My Favourite Painting: Annoushka Ducas

Jewellery designer Annoushka Ducas chooses a René Magritte painting which hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Annoushka Ducas on her choice of René Magritte’s L’Empire des Lumieres (Dominion of Light) II 

‘I have always loved the Surrealists. They’re witty and thought-provoking, challenging observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality. It must be a family thing, as my great-grand-mother, Louise Ducas, was painted by Salvador Dalí in the 1930s, when he first came to New York.

I first saw a version of the Magritte painting at MOMA in New York many years ago and, at the time, it had a really dramatic impact on me. I loved the mystery and magic of the bright blue daytime sky juxtaposed with the cosy darkened home. It is both confusing and entrancing, day and night fused into one.’
Annoushka Ducas is a jewellery designer and co-founder of Links of London

John McEwen analyses L’Empire des Lumieres II

This Surrealist masterpiece by the Belgian painter René Magritte was so popular with collectors that he painted it, with minor variations, almost 20 times over a similar number of years. Shortly after he finished the first completed version, begun in 1949, he painted the second, reproduced here. ‘“The Dominion of Light” no 2 is finished & is very fine,’ he wrote to his art dealer, Alexandre Iolas. The art patrons Jean and Dominique de Menil bought and presented it to MOMA and, nine years later, the artist still thought it ‘revealed the full strength of the idea’. The de Menils had long wanted him to paint another version. In 1962, he completed a new one, the kernel of an idea abandoned since 1948.

He explained the subject in a 1956 broadcast: ‘The landscape suggests night and the sky day. This evocation of night and day seems to me to have the power to surprise and delight us. I call this power: poetry.’

The title was provided by his writer friend and fellow Belgian Surrealist Paul Nougé. Another Surrealist friend, the artist Marcel Mariën, complained that Magritte’s notion of the contradiction’s poetic power was lost in some translations: ‘English, Flemish and German translators take it [empire] in the sense of territory, whereas the fundamental meaning is obviously “power”, “dominance”.’

Magritte was even more irritated by an interpretation by the Surrealist Paul Colonet: ‘It appears I am a great mystic,’ he wrote to Mariën, ‘providing consolation (because of the luminous sky) for our miseries (the landscape of houses and black trees)… all this keeps us on the level of pathetic humanity.’

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