The Eternally Obvious

Artist: René Magritte (Belgian, Lessines 1898–1967 Brussels)

Date: 1948

Medium: Oil on canvas mounted on board

Dimensions: Overall: 78 x 24 x 1 3/8 in. (198.1 x 61 x 3.5 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection, 2002

Accession Number: 2002.456.12a–e

Rights and Reproduction: © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Description

Magritte painted the body of a naked blonde model, cut from the canvas the body's five choicest bits, surrounded them in gold frames, and reassembled the figure with blank spaces in between on a sheet of glass. This work is a variant of the artist's famous, same-titled prototype from 1930 for which his wife Georgette posed. In that earlier work, Georgette's face is seen in three-quarter view, she stands in a contrapposto stance, and her body is not as rigidly aligned frontally as in this later work, for which the artist chose a younger model with firmer breasts. Magritte plays tricks with our perception in these "picture-objects," whose fame-that of the earlier version-coincided with its role in the cult of the Surrealist object in the 1930s. Although the body is truncated, we automatically fill in the missing areas and see a "complete" nude woman, never mind that her arms and hands are missing.

The artist's dealer in New York, Alexander Iolas, wanted to show this work in an exhibition at his gallery in 1948. Concerned that the painting would not pass inspection by U.S. Customs, Iolas ordered Magritte to omit the pubic hair. Another artist from the Iolas gallery, Bernard Pfriem, restored the hair in his studio on Prince Street in New York.

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