The Sixteenth of September

© Succession René Magritte - SABAM Belgium, 2024

Artist / maker

René Magritte (painter)

Date

(1956)

Period

20th century
This is not a tree by moonlight This later work by Rene Magritte gives a good idea of how the painter went about assembling his surreal images. Behind a lone tree at twilight we see a dark wood and bushes beneath a deep-blue sky. Magritte then painted a luminous white crescent moon onto the foliage of the tree. The image…
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This is not a tree by moonlight This later work by Rene Magritte gives a good idea of how the painter went about assembling his surreal images. Behind a lone tree at twilight we see a dark wood and bushes beneath a deep-blue sky. Magritte then painted a luminous white crescent moon onto the foliage of the tree. The image looks real but is obviously an illusion. Playing with the tradition of realistic painting to create pictures that are empirically impossible sums up Surrealism à la Magritte. Other Surrealists or Magic Realists – Magritte’s great inspiration Giorgio de Chirico, for instance, or his fellow Belgian Paul Delvaux – imbued reality with an aura of mystery. Not so Magritte, who thought that reality itself was astonishingly absurd. At first sight, the lone twilit tree and crescent moon in its illogical position, evoke romantic stereotypes. But Magritte, who made a point of resisting our tendency to interpret images, will have had no such connection in mind. The title plays a key role in this respect. The Sixteenth of September has nothing to do with the ostensible reality of the canvas. According to Magritte himself, ‘the lovely title’ was suggested by his friend Louis Scutenaire, a Belgian Surrealist poet. Magritte and his wife Georgette frequently had their friends around to visit on Sundays, during which they thought up alternative, poetic titles for the artist’s paintings. According to Magritte, they needed to ‘surprise and enchant’. Physical and technical research shows that there was little improvisation in Magritte’s painting. Each motif was of equal value to him. The crescent moon and the tree in this painting are equal in painterly terms to the stones in the foreground, the bushes and the sky. Magritte felt that this kind of ‘slick’, impersonal execution was the ideal means of ensuring the power of his images. The efficient visual simplicity of his best work also recalls his training as a graphic designer in the advertising industry, in which he worked in the 1920s. Magritte signed an exclusive contract in the 1950s with the art dealer Alexander Iolas, who promoted his work in the United States and elsewhere. He began to paint a growing number of variations on the same themes, as a result of which at least five versions of The Sixteenth of September exist.
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More about this work

Features
Artist / maker René Magritte VIAF RKD Wikidata
Type schilderij
Category painting
Materials
oil on canvas
doek[drager] , geschilderd
Dimensions 115 × 88 cm
Location Currently on display
Object number 2843
Description
Subject fantastic art
Tag night Iconclass
Vlaamse Kunstcollectie - EN

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