René Magritte, La saucisse casquée, 1929,
Oil on canvas, 55 x 46 cm, © 2011 ProLitteris, Zurich
This painting depicts a sausage, no less. Nothing special, you might think. It´s hardly worth a painting. That´s why it seems so astonishing that René Magritte obviously went to pains to depict this sausage as perfectly as possible. Its silky mat surface bears no flaws, its slight curve is impeccably even, and the reproduction of light and shadow is masterful.
But it´s precisely this academic perfection that gives the depicted object something über-realistic. And then there´s something that we hardly notice at first: a metal cap at the top of the sausage. With his 1929 painting “Saucisse casquée” or “Helmeted Sausage” Magritte had introduced a new and pithy artistic style, which he described thus: “I endeavour to turn familiar things into the unfamiliar.”
By combining everyday objects with something alien, Magritte attempted to question the usual conventions of seeing and thinking, and to alter perception.
One of his most famous paintings “La Trahison des Images” or “The Treachery of Images” shows a perfect depiction of a pipe. Underneath it Magritte painted a handwritten sentence that reads: “Ceci n´est pas une pipe” – “This is not a pipe.” Magritte commented: “A painting is not to be confused with an object that one can touch. Can you fill my pipe? No, of course not! It is only a picture. If I had written on my picture, this is a pipe, I would have been lying.”