Friday, July 27, 2012

Magritte's Marvelous Hat by D. B. Johnson


The surrealist painter René Magritte, here pictured as a dog, finds a muse in a playful floating hat. Johnson has created the picture book that Magritte might have produced, had he tried this medium. Occasional clear plastic pages alter their surroundings. Visual tricks abound, from hat images disguised to allusions to specific Magritte paintings, so both children and adults are amused. Like Magritte's paintings, the book as a whole challenges our imagination and invites a discussion about what is real and how do we know.

Johnson's simple story is that Magritte the dog purchases the perfect hat which floats above his head, neither mussing his hair nor pinching his ears. The hat delights in playing hide and seek but Magritte is inspired to paint more and begins to neglect the hat. The hat flies away taking the painter's inspiration. First Magritte hunts for the hat, then he enters into the game and hides himself to lure the hat home.

Magritte's Marvelous Hat works on levels from a child's cry of “play with me” to an adult's understanding that inspiration cannot be stalked and pinned down, that creativity must have time for play, and that the obvious is not necessarily the most real.  Dinner at Magritte's by Michael Garland is another picture book inspired by Magritte. Eric Carle's homage to Franz Marc, TheArtist who Painted a Blue Horse also celebrates the creative imagination. A DVD, Magritte:la tentative de l'impossible is intended for adults with an interest in art history. Also for adults, Masters of Deception by Al Seckel introduces other artists who stretch the mind.

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