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The Cover
January 19, 2000

Time Transfixed

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2000;283(3):301. doi:10.1001/jama.283.3.301

Sometimes it is necessary to look at differences in order to see similarities. The Belgian Surrealist painter René Magritte (1898-1967) discovered this paradox—"elective affinities," as he called it, borrowing the phrase from the title of a Goethe novel—one night in 1936 when he awakened and, in the dimness of the room, mistook his wife's canary, which was sleeping in its cage, for an egg. It was "a magnificent error," he wrote. "I then grasped a new and astonishing poetic secret, because the shock I experienced had been provoked precisely by the affinity of two objects, the cage and the egg, whereas previously, I used to provoke this shock by bringing together objects that were unrelated." (Magritte R. Lifeline. In: Gablik S, trans. Magritte. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson; 1985.) Convinced that all objects are related, no matter how obscurely, Magritte began painstaking studies of images and objects, sometimes making upward of 150 drawings of a single object in order to discover its connection with other objects. Whereas the poets and the psychoanalysts plunged into the jungle of word associations to discover relationships, Magritte did it with images.