Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary

René Magritte, “The meaning of night,” 1927, The Menil Collection
René Magritte, “The meaning of night,” 1927, The Menil Collection

René Magritte, “The meaning of night,” 1927, The Menil Collection

In our digital world, visual illusions are just a click away. Scale is easily manipulated and locations can be faked. Photos go viral before it is revealed that the image is entirely manufactured. Given this, René Magritte’s surrealist paintings were ahead of their time.

This spring, learn more about Magritte and what happened when artists began blurring reality and illusion in “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary.” This course offers four lectures and ends with a tour of the exhibition at the Menil. I asked Kathryn Klauber, who will teach the second lecture, “Magritte: Life of Reality and Illusion,” a couple questions about Magritte and surrealism.

Why was Magritte so interested in illusion and fantastical imagery? Is there something in his personal biography, or was it more of an outside influence from the art world?

Magritte used his technical facility and imagination to come to terms with an incomprehensible world – one he had personally and painfully witnessed. Asked why he put seemingly random images together, his response was, “It is a union that suggests the essential mystery of the world. Art, for me, is not an end in itself, but a means of evoking that mystery.”

How did the term Surrealism come into being and begin to define Magritte and other artists?

Derived in large part from automatism (a form of random writing that produced unexpected imagery), Surrealism originated as a literary movement gaining notoriety in the years just after World War I. Influenced by Dadaism, the horrors of war and the writings of Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx, the group published the “Manifesto of Surrealism” in 1924, and the movement’s popularity drove Surrealism to become an international literary, political and visual arts movement.

I hope you will join us on March 25 to learn more about Magritte’s personal history and the cultural events that shaped this artist and the surrealism movement.

Laura Bailey


Laura Bailey, Marketing Coordinator

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