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.