Rene Magritte, 1898

On this date in 1898, Rene Magritte was born in Lessines, Belgium.

Who is Rene Magritte?

“My painting is visible images which conceal nothing… they evoke mystery and indeed when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question ‘What does that mean’? It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.” -Magritte

He is only the coolest surrealist artist ever.

But, due to the fact that I did a project over him last year, I am completely biased. However, I will attempt to convince you of Magritte’s utter awesomeness.

Actually, the story of Magritte is kind of sad, and, like many other artists’ lives, begins in tragedy. His mother, Regina Magritte committed suicide by drowning herself  in the River Sambre, after attempting suicide on other occasions. It is theorized that Magritte witnessed the retrieval of his mother’s body-whose face was covered with her nightgown- from the river and that he references his mother through the depiction of people with cloth obscuring their visages.

The Lovers, 1928- an example of the cloth motif in Magritte’s artwork.

Magritte began drawing lessons at 12 years old, and studied at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels from 1916 to 1918.

In 1922, he married his childhood friend Georgette Berger who served as his muse.

Georgette Magritte, 1934

After serving in the Belgian infantry and working in a wallpaper factory, Magritte was a poster and advertisement designer.

Magritte’s advertisement for “Norinne,” 1925.

Magritte painted his first surreal oil painting, The Lost Jockey (Le jockey perdu),  in 1926 because a contract with the Galerie la Centaure in Brussels allowed him to paint full-time.

The Lost Jockey, 1926

Magritte’s first exhibition in 1927 was poorly received, and, afterwards, Magritte moved to Paris where he joined the surrealist movement.

Treason of Images- This Is Not A Pipe (Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe), 1929

Magritte experimented with text in his paintings. The most famous of which is his “This is Not a Pipe” which states that the illustration of the pipe is just that- an illustration- and not an actual pipe. I find his explanation of his painting quite humorous:

“The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture ‘This is a pipe,’ I’d have been lying!” -Magritte

The Pleasure Principle (Le Principe du Plaisir), 1937

“The Pleasure Principle” features Edward James, a surrealist patron who allowed Magritte stay rent-free in his London home to paint.

The First Day (Le Premier Jour), 1943- Part of Magritte’s Renoir Period.

After his Renoir Period, he entered his Vache Period when he painted in the Fauve style. During this period, he earned money through selling forgeries of Picassos, Braques and Chiricos!

Giaconda (La Golconde), 1953

Giaconda is one of Magritte’s most recognizable and well-known paintings. It features a bowler-hatted man which resembles Magritte (see first picture). It was created during Magritte’s Mature Period (1949-1960).

“Hegel’s Holiday” 1957

This is one of my favorite’s of Magritte’s. It is so graphic and bold, and I love the story behind it. I actually recreated it for my aforementioned project over Magritte.

“This is the exact solution of the initial question–How to paint a glass of water with genius? Then I thought that Hegel (another genius) would have greatly appreciated this object, which has two opposite functions–at one and the same time not wanting water (rejecting it) and wanting it (containing water). He would have been charmed, I think, or amused (as if on holiday) and I call the picture: ‘Hegel’s Holiday’.” -Magritte

The Son of Man (Le fils de l’homme), 1964

Here is the bowler-hatted man again, in another one of Magritte’s iconic paintings. Here is what Magritte says about his enigmatic piece:

“At least it hides the face partly. Well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.” -Magritte

Magritte’s artwork is cryptic, to say the least, but always interesting and thought-provoking. Despite the myriad of paintings I included in this post, I still didn’t include all of my favorites. Magritte died of pancreatic cancer on 15 August 1967, but his influence can be seen today.

There is so much to Magritte’s life and art that there’s no way to fit everything into a blog post, so here are a few suggestions for further reading:

So are you convinced that he’s the coolest surrealist painter ever?



One thought on “Rene Magritte, 1898

  1. Pingback: Berthe Morisot, 1841 | History/Herstory

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