The Return of the Flame

Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Return of the Flame Rene Magritte
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Unlike most of his other works, this painting does not include the blue sky motif background. Instead, the background features a horrific scene: a raging inferno.

Set against the crimson background is a man trying to flee from the fire. A flower in the man’s hand and a mask covering his face completes the shocking picture.

The man’s clothes and the petals of the flower have also adopted the fiery nature of the inferno, throwing the audience off balance.

The first thing to strike the attention of the public is the title, The Return Of The Flame, which is rather curious. If the flame is on its way back, it implies it had earlier departed to an unknown destination.

The audience would want to know where the fire had gone and why it was coming back. It is also rather surprising that the man in the picture doesn’t seem to be fleeing from the inferno, as is evident from his posture: holding his chin.

However, the flower in his hand may suggest that the picture is not about the standard fire, but another fire that ranges in the lives of human beings.

The rose flower is often a simple of romance, and this may suggest the revival of strong feelings of affection for the man. It is also strange that the man has covered his face even as he seeks the object of his attention.

The painting is a reflection of the grim reality that is modern life. People often struggle to conceal their feelings, even when it is apparent something stronger than an inferno is raging inside them. Magritte seems appalled by the insincerity and wishes people would be faithful to their feelings.

Rene Magritte had a way of infusing shocking elements into his art through the use of ordinary objects, mostly supplanted from their familiar environment.

Though quite controversial, a closer scrutiny of his paintings would reveal the bitter truths that most people have been trying to ignore.

He went against the grain of other surrealist artists of the time whose oil on canvas representations emanated from dreams or visions.

Although Magritte’s strange approach to art would irk many, including his producer, he remained unapologetic until his death. One of his most astounding works is The Return Of The flame.