The Son of Man

The Son of Man
Artist René Magritte
Year 1964
Medium Oil on canvas
Location Private collection
Dimensions 45.67 in × 35 in
116 cm × 89 cm
René Magritte Famous Paintings
The Son of Man, 1964
The Treachery of Images, 1928–29
The Human Condition, 1933
Golconda, 1953
The Listening Room, 1952
The False Mirror, 1928
Elective Affinities, 1933
The Mysteries of the Horizon, 1955
The Empty Mask, 1928
Complete Works

The Son of Man is a Belgian surrealist painting. It was painted in 1964 by René Magritte. The painting was originally intended to be a self-portrait. The painting conveys a man in an overcoat wearing a bowler hat and standing in front of a short wall. Behind this short wall are a cloudy sky and the sea. You cannot see the face of the man, since it is largely obscured by a floating green apple. However, you can see the eyes of the man as they are peeking over the edge of the apple. If you are keen enough when looking at the painting, you will notice that the left arm seems to be bending backwards at the elbow.

Seen and Unseen

Magritte said that the painting just shows us about humanity. He says that everything we see hides some other thing yet we still want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is always some sort of interest in what is hidden and what the visible does not show us. This brings about some sort of conflict between the visible that is present and the visible that is hidden.

This painting is similar to another painting by Magritte. It resembles The Great War on Facades. When you look at this other painting you will notice that it also consists of a person standing in front of a wall overlooking the sea. Here, it is a woman holding an umbrella and her face is covered by a flower. Magritte is fascinated by surrealist art as he also has another similar painting called Man in the Bowler Hat. Here, the face of the man is blocked by a bird and not an apple.

Film Appearances

The Son of Man is quite dominant in the remake of the “Thomas Crown Affair.” This painting is very visible in the house of the protagonist in this film. It is noted by the love interest as “the stereotypical faceless businessman.” The protagonist or the star uses a lot of accomplices who are dressed like the subject of the painting so as to confuse the police. He does this while he enters the museum in order to return the painting that he stole in the earlier parts of the film. All the accomplices carry similar briefcases that are filled with copies of The Son of Man. The painting is again featured in “Stranger Than Fiction” and in “Days of Summer.”

Pop Culture

In the year 1970, Norman Rockwell did a playful homage to The Son of Man called Mr. Apple. Instead of a green apple, Rockwell used a red one. The apple also replaced the self-reflexive head which was so prominent in Magritte’s work. In Michael Jackson’s video, “Scream”, the painting also appears briefly in the “Gallery” section.

Status of the Painting

This painting is privately owned. Recently, in October 2011, the painting was seen hanging in LHotel’s lounge which is located in the old historic part of Montreal. Since it is privately owned, opportunities to see it are rare but you can get reproductions of the original.

3 Responses to “The Son of Man”

  1. Juliana says:

    How would I go about finding the copyright holder? Is there a copyright holder?

  2. Guy Mcormc says:

    Why did Rene make the man’s elbow bend backwards? Is there a hidden meaning to this?

    • riztys says:

      Am sure there is a meaning to the elbow, depending on what the viewer wants to see. Things such as: “right hand does not know what the left is doing”…is a possible read on Magritte’s painting.

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