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The Human Condition II, 1935 by Rene Magritte - Meaning and Analysis

19 March 2022
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Terms of human existence - Rene Magritte. Canvas, oil. 100 x 81 cm


The visible combined with the hidden always creates some dissonance in the mind of the viewers. The work titled "The Human Condition" evokes mixed feelings, contradicting each other. Rene Magritte created many interpretations of this composition, of which this particular one was the most popular.

The work depicts a plot where some "incognito" painted a landscape, when standing on the other side of the window. The canvas rests on an easel, blocking the view of a fragrant green garden or calm blue sea and yellow soft sand (these are the most common scenes).

Rene liked to use this technique, i.e., blocking one visible object with another, closer to us. In this composition, the canvas is like a glass, accurately reflecting what is happening outside the window in reality. The "incognito artist" conveyed all the colors, calculated all the visible and invisible objects, and depicted them in his work in an incredibly accurate manner. But do these canvases truly depict what is outside the window in fact, or is it just Magritte’s another artistic trick?

If you look closely at the details of the picture, we can assume that the image on the canvas is just a figment of the artist's imagination and has nothing to do with reality. On the other hand, how can we know what exactly the picture “behind the glass” hides behind it?

“The Human Condition" depicts subjective reality, i.e., not what it is, but what we imagine; how the human imagination can complete it based on what our eyes see. We decide ourselves what the hidden something looks like, and this makes our perception of the world.

The canvas by a certain artist “behind the glass”, and the one by Rene Magritte himself are both just a fiction, a play of the imagination of artists and the work of their brilliant minds. And here, we are assigned with an extremely simple task of guessing riddles.
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