René Magritte

The Mysteries of the Horizon

The Mysteries of the Horizon (1955) is an oil on canvas painting by the Belgian surrealist René Magritte.

The painting depicts three seemingly identical men in bowler hats. They are in an outdoor setting at twilight. Each one is turned toward a different direction. In the sky above each figure is a separate crescent moon.

Men in bowler hats have appeared frequently in Magritte’s work since his 1926 painting The Musings of a Solitary Walker. They are represented as having undefined or identical personalities.

History

René François Ghislain Magritte (November 21, 1898 – August 15, 1967) was a Belgian surrealist artist. He is well known for a number of witty and amusing images. Surrealism was a cultural movement that began in the mid-1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members. The works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions, and the use of non sequiturs. Some viewed their art as an expression of a philosophical movement that was dedicated to revolutionary change. Magritte would ultimately break with Andre Breton, the founder of the Surrealist school. Magritte’s work primarily addressed the issue of representation in the work of art. Magritte seems to suggest that no matter how realistically the artist can depict an item, verisimilitude is still an artistic strategy, a mere representation of the thing, not the thing itself. The philosophical basis of this perspective appears to be the Kantian distinction between noumenon and phenonomenon. The artist deals in phenomena only. This Kantian perspective is the basis for modern relativism. Since observers are limited only to each individual perception, one can never know the universal, which essentially ceases to exist for beings like humans.

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