PAINTED: OLD ART, NEW SKIN – RENE MAGRITTE (PORTRAIT OF STEPHY LANGUI 1961)
Magritte is one of the go-to artists if you’re looking for some inspiration to help get your own creative juices flowing. He has so many famous works, it’s hard to choose just one to talk about. In one of the articles I saw on The Guardian, a whole host of famous and influential artists talked about Magritte as an inspiration in their development as an artist. Terry Gilliam the famous film director for on as well as Jeff Koons (the artist who has done art installations at the Metropolitan Museum of Art). I first heard about Rene Magritte from my own grandfather who cited him as an inspiration for his children’s book “An Apple to Eat or Cross the Street.”
The image entitled “Portrait of Stephy Langui” is the focus of this post, namely because it has 3 separate compositional areas to talk about. 1) Stephy Langui, 2) the two men, 3) the giant rock.
The giant egg shaped rock has appeared in other works of Magritte so it might offer some type of symbolism. However, at least in the context of this painting, and as a compositional tool — it helps provide a sense of scale in relation to the two men as well as the giant Stephy Langui. It also helps give a sense of depth. Although the shadow cast by the wall of the archway would also provide a sense of depth, we might not have a sense of the “cavern” we’re in without that massive boulder.
As for the two men, they add an interesting touch of humor. When you look closely, one of them seems to be staring straight out at the sea whereas the other appears to be trying to prove a point. (The one that seems to be gesturing seems to be the one proving the point). Their emotionless poise seems in contrast with their surroundings, particularly the giant woman. In essence, it seems like that phrase “another day in the park” or in this case “another day at the beach.”
Regarding Stephy Langui. Obviously, she’s a giant. I like that she looks more like something out of a Rockwell than a giant out of a Goya. As a compositional element, her eyes seem to be the primary point of perspective. It’s when you consider that her eyes might be the focal point of the composition that the other pieces’ purposes appear in a compositional context. With Langui’s eye line, she encapsulates both the two men as well as the boulder.