Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938

René Magritte. _L’Évidence éternelle (The Eternally Obvious)._ Paris, 1930

René Magritte. L’Évidence éternelle (The Eternally Obvious). Paris, 1930

Oil on five canvases
The Menil Collection, Houston

Narrator: In early 1930, at the very end of his years in Paris, Magritte made what he called toiles découpées, or cut-up paintings, mounted on glass.

Director of the Menil Collection, Josef Helfenstein: He transfers the painting into precarious territory, because it's not clear anymore whether this is a painting or an object. There's something almost brutal about this nude, and I think that's part of what makes it such a radical work. The painting itself is a result of a violent act in terms of creation, because the idealized nude of traditional painting, has been cut up in small parts.

Narrator: These cropped, close-up views are evocative of photography.

Josef Helfenstein: It's an ongoing tension in Magritte's work between the traditional role of painting and mechanical reproduction. And photography plays a very important role in that discourse the role of photography, the role of mechanical reproduction, and the threat to painting, is part of what Magritte was interested in.

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