René Magritte
Les valeurs personnelles (Personal Values), 1952

Although he is often grouped with Surrealists such as Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, and Yves Tanguy, Magritte took a somewhat different approach to painting. Rather than creating fantasy imagery, he evoked the strangeness and ambiguity latent in reality. “I don’t paint visions,” he once said. “To the best of my capability, by painterly means, I describe objects — and the mutual relationship of objects — in such a way that none of our habitual concepts or feelings is necessarily linked with them.”

Here, the artist presents a room filled with familiar things, but he gives human proportions to these formerly unassuming props of everyday life, creating a sense of disorientation and incongruity. Inside and out are inverted by his rendering of a skyscape on the interior walls of the room. The familiar becomes unfamiliar, the normal, strange; Magritte creates a paradoxical world that is, in his own words, “a defiance of common sense.”

When he first saw this painting, Magritte’s dealer, Alexander Iolas, was violently upset by it. Tellingly, the artist replied, “In my picture, the comb (and the other objects as well) has specifically lost its ‘social character,’ it has become an object of useless luxury, which may, as you say, leave the spectator feeling helpless or even make him ill. Well, this is proof of the effectiveness of the picture.”

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Les valeurs personnelles (Personal Values)
Artist name
René Magritte
Date created
oil on canvas
31 1/2 in. × 39 3/8 in. (80.01 cm × 100.01 cm)
Date acquired
Collection SFMOMA
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis
© Charly Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Permanent URL
Artwork status
Not on view at this time.

Please note that artwork locations are subject to change, and not all works are on view at all times. If you are planning a visit to SFMOMA to see a specific work of art, we suggest you contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to confirm it will be on view.

Only a portion of SFMOMA's collection is currently online, and the information presented here is subject to revision. Please contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to verify collection holdings and artwork information. If you are interested in receiving a high resolution image of an artwork for educational, scholarly, or publication purposes, please contact us at copyright@sfmoma.org.

This resource is for educational use and its contents may not be reproduced without permission. Please review our Terms of Use for more information.