René Magritte's the Empire of Light


Imagine a mermaid laying down on a seashore. One can see her human upper body, which slowly transforms into a fishtail at her hips. Easy to imagine since mermaids have been present in Western culture for a long time. Now, imagine an inverted mermaid. Awkward? Huna Makia to painting this in 1934 and called it a 'collective invention'. By doing so, he shows that sometimes one assimilates absurd objects- why is the mermaid delicate? But megaliths creature storage? When are both just a combination of two different animals Precisely the kind of thought Magritte tried to spark in his audience's mind? One realizes he does not have a distinct style if one observes his style. Moreover, that is precisely what he wanted. Magritte thought that style would only be a distraction to the viewer. What he wanted to do was to create philosophical pieces that were easily understood. However, that challenged the viewer. The colours he used and the compositions he made were straightforward, but the genuine interest in Magritte's art is the idea behind the painting. Just like in collective invention, Magritte provokes thoughts by combining conflicting elements. Sometimes even creating paradoxes. One is the 'Empire of Light'. A series of 17 paintings were painted between 1949 and 1954. Magritte is highly inspired by poetry, and he even said that the function of painting is to make poetry visible. The poem, 'Walrus and the Carpenter' by Lewis Carroll, published in 1871, could have been an inspiration to make it.

"The sun was shining on the sea,

Shining with all his might:

He did his very best to make

The billows smooth and bright —

And this was odd, because it was

The middle of the night.

It certainly is extraordinary in this version painted in 1954. One sees a house lit up by a street lamp light that only comes out of two of the windows, which can make us assume that the residents of this house are about to go to bed. It is dusk, and it is very calming. The sky, with its pastel blue colour and floating puffy clouds, is also very calming. Nevertheless, combined, the meditative feeling from both parts of the painting cancels each other out. Instead of feeling calm, we feel uneasy. Something is wrong with the lighting. It goes against our instincts. It is tough to interpret the meaning of this combination of night and day. An alternate description must also be acknowledged:

The exhibition concludes with Magritte embracing contradictory qualities in paintings of paradoxes. The Dominion of Light is a series of landscapes with contrasting skyscapes, showing day and night existing simultaneously in a single street scene. Magritte painted this subject more than a dozen times from 1949 to 1965, and this exhibition marks the first time that more than three of these luminous scenes will be shown together. In the final gallery, gravity and lightness, solidity and transparency lose their meanings in paintings of gigantic floating boulders and flying birds that frame the sky. The juxtapositions in these mysterious and meditative works invite a reexamination of our basic assumptions of existence, space and time. Magritte's powerful paintings—sometimes unsettling and often humorous — draw us into a parallel reality that seems to exist simultaneously with the recognizable world, challenging the viewer to reconsider what is real.


Some have theorized that the sky could be the world of dreams, and as people sleep, this world lights up Magritte. It was surrealist, and the exploration of dreams was critical in the surrealist art movement. The painting could also represent the duality of light natural and artificial, which would explain the Empire of Light title. The truth is, there is no way of knowing what it means. Magritte said it himself my painting is visible images which conceal nothing. They evoke mystery, and when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question what does that mean? It does not mean anything because mystery means nothing. Whether it is unknowable, Magritte was a thinker whose goal was to make one think. So no matter what one's interpretation of the painting is, if it made one think Magritte's goal was reached. Nothing would say Magritte, but that is hard to believe.