Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938

René Magritte. _Les Affinités électives (Elective Affinities)._ Brussels, 1932

René Magritte. Les Affinités électives (Elective Affinities). Brussels, 1932

Oil on canvas
Private collection

Narrator: This image came to Magritte in a hallucination. He woke up one night in a room where a bird was sleeping in a cage. But he imagined that he saw an egg in the cage. Anne Umland:

Curator, Anne Umland : Part of the shock or the disorienting quality of this image results from the truly bizarre scale of its components. I think it's also, like all of Magritte's pictures, one that rewards slow, careful looking. The upper left corner of the cage, for example—if you look closely, you can see it's projecting in front of the supporting structure. And then you look down to the lower left corner, where it's tucked in behind this wooden frame. Or similarly, you see how the cage is suspended at the top from this hook, but underneath there's a support that suggests that this suspension is unnecessary. And I think these are the types of very subtle visual clues that, when you consider them in combination, contribute to the picture's sort of overall mystery and deep illogic.

Narrator: Provoking shock through the chance encounter of unrelated objects was a central Surrealist strategy.

Anne Umland: But with this small painting, Magritte claimed to have hit upon what he described as a "new and astonishing poetic secret that arose from the idea of juxtaposing related, as opposed to unrelated, things."

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