Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938

René Magritte. _The False Mirror_. Le Perreux-sur-Marne, 1928. Oil on canvas. 21 1/4 x 31 7/8" (54 x 80.9 cm). Purchase © 2013 C. Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

René Magritte. The False Mirror. Paris 1929

Oil on canvas, 21 1/4 x 31 7/8" (54 x 80.9 cm). Purchase. © 2018 C. Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Narrator: After leaving Magritte’s studio, The False Mirror was coated with synthetic varnish giving it a very even, shiny surface. Recently, conservators at MoMA removed the discolored varnish, revealing nuances in color and detail.

Conservator, Michael Duffy: Before cleaning, the pupil was very shiny and glossy and reflective. Once the varnish was removed, the black became very soft and deep. So it really does become the focus of the painting. You could also see more details in the clouds and the sky. Also, details, like the highlights in the corner of the eye, became much more apparent and visceral.

Even in a simple graphic image such as this, he's using a variety of painting techniques and methods. The white that forms the highlight on the white of the eye is in zinc. So it's a cooler white than the lead white used in the clouds, which are softer and warmer. And we can actually distinguish these in x-ray images that we have of the painting, where you can see the different densities of the paints.

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