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Surrealism, Science Fiction and Comics$
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Gavin Parkinson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381434

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381434.001.0001

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date: 13 December 2017

Reassessing René Magritte’s Période Vache: From Louis Forton’s Pieds Nickelés to Georges Bataille

Reassessing René Magritte’s Période Vache: From Louis Forton’s Pieds Nickelés to Georges Bataille

Chapter:
(p.82) 4. Reassessing René Magritte’s Période Vache: From Louis Forton’s Pieds Nickelés to Georges Bataille
Source:
Surrealism, Science Fiction and Comics
Author(s):

Gilda Axelroud

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781781381434.003.0005

In 1948, at the moment his career seemed to be taking off after twenty years of compromise and struggle, René Magritte made the peculiar decision to abandon his flatly painted, hard-edged signature style to paint in a more gestural manner reminiscent of expressionist and Fauve painting for a series of works that are now either reviled or celebrated as the ‘Vache’ paintings. A key inspiration for the style and subject matter of the Vache works was the popular French comic strip Les Pieds nickelés (‘Nickel-Plated Feet’). Originally drawn by Louis Forton in 1908 and still in print when Magritte used it for the période Vache (indeed, it is still drawn today), the comic strip had been written on twenty years prior to the exhibition (whilst Magritte was living in Paris) by Georges Bataille in his periodical Documents in a little-known text. This chapter aims to discover what we might learn about Magritte’s Vache paintings through a visual analysis and critical reading of Les Pieds nickelés partly within the framework set by Bataille’s 1929 text on the strip. The chapter then takes on a theoretical slant, examining the Vache paintings in the light of Bataille’s neglected text, in which Aztec religion and humour are brought to bear on a critique of Western civilization and society. The chapter concludes with a broader study of humour in the Surrealist group, bringing forth Magritte’s notion of humour-plaisir, which appears also to have been neglected in the few studies of his période Vache.

Keywords:   Humour Georges Bataille comics Louis Forton Fauvism

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