The dynamic nature of Magritte's oeuvre may be found in the artist's playful exploitation of human schemas regarding the possibilities and impossibilities of the natural world. Working in an academic, linear, and matter-of-fact manner, Magritte sought in his work to overthrow the viewer's sense of the familiar through the juxtaposition of paradoxical images. The present collage epitomizes the artist's lifelong desire to stage a permanent revolt against the ordinary. Filled with whimsy, Magritte's work appears to lend visibility to subconscious thought, but the artist was adamant that he did not seek to convey any hidden symbolism in his art:
To equate my painting with symbolism, conscious or unconscious, is to ignore its true nature. By asking "what does this mean?" they express a wish that everything be understandable. But if one does not reject the mystery, one has quite a different response. One asks other things (in "Les mots et les images," La Révolution Surréaliste, 15 December 1929; quoted in S. Gablik, Magritte, New York, 1985, p. 11).
In 1961, Magritte began re-exploring the collage format which he had essentially abandoned since the 1920s. At that time he had admired the ability of his contemporary Max Ernst to bring together unrelated objects and create visual puns in his work through the inclusion of unorthodox materials. Sheet music appears in many of Magritte's collages, imbuing the objects it represents with a surreal texture and providing a visual link between aspects of the composition. Additionally, it refers obliquely to Magritte's own interest in music--the artist's brother Paul was a well-respected musician and poet within Magritte's close circle of Belgian Surrealist friends. In the present work, Magritte united three of the most favored elements of his unique and theatrical iconography; the bilboquet, the fish and the curtain.
Magritte created images of duality and contradiction. In the present work, the laws of gravity have been entirely undermined as a fish, without fixed or final location, levitates before our very eyes and acquires an uncanny monumentality. Harry Torczyner has noted, "Space, time, and matter are dramatized in suspended animation. The force of gravity, which we dismiss as commonplace in our daily lives, becomes powerful and awesome" (in Magritte: Ideas and Images, New York, 1977, p. 154).