As is the case with his most successful Surrealist compositions, each element in Le Message à la terre is more enigmatic than the next. Enframed within the picture are a saturated red meteor and gathered curtain, two objects that are seemingly unrelated but united within the pictorial space of the artist's composition. Magritte's penchant for unifying the unrelated in a single image can be seen in previous compositions, but his approach here makes the assemblage all the more enigmatic. Although he returned to the individual elements of this motif several times in other compositions, but the arrangement here is the most thought-provoking and presents an ambiguous "message to earth."
Magritte painted this work in 1926 at the beginning of his highly prolific career as a Surrealist. Pictures from this period are characterized by smooth surfaces and a strange theatricality. He was inspired by the Italian metaphysical painter, Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978), when in 1923 he saw a reproduction of the iconic Song of Love, which supposedly brought Magritte to tears. Le Message à la terre is a particularly strong tribute to the Italian artist. He borrows several of de Chirico's motifs – the painting within a painting, the desolate background, classical drapery – and positions them at sharp angles receding into space. Magritte would continue to adapt many of these same elements, throughout his career, but the present work is one of the earliest manifestation of the Italian's influences.
Please note the present work has been requested for loan to the Magritte retrospective Magritte, La trahison des images that is planned at the Centre Pompidou in Paris from September 2016 through January 2017.
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