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The Empire of Lights

also known as L'Empire des Lumieres

Artist: Rene Magritte
Created: 1953-54
Dimensions (cm): 113.7 x 146.0
Format: Oil on canvas
Location: Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium

The Empire of Lights

In 1953-1954, artist Rene Magritte painted ‘The Empire of Lights’, also known by its original title ‘L’Empire des Lumieres’, taken from a poem by Paul Nouge. It is the only time that Magritte used a title that was not his own. The intriguing oil painting displays a beautiful house lit up by its interior lights, and surrounded by the darkness of the night. Especially surreal is that the sky above the house and treeline is a daytime sky full of brightness and plump white clouds. It is a serene, mysterious scene.

The piece is a magnificent portrayal of Rene Magritte’s unique concept of time, his uncanny ability to harmonize nature’s elements with time, as though they were one. Being a religious man, Magritte may have been symbolizing a passage from the bible, Genesis 1 verse 4: “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.” Another eerie phenomenon in the scene is that the water should be reflecting the brightness of the sky instead of the darkness of the night.

‘The Empire of Lights’ is perhaps Magritte’s most famous piece. It became so popular that he made several versions, all of which possessed the same concept - day harmoniously blending into night. Some have made their way into private collections, and others are available for viewing in museums.

Analysis and Quotes

The following quotes may shed some light on the artist’s work and his basic intention:

“My painting is visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question 'What does that mean'? It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.” – Rene Magritte

“Magritte's work allows one to conjure up a state of being which has become rare and precious - which makes it possible to observe in silence. Reading and reflection call for silence, listening no less. Silence can be used for waiting for an illumined vision of things, and it is to this vision that Magritte introduces us.” - Abraham Marie Hammacher (Rene Magritte)

‘The Empire of Lights’ is currently located at the Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Belgium.


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