The Eternally Obvious, 1948
René Magritte (Belgian, 1898–1967)
Oil on canvas laid on board; Overall (installed size,
5 framed panels): 72 x 16 in. (182.9 x 40.6 cm)
The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection,
Magritte painted the body of a naked blonde model,
cut from the canvas the body's five choicest bits,
surrounded them in gold frames, and reassembled
the figure with blank spaces in between on a sheet
of glass. This work is a variant of the artist's famous,
same-titled prototype from 1930 for which his wife Georgette posed.
In that earlier work, Georgette's face is seen in three-quarter view,
she stands in a contrapposto stance, and her body is not as
rigidly aligned frontally as in this later work, for which the artist
chose a younger model with firmer breasts. Magritte plays tricks
with our perception in these "picture-objects," whose fame—that
of the earlier version—coincided with its role in the cult
of the Surrealist object in the 1930s. Although the body
is truncated, we automatically fill in the missing areas and
see a "complete" nude woman, never mind that her arms
and hands are missing.
The artist's dealer in New York, Alexander Iolas, wanted
to show this work in an exhibition at his gallery in 1948.
Concerned that the painting would not pass inspection
by U.S. Customs, Iolas ordered Magritte to omit the pubic hair.
Another artist from the Iolas gallery, Bernard Pfriem, restored
the hair in his studio on Prince Street in New York.