Magritte’s Surreal Architecture


Alex Pieri decided to share a peculiar illusion with us. What you can see in this photo is Brussels’ Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. I did some research, but wasn’t able to find a single source explaining this surreal installation. Only success I had, was finding out that the artist René Magritte had something to do with it. Also, I was able to isolate the person who took this photo – a flickr artist who goes under the name gbastiani. When I first obtained the photo, my feelings were mixed: it was obviously an amazing photograph, but immediately I realized there was nothing out of ordinary going on. Or was there? While I continued doing my research, I stumbled upon a daylight shot of the museum (attached inside this article). What I expected to see was quite opposite! Now call me naive, but could the original still exist if there was no digital editing? I’m calling out our Brussels fans for more clues!

  • Slammer

    Haha thats pretty awesome. I think the first on has to be photoshoped a little at the thop because the clouds on the building on that one are different than on the second one. they were edited to make them line up with the real clouds in the sky. Also, does the daylight one have grafitti on the bottom? Very cool illusion.

    • Craig Schaff

      Agreeing with SLAMMER with what he (she) says, but also missing in the top pic is the “curtain rob” along the top edge of the building where the clouds are.
      Positive that the top image WAS photoshopped.

    • Mitcheche

      I totally was just gonna say that.

    • Chris

      Yeah, I was thinking the same. Well, a little photoshop will do the job. :D

    • Agree. the clouds are different and obviously the color background

  • Paul

    You didn’t look far :) It’s on the website! Explains all….

  • A Snail

    Possibly the original one (the first one at night) is a proof of concept one to show to people before creating the real one on the building. The odd thing for me is that there is sky on the left of the big tree in the second picture but not on the first, so they have to be different pictures.

    Personally I think it would be possible to get the equivalent of the first painting where the clouds line up, but it will take a lot of patiance waiting for the right sky colour with fluffy clouds. Once you have that, the clouds will probably line up well enough after a relatively short amound of time. Its a shame really the tree is cut off, it would have been better if the tree only just reached the top of the building.

  • Fred

    I would agree about the picture being photoshopped. What gets me though is that in the night picture there is a wire running diagonally from above to the left of the building in the middle down and to the right. Why would the wire be added? At first I thought maybe it is the wire in the daylight picture from the different perspective but if so it is removed from the night one. Also, the cloud patterns to both the left and right in the night picture are different than the day one. The illusion is intriguing nonetheless.

  • J. Deknudt

    Hey, if you compare the cloud pattern in the nightshot you see it is obviously an nice photoshop.

    but the installation was setup for the announcement for the opening of the museum for the Sureal artist René Magritte. I was told the little landpost in the middle of the painting was real one. unfortunatly it doesn’t show in the shot.

    Although there is a little illusion I noticed with the fountain down the hill from the museum. (pics sometime comming soon)

    I reccomend visiting the museam when you get to visit brussels. The trainstation is a 5 min walk. the royal library, palace and parlement are close. also the museum of instruments, where you can enjoy a cup of tea on the roof with a view over Brussels. make sure you visit the comic museum!!!


  • Note that the cloud patterns are different on each one, I’d guess that the evening one has been shopped to make the sky match up to the building.

    aw man, someone just got there first…

  • NeeL

    I think the air is done by mirrors.
    Because on both pictures, when you go down the building, the color changes another way then the background.

    And now I look better, the first photo has a (digital) filter on it, i think, to make the sun look more orange.
    Because the parts lighted by the old fashioned street lights, are really bright blue.

    I also like to think there was no photoshopping involved. :)

  • Chris

    The association with Magritte is that the covering image that you see (house, lake, tree, sky) is one of his paintings, named “Growing Up in the Black Country.” It’s not one of his better-known works, but Magritte just so happens to be my favourite painter, and I noticed it right away :)

  • Kimon

    The sky is different in the two pics. And I mean the portion of it actually on the building. Different clouds. And the rail from which the curtain hangs is missing across the sky. Maybe it is all naturally done but I’m willing to bet it has been doctored.

  • And the “curtain rail” is interrupted in the middle.

  • Robin de Wilde

    I read about this a while back, it seems that the building itself was under repair.
    To be able to “fit” it in the landscape they created a photo big enough to wrap the building.

    This was done so it would look nice while under cunstrution, as a alternative for wooden boards and fences.

  • judy

    Rene Magritte died in 1967. He was a surrealist artist, so some of his works would fit your site. The building is the Magitte Museum build in 2009.

  • Valerie

    It looks amazing, but if you look at the top of the building in both pictures there are some hooks…a bit like hooks that you might attach a curtain to. It seems that the building is covered in a canvas painting that is pulled across the building like you would a curtain. I do really love it though and would love to see it for real.

  • Dan

    It does appear that the sky was modified for the illusion. This is a building cover surrounding the Magritte museum during recent renovation. See

  • I think the nighttime picture has been edited because you’d see the line of the top of the building through the clouds, and as Slammer said, the clouds are different. I’d still love to see this though, it’s really cool.

  • Carl WhoDat Fuglein

    I agree, I think the clouds have to be photoshopped. Otherwise, a fantastic illusion

  • korki

    thats pretty crap tbh

  • rad

    I like this one :) but the first one is obviously photoshopped.

  • David

    Well, the first one has a completely different cloud formation on it so it’s probably photoshoped. But still a cool illusion

  • Pygormus

    “Something to do with Magritte”? Er, ah, it’s the Magritte Museum in Brussels.
    The painted cover has been removed.

    His house is also a museum (

  • Madison

    it could be glass for the clouds… maybe?

  • nonya

    cool 2nd person 2 comment

  • A wonderful piece of optical illusion art. I think it has some shop work done to it, but I think it was an awesome undertaking……….

  • breandan

    kinda like Christo

  • Dave

    Also – the ‘curtain rod’ has been removed across the top front.

  • jj97

    I think the first one’s fake because it doesn’t have the little stone-chain barriers like the second one does. Also as slammer said the clouds don’t match in the two pictures.

  • Rachel

    Check out the photo on Google Maps of Royal Museums of Fine Arts. There is disappearing grafitti on the building!

  • Myth

    It can be unshopped.

    The simplest way is to wait for the correct weather so the clouds up the sky is pretty much the same as the ones on the building, then wait for the clouds to pass through the top to create an illusion like many others on this site.
    This requires time and determination and a little bit of luck though. (with more luck it might just be a coincident when being a passerby.)

    Another way is having only a blue sky on the painting, and have a large projector system and use optical camouflage style cloud rendering(for the particular part only) for this single picture, then paint some cloud on the building afterwards.(it could only be done by the original artist.)

    If you look carefully, the clouds on the building is a little off, so the simplest method might be the correct answer.

    • Myth

      forgot to say, I believe it is shopped, since the clouds when seen in daylight have much less shades and depth on it, and hardly done by the same artist.

    • Allison Parks

      Thanks, I didn’t think it was shopped either!

  • beautiful ~

  • ZL123

    But photoshopped.
    And there’s one flaw; look at the tree in the first picture.

  • Randy C. LaCombe

    its shopped. its clear when looking at the tree, how it has no top and the line of the building has vanished. the clouds are a separate photo , as if the building is a mask to a nice photo of clouds at dawn. you can also tell the building picture was taken at night by how bright the lights are on the street and how all the background buildings shadows are misleading. its an easy edit if you know Photoshop ;)

  • hitya

    Love it

  • Philip Dusart

    The top one must be slightly shopped, just because the black railing holding up the canvas is missing. If it weren’t for that then it could have been explained by a projection of moving clouds that lined up with the ones behind the building. But it is still a great photo and a great illusion

  • sam

    It is a curtain, just look closely at the top of the building.

  • CJ

    I instantaneously knew at my very first glance that they were curtains.


    that pictures so amazing! woow!

  • PewDiePie


  • Allison Parks

    Angle is important. Not a real curtain it’s a paint job. At dusk it looks cooler. Don’t see what people mean when they say it’s shopped. I don’t think it is. It’s lighting and the angle that make it look different.

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