The works of Belgian painter René Magritte can often be recognized instantly. Every Magritte painting evokes strong emotions with their thought provoking images of ordinary subjects distorted just enough to challenge the viewer's perception of reality, encouraging them to see the world in a different light. For example, The Portrait, from 1935, portrays a solitary eye staring back at the viewer from a piece of ham on a dinner plate. These mundane things taken outside of their normal context is unnerving, yet difficult to look away from.
Other Magritte works, such as the well-known The Son of Man from 1964 calls forth intense emotions because of what isn't seen. The man's face hidden behind the green apple provokes curiosity about his obscured face. Perhaps one of the cleverest pieces is The Treachery of Images from 1948, with its famous assertion that "Ceci n'est pas une pipe," underneath a depiction of a pipe. This painting forces the viewer to think, to ponder the fact that "the word is not the thing."
In this painting from 1927, The Meaning of Night, René Magritte evokes strong emotions once again. Like many works by Magritte, the imagery is strange and unsettling, yet fascinating. A man in a bowler hat, reminiscent of the subject depicted in The Son of Man, as well as many other works by Magritte, stands on beach under the charcoal coloured sky of night time. His eyes are closed, his face almost mask-like, he stands with his hands in his pockets as a mirror image stands behind him, looking out on the dark waves lapping at the shore. Next to him, hovering over the clouds on the sandy beach, is the backside of a woman, her face and the majority of her body obscured by her dark garments. A gloved, floating hand appears to be pulling at the fabric, possibly alluding to what takes place in the man's subconscious after he closes his eyes and enters a dream state.
The Meaning of Night disturbs in the way it portrays the fear of what happens at night, especially in that darkness that lies within all humans, and our sleeping shadow selves that come alive after we close our eyes in the dark.