Teaching Ideas

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • What parts of this picture look like everyday reality? How has Magritte made the table and pants look like they are really existing in actual space? What is it about this painting that is out of the ordinary?

  • Can you imagine being any place where a pair of pants upright on a table would not fall down?

  • The title of this painting, Persian Letters, is also the title of a book that poked fun at daily life in Paris, France. How do titles usually relate to artworks? What happens when you try to make the title Persian Letters fit this painting? Magritte has selected a title which has nothing to do with the painting. Once again, he refuses to allow his viewers to make rational sense of his work.

  • Why do you think Magritte takes every opportunity to surprise us, to thwart our expectations that things make rational sense?

Making Connections

For Students K-12

  • Magritte frustrates our expectations. Just when we think he has painted a realistic picture, he pulls the rug out from under us by "leaving the person out of the pants." His surprises make us think about objects in a new way. Keeping this in mind, ask everyone to bring an object to class. Arrange some or all of these objects as a still life for everyone to draw or paint. Tell everyone that there will be two different arrangements to draw. In the first one, make an arrangement that makes sense. It might even tell a story. In the second one, make an arrangement that doesn't make sense. After everyone has finished drawing, take some time to look at the different works. Remember Magritte's example: be sure to give your artworks illogical titles.

  • Do the artworks that were made from the second arrangement really not make sense? Or, given some time, do they seem to make sense too? Which ones do you like best? Defend your choices.