Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938

René Magritte. _Tentative de l’impossible (Attempting the Impossible)._ Paris, 1928

René Magritte. Tentative de l’impossible (Attempting the Impossible). Paris, 1928

Oil on canvas
Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, Japan

Narrator: A man dressed in a suit paints a nude. The two figures are often identified with Magritte and his wife Georgette.

Director of the Menil Collection, Josef Helfenstein: It's a painting of the creative act but done in an almost shockingly banal way. It's the most literal interpretation of what a painter does. He just applies paint. There doesn't seem to be anything mysterious or mystical or metaphysical about this. But I think that very straightforwardness is what makes this a subversive work.

The Surrealists attacked painting as a medium from the very beginning. They thought it was too bourgeois, too conventional, too traditional, and had become too much of a commodity. Magritte reflects that by sort of overdoing it, mimicking the academic style of painting but completely undermining the metaphysics of this whole myth of creation.

Narrator: At the same time there is something magical and deeply romantic about the painting, which has often been related to the myth of Pygmalion, who brings his sculpture to life.

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