipes, umbrellas, and his famous bowler hats. Having enjoyed a successful career in the early part of the 20th century, as he reached middle-age Magritte shifted away from his style and explored other techniques and approaches to making art. Affected by WWII and German occupation of his homeland, in 1947 he commented, “I live in a very unpleasant world now. That’s why my painting is a battle, or rather a counteroffensive.”

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Night Sky with Bird, 1945.

Rene Magritte: The Fifth Season features more than 70 works from the artist’s late career, thought of as his “Fifth Season” 1943-1967. During this period he stayed with his fascination of images but he played with different brushstrokes, used gouache (watercolor) instead of oil paints, and he even used different mediums. (Due to a shortage of materials during the German Occupation, Magritte used bottles as canvas perhaps tapping back into Surrealism.)

The SFMOMA exhibit is timed, meaning that tickets are sold for particular time slots. I joined the 3pm group, which was a reasonable size that moved at a decent pace allowing for comfortable viewing. Not one of us posed in front of the art for endless selfies – how nice was that? Very! There are seven galleries each keeping with a theme of images or subject.

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A Sense of Reality, 1963.

One of my favorite galleries was Gravity and Flight, not so much because the works appealed to me, but because some of them, one in particular, made me uncomfortable. Part of the joy of viewing art is thinking and feeling. When I first spotted Le sens des realities (A Sense of Reality, 1963) I immediately thought, “Oh that looks like an old dried potato.” I knew of course it was a rock, suspended in air. As I took time with the large painting, I felt uneasy expecting, wanting that rock to fall! I studied the ugly grayish mass and the more I stared, noticing blue undertones, the less repugnant it became. This huge rock floating in the beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds is oh-so-Magritte – unexpected and incongruous. The best part is the crescent moon at a distance right above the rock.

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A section of Sheherazade, 1950.

Something else that caught my attention was the repetition of a little object that I spotted in three paintings. It reminded me of a yo-yo but it’s a bell. One of Magritte’s many icons that, like the apple, dove, clouds, he used time and time again, sometimes as the focus of a piece or often just another added object.

I spent about an hour and a half in the exhibit but the rest of the day thinking about it. Viewers can spend as much time as they like but once out of the galleries there is no re-entry.

Rene Magritte: The Fifth Season at SFMOMA is an excellent opportunity for some thought-provoking fun! Don’t miss it.

Click here for more information. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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