PRINT May 1974

The Imagism of Magritte

THE RECENT EXHIBITION OF BELGIAN Symbolists and Surrealists at The New York Cultural Center furnished an opportunity to consider the specifically visual imagery of René Magritte as well as the literary aspect of his art. The Prisoner, 1926, is remarkably abstract, even Arplike, in its gently molten forms. At the other extreme, The Menaced Assassin, from the same year, is fully pictorial and consistently narrative. The Menaced Assassin even suggests Hitchcock as an exercise in guilt and paranoia; by now it is unnecessary to spell out why Magritte’s evocation of that oppressive frame of mind is more worthwhile than Dali’s prosaic trivializations of paranoid states.

Two paintings between these narrative and nonobjective extremes carry us further along: The Alphabet of Revelations, 1935, and The Liberator, 1947. Both are more typical of Magritte in their intertwining of pictorial normalcy with Surrealist incongruity. They are works, in other words, in which a certain oddly abstract character emerges as a kind of algebraic result in the combination of nonabstract elements.

The Alphabet of Revelations presents a trompe l’oeil image of an apparently oak frame, divided vertically in half by a crossbar. This illusionistic framework contains a collection of objects of different sorts.1 The left-hand panel has a linear squiggle on a black ground, reading with irony as a highly illusionistic but impenetrably nonobjective form drawn in chalk on a blackboard. At the right is a foursquare arrangement of the black silhouettes of four objects—reading clockwise: a pipe, a key, a leaf, and a goblet.

Each of these objects also belonged to the Cubists’ repertory of recombinatory still-life motifs. Léger, in turn, wrote in 1926, “A pipe—a chair—a hand—an eye—a typewriter—a hat—a foot, etc., etc. Let us consider these things for what they can contribute to the [cinema] screen just as they are—in isolation—their value enhanced by every known means.”2 Ultimately the isolated and incongruous objective motif derives from the displaced normalities of Dada and the mechanical emphasis of Futurism. For Léger it led to his Mona Lisa with Keys of 1930 (Biot, Musée National Fernand Léger). With Léger, however, recombination proceeds in a lyric and homogenizing way. He builds on works of the 1920s in which the combined motifs settle into a comfortable poetic unity that submerges the discreteness of the objects into a governing system derived from Cubist still life. Magritte’s recombinatory method has a more problematically literary cut to it.

In The Alphabet of Revelations the pipe, key, leaf, and goblet exist independently and in isolation, united and equalized only in that they are all reduced to black silhouettes. (Two white lines crossing the ring end of the key reintroduce a trompe l’oeil concreteness of position that is not shared by the other objects, except perhaps the thin, flat leaf.) The white ground of these four silhouettes is illusionistically “torn” like paper at the bottom, exposing a black that may be either slate or a void.

The Liberator is a scenic and much more complicated picture, linked to The Alphabet of Revelations by the fact that the sheet of paper (again torn) which covers the face and trunk of its seated man also contains the emblematic silhouettes of four objects, three of them the same as in the earlier painting—now a key, a goblet, a pipe, and a bird, in that order. The bird has replaced the leaf in the first constellation of objects, and the other motifs are rearranged, not just rotated or reversed. Both leaf and bird are organic and natural; the other motifs are inorganic and manufactured objects, stressing the preservation of a conceptual rather than a pictorial formula in the careful displacement of leaf by bird. This 3 + 1 = 4 grouping of entities, involving a fourth element derived from a separate categorical set, is a pervasive abstract motif in Western consciousness. It fascinated Jung in relation to the symbolism of the four sons of Horus and of the four Evangelists, and in the relation of Virgin as human (and female) to the triune Godhead.

The mysterious seated figure in The Liberator holds in his right hand a jeweled, monstrancelike luxury object, incorporating a disembodied mouth and a pair of eyes. (A disembodied mouth had already been used by Man Ray, floating in the sky of The Lovers at Observatory Hour, 1932–34, not to mention the mechanical smiling lips used earlier in Léger’s film Le Ballet méchanique, of 1924.3) These motifs of disembodied observing eye and of pipe—both present here in both pictures—dominate two of Magritte’s most remarkable paintings, The False Mirror, 1928, and The Wind and the Song of 1928–29. But before approaching these works, we should consider the literary aspect of Magritte’s art, especially in terms of the isolation and recombination of motifs, since more than the Dadaism that informs comparable works by Léger is involved.

In 1965 Magritte admitted his literary penchant in a letter to James Thrall Soby, who was then preparing the catalogue of the Magritte retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art:

It was . . . in 1922 that I first came to know the works of De Chirico. A friend then showed me a reproduction of his painting The Song of Love, which I always consider to be a work by the greatest painter of our time in the sense that it deals with poetry’s ascendency over painting and the various manners of painting.4

What a strange way for a modern painter to praise a modern painting, on grounds that it extends the hegemony of literary values over plastic ones. What could Magritte have been admiring? Was he thinking of the process of poetic isolation and recombination of disparate entities that can be found in de Chirico’s highly literary art and in the broader poetics of the 1920s?

De Chirico’s approach has already been studied in relation to the work of Duchamp,5 where it is more a matter of isolating an object and permitting it to assume unexpected powers. It is the fusing, combinational method that obliges us to turn to the literary ideas of the period. Magritte makes seemingly improbable motif selections and irrational conjunctions of things that seem individually as harmlessly ordinary as his painting style. He forces single alien objects to stand in unaccustomed spaces. Or, he forces several alien objects to coexist unwillingly, in discordant couplings that induce wonder. The elements seem alternately to threaten one another, or, to agree in silent conspiracy against us, like inanimate objects in a “job action”—trick plastic ice or spoons with hinges.

Magritte’s own esthetic of unexpected combination runs remarkably parallel to the poetry and criticism of Imagism in the 1920s, which involved a new valuation of what Samuel Johnson experienced when he said of 17th-century Metaphysical poetry, “The most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together. . . .”6 T. S. Eliot’s criticism of the Metaphysical poets is pedigree and apologia for the Imagist movement in literature. The outlook of the Imagists is concisely put in this key passage on John Donne’s poetry from Eliot’s “The Metaphysical Poets” (1921):

A thought to Donne was an experience: it modified his sensibility. When a poet’s mind is perfectly equipped for its work, it is constantly amalgamating disparate experience; the ordinary man’s experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. The latter falls in love, or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have nothing to do with each other, or with the noise of the typewriter or the smell of cooking; in the mind of the poet these experiences are always forming new wholes.7

Projected in visual terms—which itself was an Imagist concern—this thought might have been Magritte’s. As a generalization, it readily applies to those of his paintings which harness disparate entities (a locomotive fused with the ensemble fireplace-mirror-clock), or to those which heighten or expand the presence of something ordinarily much less astounding (a giant apple or a rose filling a room). Thus the noise of the typewriter and the smell of cooking may seem to expand in intensity as well as allusive relevance. Once noticed, both sensations combine to formulate a remarkably specific emotional state.

But the Imagist/Metaphysical affinity is closer still, even in paintings that are not combinational at all. The reflecting eye motif found definitively in Magritte’s The False Mirror was an important motif for the central English Metaphysical, Donne himself. Unlike the “inward eye” of the Romantics, the eye for Donne and Magritte is external, a perfect surface impassively registering reality. Donne stresses this quality of lenslike surface in “The Good Morrow”: “My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears/ And true plaine hearts doe in the faces rest, / Where can we finde two better hemispheares, / Without sharpe North, without declining West.” Here the double meaning of “plaine” (plane) equates the relation of globe to map with that of the full roundness of actual things to flat pictorial form. The next line, “What ever dyes, was not mixt equally,” even suggests pigment by the pun on “dyes” together with “mixt.” In “The Canonization” we also find, besides the map image, an eye used to mirror the outside world, as in Magritte: “. . . the glasses of your eyes / (So made such mirrors and such spies, / That they did all to you epitomize,) / Countries, Townes, Courts: Beg from above / A patterne of your love.”

For the Imagists the following passage from Lautréamont’s Maldoror, 1869, with its memorable closing phrase, was a more modern stimulus to their own approach:

He is fair as the retractility of the claws of birds of prey; or again, as the uncertainty of the muscular movements in wounds in the soft parts of the lower cervical region; or rather, as that perpetual rat-trap always reset by the trapped animal, which by itself can catch rodents indefinitely and work even when hidden under straw; and above all, as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella!8

Man Ray actually illustrated the sewing-machine and umbrella in conjunction on the dissecting table in the June–October 1933 issue of Minotaure.9 For Man Ray to do that is, in itself, an appropriately Surrealist thing. What concerns us here are the developments that occurred in between Lautréamont and Man Ray’s drawing. Eliot himself recalled the dissecting table as a nexus or Imagist fusion in the opening lines of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1917): “Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherised upon a table. . . .”

A significant early move in the direction of Imagism, on the part of a man intimately involved with visual art, was Bernard Berenson’s essay “Dante’s Visual Images and His Early Illustrators,” published first in The Nation (February 1, 1894) and then in his The Sense of Quality: Study and Criticism of Italian Art (1901). Berenson, struck by “the unequalled plasticity” of Dante’s verbal descriptions, notes that:

“To take plastic shape in the mind” has become a common phrase in criticism, but it can have no meaning unless that of becoming visualized; and as the phrase is applied to Dante, it means that he visualized everything that passed through his mind.

Just what such visualizations on the part of Dante would have looked like led Berenson to project in terms of Giotto, but the ultimate value of his essay is surely in its proto-Imagistic ramifications: the “images [that] stood before Dante’s mind while he was writing . . . wake in us visions perhaps not less vivid, although so different from his own.”_10

The trouble with seeing Magritte exclusively in terms of Surrealism is that it bends notions having to do with making lucid sense to fit an esthetic dedicated to the sense buried only under apparent non-sense. An easier way to grasp Magritte’s disjunction and itemizing is to see them in light of Eliot’s ideas. Eliot, no doubt under the influence of contemporary anthropology,11 made this famous formulation of specifically English culture in his Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948):

. . . The term culture . . . includes all the characteristic activities and interests of a people: Derby Day, Henley Regatta, Cowes, the twelfth of August, a cup final, the dog races, the pin table, the dart board, Wensleydale cheese, boiled cabbage cut into sections, beetroot in vinegar, nineteenth-century Gothic churches and the music of Elgar.12

Émile Durkheim had described the primitive impulse to classify as a practical activity that serves “to advance understanding, to make intelligible the relations between things.”13 To take Magritte simply as a Surrealist is to assume that his visual incongruities are altogether subversive, whereas they also comprise harmonious fusions that both transcend the verbal and make sense as exclusively visual formulations—as if in rivalry with the reductivism inherent to abstraction.

In 1920 Ezra Pound, another definitive Imagist, published in his Investigations his edition of Ernest Fenollosa’s essay “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry.” Fenollosa liked the way ideographs “vibrate against the eye.” He felt they showed that “Relations are more real and more important than the things they relate.”14 (It is significant for the esthetics of Imagism that Ezra Pound did another editing job on Eliot’s The Waste Land, 1922.) Sergei Eisenstein admired ancient Chinese ideograms for their fusion of two objects into to one vivid concept, and it was in cinematographic editing that the welding, combinational procedure of 1920s poetics saw its most far-reaching effects. Eisenstein’s own approach was close to Magritte in what he called the “collision” of images, where Pudovkin and others—according to him—were content with merely linear, “brick by brick”15 linkage: “. . . The basis of every art is conflict (an ‘Imagist’ transformation of the dialectical principle).”16

Magritte’s single-image paintings belong to this outlook as much as his ostensibly combinational ones, and even a dialectical fusion produces as a by-product a clearer sense of the discreteness of its original components. Thus, if for Eisenstein significance lay in the fusion of images in montage, for Léger the film opened a new vision of the freestanding (and fabricated) independence of objects. In strictly Surrealist film, Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali made Le Chien andalou, with its notorious close-up of an eye being slashed with a razor, in 1928 (first shown in Paris in 1929).

Let us look at The False Mirror in its own right.17 The word “mirror” in the title implies reflection. The unyielding, head-on stare of the eye in the mirror—the whole painting can seem a reflection, as well as the landscape within it—confirms that what we see is the artist’s eye observing the external world (sky) and, at the same time, reregistering itself. Just as many portraits reveal themselves to us as artists’ self-portraits because we can tell by the position of the eyes that the artist painted his own mirror image, so in this picture do we find an extreme version of the same procedure. Avoiding the oblique, narcissistic squint of old self-portraits, Magritte’s eye faces the mirror/canvas/mirror pointblank. How can the artist both observe and paint his own eye this way? How can scrupulous observation from, and depiction of, occur simultaneously? By mental rather than optical “reflection”—speculation rather than speculum (Lat., “mirror”). This is, after all, not a true mirror but a “false” mirror.

In the center of the eye is a black circle that can be read as a plain circle, disc, or sphere, and that can be seen alternatively as a blank pupil or as an eclipsed sun in the sky. If, when seen as a pupil, this spot alludes perhaps to a mysterious darkness of inner self, that is a further irony. We have already been warned against the literal truth. There are remarks by Magritte which suggest that his own thoughts ran against the grain of Freudian psychocryptography. After an almost clinical preparation for the exploration of the self, of the innermost core of the Romantic artist-prophet, all Magritte reveals—except for everything else in the world outside—is a “blind spot” at the very place where his mind is expected to be most exposed. This discrete refusal to plunge into the Bosch-like sea of the subconscious is remarkable enough for a Belgian and a Surrealist, and particularly characteristic of Magritte, who sees enough ambiguity and terror in conscious life.

But while the pupil is blank, the iris is swamped by optical sensations of puffy clouds in a manically bright sky. Like Van Eyck recording himself in the convex and corneal mirror of The Arnolfini Wedding and like Parmaginano in his Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, Magritte insists that his real business is disinterested fact, not apparent distortion. Playing with the analytical literalism of observation, Magritte holds up an eye/mirror with a blind pupil, one whose iris (the colored, artistic part) fixes a beauty of entrapment and juxtaposition.

The eye in The False Mirror is sometimes compared with another famous eye image, the engraving Coupe d’oeil de théâtre de Besançon, L’Architecture consideré sous le rapport de l’art, des moeurs, et de la lègislation 1804), by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux. The eye of Ledoux is a close parallel to The False Mirror. Where the eye in the painting reflects a landscape, the engraving reflects the vast interior of a theater which the visionary architect planned. Because Ledoux’s eye sees the orchestra of the theater, reflecting it from the viewpoint of the audience,18 the actual mirroring surface is the eye of the artist (architect and/or actor). Magritte’s conception, by comparison, is unspatial, in accordance with his active analogy between canvas and mirror and his fixing nature there.

Ledoux’s eye is a right eye, while Magritte’s is both a left eye looking out and also a right one (ours?) totally reflected. The painter exploits a possibility implicit in the architect’s engraving: the identification of artist and observer. Still, for Magritte painting seems a private, exclusive enterprise, since in this identification so much benefit accrues to the artist disguised behind a mask of irony. Magritte’s consideration of his relation to the motif, work of art, and audience, is as scrupulously considered as a diagram published in 1890–91 by Ernst Mach and popularized by its reproduction (redrawn) in Karl Pearson’s The Grammar of Science (1892). Mach shows how his left eye sees the rest of his own reclining body and the surrounding room, the whole framed by his eyebrow, nose, and moustache. Mach’s polemically “anti-metaphysical” point is that “. . . Thoughts . . . gain greatly in fixity and vividness if in addition to simply expressing them in abstract form we bring ourselves face to face with the facts from which they arise.”19 Pearson subsequently discussed Mach’s positivistic essay in terms of the distinction between “Outside and Inside Myself.”20 To think of Magritte’s The False Mirror as occurring a generation after Mach, in the time of Imagism and the revival of interest in the Metaphysicals, is to gain some insight into its antipositivist mode and its deliberate ambivalence of statement.

The Wind and the Song, 1928–29, is Magritte’s equally well-known painting of a pipe represented above the legend “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”). It is unnecessary to expand on the Arakawa-like—and already largely verbal—ambiguity here, especially after glossing the eye picture.21 The pipe and legend are discrete motifs which, in combination, comprise a statement on the relation between artist and audience which is a corollary to that of The False Mirror. The eye picture is a statement in the form of a closed contemplation, as if for the artist’s own use; the pipe picture takes up these thoughts and addresses them rhetorically to the observing world.

Many of Magritte’s motifs share an oddly innocent neutrality deriving from their very arbitrariness. Like winners in a lottery, they seem chosen without reason or responsibility. Not so the pipe, however. It brings to this picture a whole cluster of implications. Like the bowler hat, the pipe is a highly charged furnishing of bourgeois life, and in the nineteenth century it had a middle-class mystique. An extensive homage to the pipe appears in the Larousse Grand Dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle, solid with practical data on the pipe-making industry, embellished with literary quotations, and including amusing passages celebrating the pipe almost as a ritual vessel. Pipes are socially useful because, we are told, proletarians feel less hungry when they smoke them; also, smoking especially thrives in wartime. “The pipe,” we are informed, “is a unique distraction, a supreme consolation.”22 This is the innocuous motif to which Magritte turns practically whistling.

We saw an adumbration in architectural thought of The False Mirror. There is another, more modern one for The Wind and the Song. Ledoux, who designed the 1804 theater eye, is partly important as an artistic ancestor of Le Corbusier.23 In both Le Corbusier’s Vers une architecture, 1923, and in Ledoux’ L’Architecture one finds admiration of clear geometric form and, above all, sociological awareness and productive utopianism. All this, however, might remain but tangential to the art of Magritte, were it not for the last plate in Le Corbusier’s book: a picture of a pipe with the legend “Cooperative ‘la pipe.’”24 In the English edition—Towards a New Architecture—this legend is inaccurately changed to “A Briar Pipe”25 which loses what for Le Corbusier was a vital implication of mass production (“pipe cooperative”).26 Needless to say, it is only by virtue of mass production that Corbusier’s pipe relates to Duchamp’s Readymades, while Corbusier moves in the opposite direction with the notion that architecture should assume the overlooked but artistically admirable qualities of the sleek, anonymously made pipe.

The pipe itself is only mentioned once in the text of Vers une architecture, but then it occurs along with other trappings of bourgeois stolidity, including the bowler hat, in the section of the book called “Eyes Which See Not.” There Corbusier cuts painting down to size: like furniture and other clutter, paintings should be neatly stored away in cabinets. In this context, it is surprising that Le Corbusier admires the pipe wholeheartedly (although he himself abandoned painting). Magritte, the subversive in bourgeois disguise, drives the point home. He baitingly assures the viewer that “This is not a pipe” and makes everything clear. The work is addressed to the tired businessman who turns to art in the spirit in which he picks up his pipe, looking for pleasant diversion from the important things in life. Magritte strikes out, not only at the man who sees through art to the illusion of a motif (“How nice, a pipe”) but also at the more sophisticated bourgeois (“A picture of a pipe; fine, I enjoy a good painting as I enjoy a good smoke”). The picture antipositivistically protests: “Beware, painting blows your mind.”

Aside from its ironically conceptual function as motif, Magritte’s pipe is remarkable for its insistent literalism and typicality. Interestingly, from the early years of Cubism pipes had a certain familiarity as concrete objects in artificial, pseudoesthetic circumstances. Gertrude Stein, in the chapter of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas dealing with the years 1907–14, remembered how in Barcelona the shops sold, instead of souvenir postcards, small real objects like pipes and cigars in little frames—“all absolutely the arrangement of many a Cubist picture and helped out by cut paper representing other objects.”27 Visiting an antiquarian bookstore in Brussels, Magritte’s home town until 1927, I once came across an old chocolate mold in the shape of a pipe. Perhaps the artist was even remembering such actual, but chocolate, pipes when he painted The Wind and the Song a year or so after leaving home. In any case, the chocolate mold is not even a real artificial pipe.28

If the false mirror disappoints depth-psychology in the frankness of its reflective relation to the self and the world, The Wind and the Song frustrates it with an overtone of humor. “La pipe” lends itself to multiple argot usages with regard to a range of phallic reference.29 Such unabashed sexual frankness tends to outwit Freudian decoding. Magritte later made a crayon drawing of an array of floating pipes called Pipes amoureuses (1966).30

The legend “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” is interesting in itself. The anxiety which it provokes undermines logic (“I am not what I appear to be, except the part claiming this”), like the old brain-teaser “I never tell the truth.” In a similarly provocative way Gauguin began his book Avant et Après with the line “This is not a book . . .,” continuing in the same vein.31

There is a story by Diderot called “Ceci n’est pas un conte” (“This is Not a Story,” 1798) which is as much about story-telling as The Wind and the Song is about painting. It is a tale about the telling of a tale in which the listener keeps interrupting the storyteller, asking him to get on with the story, while the storyteller, in turn, stalls the listener—once by pausing to smoke. What the listener wants, of course, is a shortcut to content. “When one tells a story it is to someone listening,” writes Diderot (as Magritte well knows), and if you are impatient for content you are not really listening (or seeing). When Diderot’s storyteller is at last willing to begin the story proper, by then a tale-within-a-tale, it is with the unsettling pronouncement “What I am going to tell is no more a story than what has preceded it.”32

When we further observe that both Diderot and Magritte seem aware that their respective works will usually be encountered in reproduction—the one in print, even though it is about hearing a story, the other as a photograph (just as Magritte himself first encountered de Chirico)—anxiety mounts to another level: “This is not a pipe; this is probably not even a painting of a pipe.” Then there is no firm ground from which one can confidently observe, no simple way to pin everything down like Ernst Mach sketching his own eyebrow and whiskers. We are forced to respond. And by the exhaustion of the verbal conceptualism into which we have been teased, we find no room for anything but a response to the purely visual ironies of the painting. The closing words of Le Corbusier’s book are “architecture or revolution. Revolution can be avoided.” If Magritte’s painting style seems unprogressive, maybe in some sense he was drumming his fingers, waiting. Meanwhile, to the extent that he was literary, he shared in the most emphatically visual movement in modern literature.

––Joseph Masheck



1. Thus far, Magritte’s picture compares with an anonymous American still life, c. 1845, showing a sliding window in trompe l’oeil with a cat in the open part and three objects framed by the panes of the closed sash, a wooden molding surrounding the canvas—as with Magritte: see the Knoedler exhibition catalogue, What Is American in American Art, New York, 1971, and illustration on p. 54.

2. Fernand Léger, “A New Realism: the Object,” in Herschel Chipp, ed., Theories of Modern Art: a Source Book by Artists and Critics London, 1971, p. 279.

3. I am grateful to Robert Pincus-Witten for this reference to Léger’s film.

4. Quoted in James Thrall Soby, René Magritte, New York, 1965, p. 8.

5. Hans Hollander, “Ars inveniendi et investigandi: zur surrealistischen Methode,” Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch; Westdeutsches Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte, 1970, pp. 193–234.

6. Samuel Johnson, “Abraham Cowley,” in his Lives of the English Poets, I, London and New York, 1925, p. 11.

7. T. S. Eliot, “The Metaphysical Poets,” in his Selected Essays, 3rd ed., London, 1951, p. 287. On the related notion of a “dissociation of sensibility” in 17th-century (and modern) culture, see F. W. Bateson, “Contributions to a Dictionary of Critical Terms: II, Dissociation of Sensibility,” Essays in Criticism, I, 1951, pp. 302–12, and Harold Wendell Smith, “‘The Dissociation of Sensibility,’ ” Scrutiny, XVIII, 1951–52, pp. 175–78.

8. Lautréamont, Maldoror, trans. Alexis Lykiard, New York, 1972, p. 177. On Lautréamont’s “beau comme” similes, see Peter W. Nesselroth, Lautréamont’s Imagery: a Stylistic Analysis (Histoire des Idées et Critiques Littéraire, No. 961 Geneva, 1969, pp. 21–31.

9. I am grateful to Dustin Rice for calling my attention to the Man Ray picture.

10. Bernard Berenson, “Dante’s Visual Images and His Early Illustrators,” in his The Sense of Quality: Study and Criticism of Italian Art, New York, 1962, pp. 13-19.

11. Perhaps Ruth Benedict’s work, which A. R. Radcliffe-Brown accused of dealing with cultural “rags and tatters”; see Margaret Mead, “Patterns of Culture: 1922–1934,” in Mead, ed., An Anthropologist at Work: Writings of Ruth Benedict, New York, 1966, p. 204.

12. T. S. Eliot, Christianity and Culture: The Idea of a Christian Society and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, New York, p. 104. Robert Pincus-Witten points out the importance of itemized lists in Whitman’s poetry, which is surely relevant as a formulation of American culture. Whitinan, however, (who did appeal to the Italian-Futurists) is still too word-pound to be Imagistic, but the point is well taken.

13. Emile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss, Primitive Classification, 1903, trans. Rodney Needham, London, 1963, p. 81.

14. Quoted in Lawrence W. Chisholm, Fenollosa: the Far East and American Culture, New Haven and London, 1963, pp. 219,226, respectively; see also Ruggero Bianchi, “Fenollosa, Hulme e gli Imagisti,” English Miscellany, XIII, 1962, pp. 123–45.

15. Sergei Eisenstein, “The Film Form,” in his Film Form: Essays in Film Theory; and The Film Sense, trans. and ed. Jay Leyda, New York, 1957, p. 16.

16. Ibid., p. 38. One is reminded of Mao Tse-Tung’s wonderful essay On Contradiction, 1937.

17. The False Mirror has already been treated in a survey of the eye motif in modern art: Carla Gottlieb, “The Pregnant Woman, the Flag, and the Eye; Three Motifs in Modern Art, ”Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, XXI, 1962, pp. 177–87.

18. As in Walter Sander’s famous photograph of the Paris Opera audience seen from the stage, illustrated in Edward Steichen’s The Family of Man, New York, 1955, on p. 100.

19. Ernst Mach, “The Analysis of the Sensations; Anti-Metaphysical,” The Monist (Chicago), I, 1890–91, p. 59.

20. Karl Pearson, The Grammar of Science, London, 1937, pp. 58–60.

21. On the verbal aspect of the picture, see Roger Shattuck, “This is Not Rene Magritte,” _Artforum), September, 1966, pp. 32–35.

22. Grand Dictionnaire universel du XIXe siécle, XII, Paris, 1874, pp. 1045–48.

23. Since Emile Kaufmann’s Von Ledoux bis Le Corbusier, Vienna, 1933.

24. Le Corbusier, Vers une architecture, 2nd ed., Paris, 1924, p. 243.

25. Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture, trans. Frederick Etchells, London, 1946, p. 269.

26. Cf. Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization, New York, 1934, p. 352:
Le Corbusier has been very ingenious in picking out manifold objects, buried from observation by their very ubiquity, in which . . . mechanical: excellence of form has manifested itself without pretense or fumbling. Take the smoking pipe: it is no longer carved to look like a human head. . . , it has become exquisitely anonymous, being nothing more than an apparatus for supplying drafts of smoke to the human mouth from a slow-burning mass of vegetation.

27. Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Harmondsworth, 1966, p. 101.

28. It is tempting to relate the chocolate mold to Marcel Duchamp’s Nine Malic Molds, 1914–15, where the point is the shelllike nonpresence of nine men already made anonymous by their uniforms. The idea of nonpresence, in turn, suggests Duchamp’s body molds, the Three Erotic Objects of 1951–52.

29. John Ashbery points out in a letter that there was once a Swiss billboard poster for pipes which showed lean-Paul Belmondo with the legend “Vive la pipe!”

30. Illustrated in the Byron Gallery catalogue Rene Magritte, New York, 1968.

31. I am grateful to Theodore Reff for calling my attention to this.

32. Denis Diderot, “Ceci n’est pas un conte,” in his Oeuvres complètes, ed. I. Assézat and Maurice Tournaux, V, Paris, 1875, pp. 309–32.