In Van Gogh’s canvas, the ugliness and vulnerability, the lowliness of the shoes are immediately visually accessible through the drab colors, the lack of shading, and the careless brushstrokes. These shoes are tragic, but also cozy, cunning, sweet, looking up at us. Their pliant, worn leather is an index of the time their owner, their absent subject, has spent in the fields. Heidegger is right that their emptiness is evident—the black space yawning out from them, their saggy, flaccid form, are both lamentation and invitation.
Magritte‟s shoes lack this affective facet. They are also empty, in a sense, but they do not seem to be beckoning their wearer to put them on. They say something different about their relationship with the feet that wear them; they are not abandoned, empty husks waiting to be inhabited at last by a living subject. As products of and participants in modern capitalist society, these shoes know that there is no separation between them and their wearer. Magritte‟s boots are finer than Van Gogh’s, less worn, but only slightly; they are ordinary shoes, probably mass-produced. They are not centered in the frame, as Van Gogh‟s are; instead of beckoning and inviting the missing feet for whom they were made and to whom they belong, these empty shoes point an accusing toe at the absent body by leaving its place conspicuously empty. But the body is not gone; it reasserts itself in the shoes themselves.1