|Courtesy of www.ReneMagritte.org|
In 1953-1954, artist Rene Magritte painted The Empire of Lights. It is the only time that Magritte used a title that was not his own. The intriguing oil painting displays a beautiful house lit up by its interior lights, and surrounded by the darkness of the night. Especially surreal is that the sky above the house and treeline is a daytime sky full of brightness and plump white clouds. It is a serene, mysterious scene.
In Empire of Light, numerous versions of which exist, a dark, nocturnal street scene is set against a pastel-blue, light-drenched sky spotted with fluffy cumulus clouds. With no fantastic
element other than the single paradoxical combination of day and night, René Magritte upsets a fundamental organizing premise of life. Sunlight, ordinarily the source of clarity, here causes the
confusion and unease traditionally associated with darkness. The luminosity of the sky becomes unsettling, making the empty darkness below even more impenetrable than it would seem in a normal
context. The bizarre subject is treated in an impersonal, precise style, typical of veristic Surrealist painting and preferred by Magritte since the mid-1920s.
Magritte explained the origin of the image in a radio interview in 1956, stating:
What is represented in a picture is what is visible to the eye, it is the thing or the things that had to be thought of. Thus, what is represented in the picture are the things I thought of, to be precise, a nocturnal landscape and a skyscape such as can be seen in broad daylight. The landscape suggests night and the skyscape day. This evocation of night and day seems to me to have the power to surprise and delight us. I call this power: poetry" ”