This work is a variant of a prototype made nearly twenty years earlier, now in the Menil Collection, Houston. Both were created in the same manner: Magritte first painted a nude portrait of his wife, which he then cut into segments, framed, and (in some cases) reassembled onto glass. These works exist between painting and sculpture, and the artist referred to them as both "objets" (objects) and "toiles découpés" (cut-up paintings). By dividing the body into five self-contained sections, Magritte paid tribute to and challenged the traditional female nude. Typically Surrealist, The Eternally Obvious plays with perception, asking the viewer to reconstruct mentally a whole body from discreet parts.
Inscription: Signed (lower left, under foot): Magritte
the artist (1948–49; on consignment March 1948 to Alexander Iolas; sold in August 1949 to Iolas); [Alexander Iolas (Hugo Gallery), Paris and New York, 1949–probably 1963]; [Hanover Gallery, London, 1963–64; sold in 1964 to Janss]; Edwin Janss Jr., Los Angeles (1964–d. 1989; his estate sale, Sotheby's, New York, May 9, 1989, no. 38C, sold to Matisse); Pierre Matisse, New York (d. 1989; stock no. 8872); his widow, Maria-Gaetana Matisse, née von Spreti, New York (1989–d. 2001); Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Foundation (2002; gift to MMA)
New York. Hugo Gallery. "Magritte," May 4–29, 1948, brochure no. 17.
Copley Galleries. "Magritte," opened September 9, 1948, no. 11.
New York. Sidney Janis Gallery. "Challenge and Defy: Extreme Examples by XX Century Artists, French and American," September 25–October 21, 1950, no. 12.
New York. Hugo Gallery. "Magritte," March 20–April 11, 1951, brochure no. 39.
New York. Iolas Gallery. "René Magritte," March–April, 1953, no catalogue.
New York. Iolas Gallery. "René Magritte," March 25–April [13?], 1957, no catalogue.
Dallas. Museum for Contemporary Art. "René Magritte in America," December 8, 1960–January 8, 1961, no. 20.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "René Magritte in America," February 2–March 5, 1961, no. 20.
Knokke. Casino Communal. "L'oeuvre de René Magritte," July–August 1962, not in catalogue.
Milan. Galleria Schwarz. "Magritte," December 6–31, 1962, no. 3.
Rome. L'Attico. "Magritte," January 9–25, 1963, no. 2.
Geneva. Galerie Alexander Iolas. "Magritte," October 7–31, 1963, no catalogue.