Renowned Art
René Magritte Gallery     Prints.     Full biography.
René Magritte (1898-1967)
René was born in Belgium and in 1922 he married Georgette Berger. In 1925, Magritte painted what he considered to be his first major work, in 1927, he held his first one-man show at the Galérie Le Centaure. He toyed with everyday objects, human habits and emotions, placing them in foreign contexts and questioning their familiar meanings. He rehabilitated the object. He made the commonplace profound and the rational irrational. His work goes beyond escapism and serves to reveal some of the murkier and complex aspects of the human condition.
Time Transfixed
Voice of Space
Human Condition
Lola de Valence
Personal Values
Son of Man


Les valeurs personelles, 1952
Les valeurs personelles--a painting from Magritte's mid-career—displays the signature style of the artist in one of his most extraordinary and refined images. It is an outstanding painting in terms of both the image and the execution, with delicate and rich brushwork and luminous color. Les valeurs personellesincludes many of the objects we associate with Magritte: the cloud-filled sky, the goblet, the box-like interior space with the crack in the ceiling. The painting creates the sensation that we are standing in an ambiguous space that is both open and confining, creating a sense of radical change in scale that represents one of the most potent aspects of Magritte's works. Entrapped in the small room, the oversized objects depicted--including a comb, a shaving brush, and a match--lose their utilitarian character and become disconcerting strangers, a twist on the traditional still-life motif that unsettles the viewer and achieves Magritte's goal of unleashing "the mystery that is in the real." Opening up the flat planes of the wall to a cloud-filled sky was an especially powerful idea.

The painting is also exceptional because it is one of the few works that the artist discussed directly and in detail in a series of letters. Magritte's dealer in the 1950s, Alexander Iolas, mistakenly believed Les valeurs personelleswas painted quickly, but Magritte set him straight, explaining that it took him at least two months to execute the work. He explained that he considered every detail carefully and revised it until it had reached "a state of grace."

Les valeurs personellesjoins a pencil-on-paper drawing by Magritte--Untitled(Apple), ca. 1965--and other works in SFMOMA's holdings by important surrealist and dada artists such as Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Man Ray and Yves Tanguy.

oil on canvas
31 1/2 in. x 39 3/8 in. (80.01 cm x 100.01 cm)
Collection SFMOMA
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