The Modern World During and After the World Wars, C. 1914–1960

Dada and Surrealism

Why is this not a pipe?

René Magritte’s The Treachery (or Perfidy) of Images (1928–1929), is a highly realistic oil painting of a tobacco pipe with the words Ceci n’estpas une pipe (“This is not a pipe.”) painted below. The message raises the obvious question: why not? Why is this pipe, especially one so meticulously rendered, not a pipe? The answer is that Magritte did not make a pipe, he made a painting, and with this work Magritte draws the viewer’s attention to a tendency to casually equate pictures of things with what they represent. The work reinforces the idea that even a realistic painting is an illusion, a concept that would have a profound impact on later modern and postmodern art.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Art History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App