Golconda | René Magritte | 1953
Surrealism was an eclectic movement: on one hand, Dali’s works were dreamlike and fantastic; on the other, de Chirico painted pictures of strangely bizarre metaphysical vibe; Magritte, meanwhile, worked on paintings with ordinary objects in unusual contexts, and so created his own form of poetry to express his unconscious, in a more philosophical and conceptual way than the previous ones. The artist, unlike the other surrealists, was a disturbingly common person, always wearing a pilot, suit and tie; was married to his wife Georgette for 45 years without any scandal, and who promised her a “calm and quiet, bourgeois life. ” In short, a boring person.
His painting picture everyday items and figures. Among his favorite subjects are pipes, men in hats and musical instruments. The “surreal” for Magritte, was the way in bringing together these common elements. He will say that his paintings are only “images that do not hide anything. Rather, they evoke mystery.” When you wonder what is the meaning of his paintings, he will reply that they “do not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either.”
Golconda is one of my favorites. In the work, we see a composition in which a background of residential buildings is populated with men in hats. The landscape is similar to the neighborhood in Brussels where the artist lived. Although it looks that men are falling (which terrifyingly would prophesy the song “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls), the characters are just floating there, since there is no visible sign of movement. The clothes the men are using was common in businessmen and bankers. The name of the painting refers to a city in India, renowned for its wealth, and was suggested to Magritte as a title by a poet friend who helped him to name other of his paintings. As a tribute, the artist portrayed his friend in the foreground man closest to the fireplace on the right. Both the reference of the name of the work, and the fact that characters can represent businessmen, tempts us to make an interpretation of the painting, but this is something the artist would reject completely. We are left only with the mystery and uncertainty, which makes the work darker and more attractive.