Man with a Newspaper
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Being a man with a newspaper was the most common disguise for spies in the '20s and '30s.

I’m not sure if that would work today. You’re more likely to be ignored if you’re looking down at your phone. If anything the newspaper is only going to make you stand out. Tree activists will shout and everyone will think you're ancient. 

Magritte was living in Paris when he painted Man with a Newspaper. At the time, in 1928, he was experimenting with text art, like the very famous Treachery of Images. This painting was exploring the same conceptual genre. It is a suspicious artwork isn’t it? I mean the painting’s called Man with Newspaper, and we see him only once. We look through the other panels, suspiciously playing a game of spot the difference. We see none, because there aren’t any. All the panels are mostly the same, with the exception of the first one.

The Belgian painter was looking for a reaction like this, a compelling reason to keep looking at the painting. Sly bastard. He didn’t have to say anything to turn on the painting’s charm. The painting employs panels which don’t look very different from comic book layouts. The Surrealists called it “doubling." They believed that repetition would allow one to express repressed trauma, and satiate sexy-time feelings, among other things.

Magritte, however, used doublings to mess with us, which is classic Magritte. The first panel is different from the others, precisely because it is not the same moment of time. The other scenes could be the moments before the man entered the room. It could also be moments after the man left the room. It doesn’t matter. It’s just not the same time as when the man was in the room.

This painting may have been inspired by Andre Derain’s painting of the same name. Derain went so far as to paste the newspaper on his canvas. Magritte didn’t do that, but he was intrigued. 



  1. Edinino. “Man with a Newspaper.” British Art, February 10, 2019.
  2. “Magritte: a Mixed Pleasure.” That's How The Light Gets In, August 15, 2013.
  3. Soby, James Thrall. Rene Magritte: James Thrall Soby. Garden City, N.Y.: Distributed by Doubleday, 1965.