Rene Magritte, a Belgium-born artist of the surrealist era, had a way of jolting his audience to harsh reality through his paintings. While most of his paintings border on the bizarre, the artist had no apologies to make. He often admitted he had no learned explanation to provide for the imagery in his paintings but would prove that the mystery evoked in them would be beyond question. According to Magritte, every object, as is every word, had a precise meaning according to its context. He implies that the object he uses in is paintings will find meaning only in the context that he depicts.
About the painting
The Balcony is Magritte's typically ambiguous representation of objects in an unfamiliar environment. In this picture, three coffins occupy a balcony: two are standing while one sits on a chair. A flower is growing in a pot nearby. The coffins are out of context in this painting as one would expect to find them in the grave, or at the mortuary. Created in 1950, Magritte may have been disdained at the kind of life people were leading, which he considered no more meaningful as a coffin.
The chilling reality
While the picture may appear meaningless and out of context, a closer scrutiny will reveal the chilling reality of modern life. The balcony, a place for people to relax and enjoy the weather, is also a place of possible death. Cases abound of horrendous tales of children who fell off the balcony or grown-ups who have used it as a perfect site to commit suicide. It is not lost on the artist that the balconies of some poorly constructed buildings collapse, causing death and destruction of property. It is, therefore apparent that the very places people find relaxation and peace are the same areas likely to lead them to their graves. Shocking as it may sound; a balcony is a suitable place for coffins.
Rene Magritte's depiction of reality is chilling but quite on point. The image of coffins occupying a balcony may be a warning message to many who may not be aware that danger is lurking in those balconies.