Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938

René Magritte. _La Lumière des coïncidences (The Light of Coincidence)._ Brussels, 1933

René Magritte. La Lumière des coïncidences (The Light of Coincidence). Brussels, 1933

Oil on canvas
Dallas Museum of Art. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon

Narrator: Curator Stephanie D’Alessandro.

Curator, Art Institute of Chicago, Stephanie D’Alessandro: The Light of Coincidences is a picture that plays with many expectations that Magritte takes on: the way that we read images and the things that we take for granted. And I think that the idea of light as something that is a physical presence that illuminates objects but also the idea of illumination and knowledge is part of what Magritte is playing with here.

Narrator: The candlelit interior is a motif from seventeeth-century painting, when artists used extreme light and dark to tell dramatic stories. But here the light is illogical.

Stephanie D’Alessandro: If you look at that torso--that torso is so highly illuminated you almost imagine that outside the picture frame there's a huge floodlight that's shining on this torso. It's such a different and inconsistent sense of light.

Narrator: The torso appears in a frame mounted on an easel, indicating that this is a painting of a sculpture. But within that frame a receding wall on the left and deep shadows suggest that we are looking at a three-dimensional object in a niche.

Stephanie D’Alessandro: Magritte is thinking about how paintings are constructed, how art tells or doesn't tell stories or communicates information, the way that we, as viewers of paintings, gather information. And I think he's constructed a scene that should tell us everything, but when you put it together, only reveals clues that lead to questions.

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