The wall card — across soft letters painted onto a clear laminated sheet of plastic — told me and everyone else that “there were ten crossed-out candidates on the reverse of the canvas in addition to others noted in his correspondence, including Opera, The Holy Family, The Metronome, and Night and Day.”
I preferred the first three in that list, greatly, over the title Magritte eventually settled on, The Glass Key. But here, on a different floor in a different exhibit, was partially an answer to my earlier line of questioning about the sourcing and transmission and inside-baseball and behind-the-canvas about titles. And here was one piece in which the title was on the piece itself. Was that the exception, or the rule? But patrons and visitors didn’t get to look at the back of the canvas. And, now that they/them (whoever the hell it was that wrote that paragraph) mentioned it, I’d sure like to look at the back of all of these canvasses. Did he title everything on the back? The titles sure were significant for him, all ten of the previous educated guesses, floating around. If I’d liked these three titles, and found something about that process of discovery an intriguing relationship to ponder (because I’d already moved beyond how good the painting itself was, on its just straightforward merits, even without the title), it would be nice to know about the others as well.
Because why had I liked these titles more?
What other secret information were they obfuscating by always hanging these things in frames, protected and elevated; the opportunity to see the backside and seams of the canvas awarded perhaps only to some wealthy donor, or an MFA student in mid-twentieth century surrealist art writing their thesis on the treachery of lost titles, or another artist embarking on some mixed curation in which they hung everything backwards, on a long sheet of glass like at an aquarium and you had to imagine the more famous sides.