René Magritte

René Magritte

Style: Surrealism

Lived: November 21, 1898 - August 15, 1967 (20th century)

Nationality: Belgium

René François Ghislain Magritte (November 21, 1898 - August 15, 1967) was a Surrealist artist, born in Lessines, Belgium. In 1912, Magritte's mother committed suicide by drowning herself in the river Sambre.

He studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels for two years until 1918. During this period he first met Georgette Berger, whom he married in 1922.

Magritte produced his first surrealist painting, Le jockey perdu in 1926, and held his first exhibition in Brussels in 1927. The exhibition was not a success: critics heaped abuse on it. He was depressed by the failure of his show and he moved to Paris.

A consummate technician, his work frequently contains a juxtaposition of ordinary objects or an unusual context giving new meanings to familiar things. This representational use of objects as other than what they seem is typified by his painting The Betrayal Of Images (perhaps better known as Ceci n'est pas une pipe) which shows a pipe that looks as though it were a model for a tobacco store advertisement. The title of the painting is written beneath it, seemingly a contradiction, but meaning that the image of the pipe is not itself a pipe. French critic Michel Foucault wrote a book on Magritte and this paradox called This Is Not a Pipe.

We may compare this branch of surrealism - the representational one - with that of the more abstract "automatic" school as represented by, for example, Joan Miró. There is no mistaking one for the other but they are joined at the hip of surrealism.

In addition to these fantastic elements, his work is often witty and amusing, and he created a number of surrealist versions of other famous paintings.

Rene Magritte described his paintings saying, "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's work was shown in the United States in New York in 1936 and again in that city in two retrospectives, one at the Museum of Modern Art in 1965, and the other at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1992.

René Magritte died on August 15, 1967 and was interred in Schaarbeek Cemetery, Brussels.

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