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The White Race

A work made of oil on canvas.
© 2018 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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  • A work made of oil on canvas.




René Magritte
Belgian, 1898–1967

About this artwork

This painting belongs to a series of four works by René Magritte, all titled The White Race. In each he composed sculpturesque figures from isolated body parts and facial features, disrupting how bodies are usually seen. By deconstructing and reassembling human appendages, the artist defamiliarized something so ubiquitous as to be easily overlooked—the female nude, so often white in Western art—to challenge conventional understandings of bodily forms.

Typically, Magritte’s titles are not descriptive but rather philosophical, raising questions and bringing related ideas to mind poetically. This work’s title suggests a critique of European culture, or what we might now call the social construction of whiteness. In speaking of the painting, however, Magritte focused on the “opportunity… to ask questions of the public; I would ask visitors if they couldn’t tell me why I had given the figure two noses.”


On View, Gallery 396


Modern Art


René Magritte


The White Race


Belgium (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Oil on canvas


Signed, u.r.; Magritte


81 × 60 cm (31 7/8 × 23 5/8 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of The Leonard and Ruth Horwich Family Foundation

Reference Number



© 2018 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Extended information about this artwork

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