Rene Magritte is one of the artists who did the most to define the surrealist movement. Indeed, in his home country of Britain, his name rivals that of Salvador Dali as a synonym for surrealism. The recurring theme of his artwork was images from normal, everyday life juxtaposed so that they were stripped of all meaning, all logic. The elements were familiar, but not the combinations.
"The Battle of the Argonne" is a classic example of Rene Magritte at his most surreal. On the left of the canvas is a cloud; on the right is a large rock, inexplicably suspended in the air. A horizon with water, trees and land stretches along the bottom of the frame, while the moon sits towards the top of the composition, positioned neatly between the cloud and rock.
The painting's title takes its name from a major conflict in World War I, although - as is traditionally the case in surrealism - its relevance to the topic, if it has any, is left to the viewer's interpretation. Certainly, when looking at the painting while knowing the title, it is easy to read a degree of tension into its composition. The cloud and the rock appear almost to be facing of, as though in a duel - with the moon perhaps serving as a second, watching over the conflict to make sure that all rules are observed.
The painting demonstrates Magritte's essential genius. He was able to take a set of mundane images - a cloud, a rock, the moon, a simple landscape - and assemble them in a truly bizarre combination. The viewer gets the impression that there is a story going on here, a story that exists just below the surface, but the exact nature of that story will be interpreted differently by each individual observer. Such is surrealist art.
Anybody who values surrealist art in general, and the genius work of Rene Magritte in particular, would surely be proud to have "The Battle of the Argonne" on display in their home.