The Empire of Lights (1954) by Rene Magritte

The Empire of Lights - Rene Magritte - 1954

Artwork Information

TitleThe Empire of Lights
ArtistRene Magritte
MediumOil on Canvas
Art MovementSurrealism
Current LocationRoyal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium
Location Created Brussels, Belgium
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About The Empire of Lights

Rene Magritte’s oil painting, The Empire of Lights, depicts a lone house glowing with interior lights in complete darkness. Completed in 1954 as part of a series of 27 paintings, the piece explores the paradoxical image of a nocturnal landscape beneath a sunlit sky. This style aligns with Magritte’s known magic realism, challenging viewers’ perceptions by focusing on familiar objects through an unconventional lens.

What sets The Empire of Lights apart is its focus on the singular streetlight illuminating the scene. Positioned off-center and surrounded by complete darkness, the painter’s use of light and value to draw attention to this detail creates an eerily atmospheric effect that heightens one’s perception. Magritte was famous for his thought-provoking artwork meant to induce “awe felt in an eclipse,” often employing both images and words.

Measuring at 48.6 x 58.7 cm, The Empire of Lights is part of Peggy Guggenheim Collection located in Venice Italy. Interestingly, it is also the only painting where Magritte used someone else’s title instead of his own unique titles. Renowned Belgian surrealist painter Rene Magritte leaves viewers perplexed with his artworks like The Empire Of Lights, forcing them to question their sense of reality while appreciating the beauty that he presents from such mundane objects as houses and streetlights in complete darkness.

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