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

Curator, Anne Umland : The False Mirror presents us with this enormous lash-less eye. Its iris is very implausibly filled with this luminous, cloud-swept blue sky. And then right at dead center is this matte black opaque disc that doubles as its pupil.

I think it's an interesting title, The False Mirror, in the sense that it raises questions about optical vision and the difference between an eye and a mirror. And one could think about the way, I suppose, that a mirror provides a mechanical reflection but that the eye is always selective and always subjective in what it sees. The notion of vision, of external sight, was one that the Surrealists problematized. Optical vision was limited, in the view of many of the Surrealists: just because you can see something doesn't make it real. And inner vision, hallucinations, dreams, in a Surrealist's world, have just as much reality as visible external phenomena. Now, how The False Mirror fits into that is kind of interesting, because in a way, it's an eye that's all-seeing, but at the same time, that dead black opaque dot in the center—it's like the end of sight.

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