René Magritte: Challenging Reality

Saida Santana

An exhibition of the work of René Magritte at MoMA, New York, challenges our concept of reality.


The Belgian artist René Magritte dedicated his surrealist phase (1926-1938) to discover the sublime essence of ordinary things. Until January 12, 2014, we will be able to witness this miracle of art history in the exhibition The Mystery of the Ordinary, organized by New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Menil Collection in Houston and the Art Institute of Chicago.

René Magritte
RENÉ MAGRITTE. Les amants (The Lovers), 1928.

This journey through Magritte’s oeuvre begins in 1927 Paris, when the painter moved to the City of Light and began his surrealist stage, which lasted until 1938, the year of his famous autobiographical lecture in Antwerp, The line of life, where he discussed his relationship with the surrealists. It was during this time that Magritte created pieces that, in his own words, “defied the real world.”

According to Anne Umland, curator of the show, Magritte looked for the absolute truth in the subconscious, as did Breton, Dalí and Buñuel, the great masters of Surrealism. “Magritte explored the breakdown of the concepts known as ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’,” says Umland, who has a doctorate in modern art and is one of the most important experts at the Museum of Modern Art.

The Mystery of the Ordinary includes no less than 80 works, including paintings, watercolors, photographs and objects. This display explores the period when “Magritte becomes Magritte”, said Umland.

René Magritte
RENÉ MAGRITTE. La clairvoyance (Clairvoyance), 1936.

The exhibit also includes famous paintings such as The Lovers, in which Magritte veils the protagonists kiss with a sheet to protect them from the viewer´s curiosity, thus warning the observer of false perceptions and illusions. This he also does in one of his 1929 works, which warns: This is not a Pipe, forcing us again to be wary of what we see.

During World War II, Magritte changes his outlook on life and art and deviates from the surrealist current. It is not until 1965 that the artist travels to America for a retrospective at the same New York museum that today exhibits his works, MoMA. For these reasons, part of his audience is better acquainted with other periods of his work, “Many people will realize they didn’t know whom Magritte was although they knew many of his paintings”, concludes Umland.


© | 2019