Who was Rene Magritte?
Clouds, pipes, bowler hats and green apples: these remain some of the instantly recognizable icons of René Magritte, the Belgian surrealist painter. His career began as a graphic artist and almost abstract painter, however his work underwent a transformation in 1926, when he began to reinvent himself as a figurative artist. The Belgian painter ended up reinventing painting as a critical tool that can challenge perception and engage the viewer's mind.
"Art, as I understand it defects psychoanalysis…I take care to only paint pictures that evoke the mystery of the world…No sensible man believes that psychoanalysis could explain the mystery of the world." — Rene Magritte
Discover seven facts about René Magritte, the Belgian surrealist painter.
1. Magritte was one of the main members of the surrealist movement, but his works influenced artists of various styles and approaches, most notably Pop Art.
Throughout her career, Magritte returned to certain themes, including mirrors, windows ambiguously open or closed, open sky and wallpaper patterns, which played on tensions between representation and reality. Such works often illustrated scenes that undermined the natural laws of optics and perception. Over time, these images became iconic and contributed to the wider world of Magritte's creation. Its clean aesthetic and treatment of everyday objects influenced the work of Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and others.
2. Many songs were written in reference to Magritte and his work.
In this vein, since the 1960s, many of Magritte's works have appeared as album covers for bands and recording artists, includingThe Listening Room, 1952, which appears in the band Beck-Ola from The Jeff Beck Group, The Philosopher's Lamp 1936, appearing on The Album pipedream by Alan Hull, The Lovers 1928 as the Punch Brothers' album cover for The Phosphorescent Blues and many others, including John Cale's 2003 song "Magritte" and Paul Simon's "René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog after the War" in 1983.
3. René Magritte's intense and long marriage with Georgette Berger marked his entire life
The tenacity of this relationship contributed to the development of his career. They never divorced, although both had other relationships. Magritte even had an affair with artist Sheila Legge. At that point, the couple temporarily estranged for nearly four years, until they finally reconciled and remained together until his death.
4. René Magritte's mother struggled with mental health issues.
After several attempts, Magritte's mother committed suicide by drowning in a river near the family home when Rene was fourteen. Magritte was believed to be present when her body was pulled out of the water, her face obscured by her dress, an image the artist struggled with in many of his works. Most historians have discredited the myth of his presence on the river, although the suicide undoubtedly affected his life and work, and even his obsession with hats can be traced to his mother's occupation as a dressmaker before her marriage.
5. There is a street named after Magritte.
Brussels, where Magritte spent much of his life, named a street after Ceci n'est pas une rue , which means “This is not a street”, in honor of his most famous work, The Betrayal of Images. Magritte implemented text in many of his paintings to explore the structures of visual signs and the role of perception in art and language. His most famous work, The Betrayal of Images , exemplifies this exam, as it presents a pipe above the phrase 'Ceci n'est pas une pipe', that means "This is not a pipe”, confronting the spectator with the means of representation, and the fact of the image and the word in contradiction with real objectivity.
6. The painting olympia of Magritte was stolen.
In 2009, two gunmen stole the painting olympia de Magritte, a nude portrait of the artist's wife, from the Magritte Museum. It was returned in mint condition in 2012 because the painting's fame and recognition made it impossible to sell on the black market. The painting is valued at $1.1 million.
7. Magritte deviated from his surrealist naturalist aesthetic in the 1940s.
During the German occupation of Belgium, Magritte painted briefly in an Impressionist style, with loose brushstrokes and playful colors, known as his "Renoir period". Between 1947 and 1948, the “vache period” took place, in which he produced works of a Fauvist nature, with contrasts and acidic colors. He returned to his pre-war surrealist style in late 1948.