This is a shameless plug for my appearance on BBC Breakfast TV; speaking about Magritte and advertising. There’s a big Magritte show at Tate Liverpool over the summer.
You can see an e-presentation of it, here
I’m on right at the end.
The steam engine emerging from the fireplace is just the sort of juxtaposition of ideas that Magritte, a Surrealist, is famous for. It’s a bit odd, but charming and fun. Everyone can understand the association between the fire, the smoke and steam of the engine and the fireplace. The architect, Le Corbusier, called houses machines for living. So, it was obvious for Magritte to connect the family hearth to mechanical engineering. The metaphor is delightful and surprising.
The Surrealist movement used art to investigate the unconscious. Freud’s investigations of dreams and desire offered a starting point to delve into the unconscious. The unconscious can be a pretty dark place.
When the advertising industry began to promote products by association to desire, rather than need, they turned to Magritte. Co-incidentally, at an early stage in his career, Magritte had worked for an agency and produced a few poster designs.
The use of psychoanalytical ideas in advertising was pioneered by Edward Bernays in America. The emergence of a consumer based economy driven by credit and desire is the background for the TV series Mad Men.
In England, the Surrealist movement expressed itself most clearly through film. After WW2, when the BBC began to develop TV seriously, it was natural for them to recruit from the ranks of Surrealist film-makers, animators and puppeteers. Many of these characters found a home in the nascent world of childrens’ television.
The impact of surrealist images on young minds cannot be overstated.
All the stuff that happened in the 1960s was made possible, in part at least, by this ground work.