Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938

René Magritte. _La Clef des songes (The Interpretation of Dreams)._ Brussels, 1935

René Magritte. La Clef des songes (The Interpretation of Dreams). Brussels, 1935

Oil on canvas
Collection Jasper Johns

Narrator: This work belongs to a series of paintings in which Magritte paired words and images using the format of a children’s reading primer.

Curator, Anne Umland : Misnaming objects was one of Magritte's key strategies for making familiar things look unfamiliar and, also, for reminding us that pictures of things are not the same as the things themselves.

Narrator: Here, a teaching tool becomes an instrument of confusion. Only the valise, in the lower right corner, is paired with its correct word.

Anne Umland: This one instance of normalcy, I think, reinforces the disjunctive character of the other pairings. But at the same time, each one of those other pairings challenges the logic that makes us see the association between the word valise with the picture of a valise as somehow natural or correct.

It's very unusual for Magritte for the words in his paintings to be written in English. And that's because Magritte produced it for his very first one-person show at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in 1936.

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