The Light of Coincidences


René Magritte ( Belgian, 1898 - 1967 )

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General Description

Among the most important of René Magritte’s early surrealist works, The Light of Coincidences effects a masterful deception. A single candle casts its light on a sculptural torso, modeling and shaping its form, and throwing a shadow behind it. But the torso is itself painted. The eye is tricked into seeing it both as a framed picture and as a three-dimensional sculpture standing in a box. As is often the case with Magritte, the title itself is an aspect of the work, the words echoing the visible scene. Magritte used this painting to describe the role of light in his art: “While it has the power to make objects visible, [light’s] existence is manifest only on condition that it is accepted by objects. This is made obvious . . . in ‘the light of coincidence,’ where . . . a female torso is lit by a candle. In this case, it seems that the object illuminated itself gives life to light.”

Excerpt from

Bonnie Pitman, ed., Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 261.

Fun Facts

  • René Magritte often refused to clarify the meaning of his paintings, explaining that “the mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meaning is unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.”

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