|Born||René François Ghislain
Nov. 21, 1898
|Died||Aug. 15, 1967 (at age 68)
|René Magritte Famous Paintings|
|The Son of Man, 1964|
|The Treachery of Images, 1928–29|
|The Human Condition, 1933|
|The Listening Room, 1952|
|The False Mirror, 1928|
|Elective Affinities, 1933|
|The Mysteries of the Horizon, 1955|
|The Empty Mask, 1928|
René François Ghislain Magritte was born on November 21, 1898 in Lessines, Belgium. His dad was a tailor and textile merchant, and his mom was a house wife. Magritte was the oldest out of his siblings, and started drawing lessons in 1910, at the age of 12. Besides this, not much is known about his childhood, for he never talked about it.
In 1912, his mom was found drowned in the River Sambre. She had committed suicide, and the family was publicly humiliated because of it. She had tried several times before to kill herself, but had failed at each attempt. René began to paint soon after, and his first painting was completed in 1915, in impressionism style.
From 1916 to 1918, Magritte attended the Academié Royale des Beaux Arts in Brussels. He left the school, because he thought that it was a waste of time. All his paintings afterward reflect cubism and futurism, the movements popular at the time.
Magritte signed up for the infantry in 1921, and served in Leopoldsburg, Austria, and Antwerp. The next year he was released, and he married Georgette Berger, whom he had known since childhood. René started a job at a local wallpaper factory, and designed posters and advertisements for them. Around 1923, he sold his first art work, a painting of the singer Evelyn Brélin, which led to his contract at the Galerie la Centaure in 1926. This began his career as a full-time artist.
His art work began to reflect his ideals, rather than following previous movements. Magritte’s pieces are associated with Surrealism, which was a period in art where the paintings tried to confuse people by fusing reality with the imagination, forcing the viewer to contemplate the image. One of his paintings during this time, The Lovers, painted in 1928, depicts a couple kissing, with their heads enshrouded by grey bags. This was meant to be a play on the picture. The people really aren’t kissing; the painting is just showing them kissing. Another piece, painted one year later, Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe (The Treachery of Images), has the same ideals. It really isn’t a pipe; it’s just a picture of a pipe.
René held his first exhibition in Brussels, 1927, but it was a flop. It showed 61 of his pieces, all of which the critics hated. He and his wife moved to Paris afterwards, and became friends with André Breton. The Galerie de Centaure closed in 1929, and Magritte went back to work at the wallpaper factory, designing the posters and advertisements.
During World War II, he remained in Brussels, even with the German Occupation there. Breton was furious, and severed ties with him. From 1943-1944, his art work changed, and showed influence from Auguste Renoir, an impressionist painter. To survive though, he forged copies of Picasso’s, Braque’s, and Chirico’s to sell to the Germans, which got him through the war. He regretted this later, but he did what he needed to survive at the time. He also made counterfeit banknotes to use.
Post-war, Magritte went back to his art, that of Surrealism. He painted The Promenades of Euclid in 1955, which was a painting within a painting. If the viewer stares at the screen, it appears to be a castle obscured in the canopy of trees in a forest. But if one was to take a closer look, the castle is a painting residing on an easel, and that the forest is the only thing below. He wanted to trick people’s mind, and get them to think outside the box.
The year before The Promenades of Euclid, René painted The Empire of Lights, which portrays a house, with blue skies above it, and the dark of night approaching the door step.
The lamplight is on, but so is the sun. This juxtaposition of night and day befuddles the mind, and it wonders how that is possible. Magritte made a quote about his paintings, which he thought explained them all. “I paint visible images that conceal nothing; they evoke mystery, and indeed, when one sees my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question. ‘What does it mean?’ It does not mean anything because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.”
Three years before Magritte died; he painted one of the most unusual paintings of all, The Son of Man in 1964. It shows a man in a bowler hat and suit, but with a green apple in front of his face. Is it supposed to relate to Adam eating the apple? Or is it just a man with an apple in his face? Or, like Magritte said, is it unknowable?
René Magritte died on August 15, 1967 in his bed. He had had pancreatic cancer for several years, and it finally took him. He is interred at the Schaerbeek Cemetery in Brussels.