"Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary” at MoMA

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Curator Anne Umland talks about the life and work of surrealist painter Rene Magritte. The exhibition “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary” is on view at MoMA through January 12.  

Although he was known for his Surrealist work, Magritte had created quasi-Cubist, Futurist, and Abstract paintings, and Anne Umland talked about “how radically inventive and imaginative” the Belgian painter was. 

Magritte’s titles rarely match the subject of the work – that’s because he thought of the titles as a protective device that prevented “overly facile or simple readings of his works.” And, as for his famous painting of a pipe with the caption “Ce n’est pas une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”), Umland explained that Magritte would argue that “no one could smoke his pipe, so therefore it wasn’t one.”

Umland said she hoped to capture the essence of Magritte’s work with the exhibition’s title, The Mystery of the Ordinary, and the artist’s “uncanny ability to make everyday objects look different, look mysterious, look strange. Or conversely: to make the strange begin to look familiar.” 

René Magritte (Belgium, 1898-1967). La trahison des images (Ceci n’est pas une pipe) (The Treachery of Images [This is Not a Pipe]). 1929.
René Magritte (Belgium, 1898-1967). La trahison des images (Ceci n’est pas une pipe) (The Treachery of Images [This is Not a Pipe]). 1929.

Oil on canvas. 23 3/4 x 31 15/16 x 1 in. (60.33 x 81.12 x 2.54 cm). Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. © Charly Herscovici – ADAGP – ARS, 2013. Photograph: Digital Image © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA,Licensed by Art Resource, NY.

From the exhibition “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary,” on view at MoMA through January 12, 2014.

 

René Magritte (Belgian, 1898–1967). Les amants (The Lovers). 1928.
René Magritte (Belgian, 1898–1967). Les amants (The Lovers). 1928.

Oil on canvas. 21 3/8 x 28 7/8″ (54 x 73.4 cm). Museum of Modern Art. Gift of Richard S. Zeisler. © Charly Herscovici -– ADAGP – ARS, 2013.

From the exhibition “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary,” on view at MoMA through January 12, 2014.

René Magritte (Belgian, 1898–1967). L’assassin menacé (The Menaced Assassin). 1927.
René Magritte (Belgian, 1898–1967). L’assassin menacé (The Menaced Assassin). 1927.

Oil on canvas. 59 1/4″ x 6′ 4 7/8″ (150.4 x 195.2 cm). Museum of Modern Art. Kay Sage Tanguy Fund. © Charly Herscovici – ADAGP – ARS, 2013.

From the exhibition “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary,” on view at MoMA through January 12, 2014.

René Magritte (Belgium, 1898-1967). Le faux miroir (The False Mirror). 1929.
René Magritte (Belgium, 1898-1967). Le faux miroir (The False Mirror). 1929.

Oil on canvas. 21 1/4 x 31 7/8″ (54 x 80.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase. © Charly Herscovici -– ADAGP – ARS, 2013.

From the exhibition “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary,” on view at MoMA through January 12, 2014.

 

René Magritte (Belgian, 1898–1967). La clef des songes (The Interpretation of Dreams). 1935.
René Magritte (Belgian, 1898–1967). La clef des songes (The Interpretation of Dreams). 1935.

Oil on canvas. 16 1/8 x 10 5/8″ (41 x 27 cm). Collection of Jasper Johns. © Charly Herscovici -– ADAGP – ARS, 2013. Photograph: Jerry Thompson

From the exhibition “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary,” on view at MoMA through January 12, 2014.

René Magritte (Belgium, 1898-1967). La condition humaine (The Human Condition). 1933.
René Magritte (Belgium, 1898-1967). La condition humaine (The Human Condition). 1933.

Oil on canvas. 100 x 81 x 1.6 cm (39 3/8 x 31 7/8 x 5/8 in.). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collector’s Committee. © Charly Herscovici – ADAGP – ARS, 2013

From the exhibition “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary,” on view at MoMA through January 12, 2014.

René Magritte (Belgium, 1898-1967). La clairvoyance (Clairvoyance). 1936.
René Magritte (Belgium, 1898-1967). La clairvoyance (Clairvoyance). 1936.

Oil on canvas. 21 1/4 x 25 9/16″ (54 x 65 cm). Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur Ross. © Charly Herscovici -– ADAGP – ARS, 2013.

From the exhibition “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary,” on view at MoMA through January 12, 2014.

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