L’Empire des lumières
René Magritte – L’Empire des lumières – 1953–54
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.
In Empire of Light (L’Empire des lumières) 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.