Getting to know René François Ghislain Magritte
For this Art Wednesday we’ll get to know the Belgian surrealist René François Ghislain Magritte. Known for his wit, Magritte’s compositions were intended to challenge preconceived perceptions of reality.
Magritte, The Son of Man, 1946
Magritte was born in Belgium in 1898, the oldest son of a textile merchant. His mother took her own life when he was 13, and that tragedy shaped his art—specifically the idea of the unknowability of people.
Magritte, Golconda, 1953
Magritte’s early work drew clear inspiration from the Impressionists, but his interests shifted to surrealism. His first Surreal work, The Lost Jockey, was loathed by critics, leading him into a deep depression.
Magritte, The Lost Jockey, 1926
After the critical failure of The Lost Jockey, Magritte moved to Paris, joined a Surrealist group, and began exhibiting alongside Dali, Ernst, and Picasso. He created The Treachery of Images (1929), an image of a pipe with the words “this is not a pipe” beneath. When people protested that this painting was nonsense because it was, indeed, a pipe as anyone could clearly see, he responded by saying, "Then fill it with tobacco and smoke it."
Magritte, The Treachery of Images, 1929
His time in Paris produced meager success, so he moved back to Brussels in 1930. During the German occupation of Brussels in WW2, Magritte changes his style again to what he called his “Renoir Period.”
Magritte, The First Day, 1943
Magritte presented usual objects in unusual contexts, or people without the key characteristic we look at to identify them—their faces. He believed that though an artist might depict an item, he never fully captures it.
Magritte, The Lovers II, 1928
Magritte’s influence reaches wide. From Warhol to Jeff Beck to Paul Simon to Styx. Even the original logo for Apple Records, the Beatles label, drew inspiration from Magritte’s apple.