Exercise #12 – Answers

The False Mirror (1928) by René Magritte (1898-1967), oil on canvas, Collection Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Q1. Describe in detail what you see in this image.

A1. A close up view of an eye with a central black pupil and an iris filled with a light blue sky with fluffy white clouds. The flesh of the lids is a dull beige colour and the lids have no eyelashes..

Q2. What is your first reaction to it?

A2. That it is a strange image that jolts since it removes the eye from the context of a face and it is puzzling as to why the iris is filled with the sky and clouds.

Q3. What do you think the artist was trying to convey?

A3. It seems as if the artist wants us to question what we see and what we think we know. Is the sky a reflection of what the eye sees? Are we looking at an inner vision? Is the eye looking at us or the other way around?


René Magritte was a Belgian artist who was part of the Surrealist movement that included Man Ray, Salvador Dali and Max Ernst. It began in Europe after World War 1 as a way of getting people to think in a new way beyond the rational. It concentrated on the irrational, the unconscious and dreams often juxtaposing unrelated objects in incongruous contexts. In so doing it unsettles assumptions about seeing and knowing. The mirror of the title here refers to the fact that a mirror can only reflect what is placed in front of it. The eye on the other hand, is one part of a complex system of seeing since it is subjective. It filters and processes the image it sees according to one’s knowledge, experience, cultural background and memory. In other words through our eyes and other senses, we both create and experience the world around us.