Exhibitions > Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938
Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938
June 24, 2014–October 13, 2014
Seeking to make “everyday objects shriek aloud,” or make the familiar unfamiliar, Belgian artist René Magritte created some of the 20th century’s most extraordinary—and indelible—images. This exhibition, the first major museum show to focus on the artist’s most profoundly inventive and experimental years, features over 100 paintings, collages, drawings, and objects, along with a selection of photographs, periodicals, and early commercial work, that trace the birth of the themes and strategies Magritte would go on to use throughout his long, productive career—and which make his paintings so unforgettable today.
The exhibition begins in 1926 in Brussels, where Magritte created paintings and works on paper that first gained him recognition as a Surrealist and that aimed, in his words, to “challenge the real world.” It follows the artist to Paris in 1927, where he met Surrealists like André Breton, Salvador Dalí, and Joan Miró, and created his first breakthrough word-image paintings such as his legendary The Treachery of Images, perhaps better known by its playfully perplexing message, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” Returning to Brussels in 1930, Magritte continued his search for new forms of image making and in 1933 began a series of paintings that provoked disturbing and unexpected associations between things that make the ordinary and daily life strange.
The exhibition concludes with a remarkable group of works Magritte made in London and in Brussels between 1937 and 1938, with a particular emphasis on the commissions he completed for the eccentric British collector Edward James, including the Art Institute’s own Time Transfixed. The show’s chronological endpoint, 1938, marks both a historically and biographically significant moment: it was just before the outbreak of World War II and the year Magritte delivered an important retrospective account of what had made him a Surrealist painter.
Throughout these seminal years, Magritte used displacement, transformation, metamorphosis, and the “misnaming” of objects as well as the representation of visions seen in half-waking states, consistently unsettling the balance between nature and artifice, truth and fiction, reality and surreality. His images, then and still today, force us to question the nature of appearances—both in the paintings and in reality itself.
Organizer Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938 is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Menil Collection, Houston.
Sponsors Bank of America is the National Sponsor of Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938.
Funding for the Art Institute of Chicago presentation is generously provided by Helen and Sam Zell and the Auxiliary Board of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Lead Affiliate Sponsor. Additional support is provided by Sylvia Neil and Daniel Fischel and the Prince Charitable Trusts.
Annual support for Art Institute exhibitions is provided by the Exhibitions Trust: Goldman Sachs, Kenneth and Anne Griffin, Thomas and Margot Pritzker, the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation, and the Woman’s Board of the Art Institute of Chicago.
This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
18 hours 52 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago “One day, I had a dream… there were three black boots in the middle of the road, with very high houses."
These are the words of Tarsila do Amaral, one of the leaders behind Anthropophagy, a national art movement that arose in 1920s Brazil with the goal of “cannibalizing” aspects of European modern art in order to make a new, more distinctly indigenous style. #5WomenArtists
Explore Tarsila’s work in depth when Tarsila do Amaral: Reinventing Modern Art in Brazil opens at the Art Institute this October.
Image: Tarsila do Amaral. City (The Street), 1929. Collection of Bolsa de Arte.
20 hours 52 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW ON VIEW—Who Builds Your Architecture?
Whether majestic skyscrapers, eye-catching museums, or sprawling residential complexes, buildings emerge from intricate, lengthy processes of design and construction that involve a host of different actors. The New York–based group Who Builds Your Architecture? (WBYA?), who gives the show its name, presents research related to migrant workers and the global construction industry.
1 day 16 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago Saints & Heroes brings the spiritual, domestic, and chivalric worlds of the Middle Ages and Renaissance to life in the 21st century.