R. Magritte, “Be or Not to Be a Pipe”

“Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.” RM

René François Ghislain Magritte (21 November 1898 – 15 August 1967) was a Belgian surrealist artist. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images that fell under the umbrella of surrealism. His work challenges observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality

Magritte was born in Lessines, in the province of Hainaut, in 1898. Magritte’s earliest paintings, which date from about 1915, were Impressionistic in style.

From 1916 to 1918, he studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, under Constant Montald, but found the instruction uninspiring. 

The paintings he produced during the years 1918–1924 were influenced by Futurism and by the offshoot of Cubism practiced by Metzinger.

Georgette Berger met Magritte in 1913  as teenagers while at the annual fair held in Charleroi

 

 Berger studied post-war modernism which led to her meeting Magritte again in an art shop in 1920. She enjoyed several forms of media and activities such as contextual photography. She became Magritte’s model and they married in the fall of 1923.

Critics heaped abuse on the exhibition. Depressed by the failure, he moved to Paris where he became friends with André Breton, and became involved in the surrealist group. The illusionsitic, dream-like quality is characteristic of Magritte’s version of Surrealism. He became a leading member of the movement after leaving his native Beligium in 1927 for Paris, where he stayed for three years.

During the German occupation of Belgium in World War II he remained in Brussels, which led to a break with Breton. He briefly adopted a colorful, painterly style in 1943–44, an interlude known as his “Renoir Period”, as a reaction to his feelings of alienation and abandonment that came with living in German-occupied Belgium. In 1946, renouncing the violence and pessimism of his earlier work, he joined several other Belgian artists in signing the manifesto Surrealism in Full Sunlight.

In 1926, Magritte produced his first surreal painting, The Lost Jockey (Le jockey perdu), and held his first exhibition in Brussels in 1927.

Paul Delvaux & René Magritte by Lee Miller, 1945

The Son of Man

The Son of Man (French: Le fils de l’homme) is a 1964 painting by the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte.

“At least it hides the face partly. Well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present” RM

Magritte’s use of ordinary objects in unfamiliar spaces is joined to his desire to create poetic imagery. He described the act of painting as “the art of putting colors side by side in such a way that their real aspect is effaced, so that familiar objects—the sky, people, trees, mountains, furniture, the stars, solid structures, graffiti—become united in a single poetically disciplined image. The poetry of this image dispenses with any symbolic significance, old or new.”RM

“Putting seemingly unrelated objects together in juxtaposition: “It is a union that suggests the essential mystery of the world. Art for me is not an end in itself, but a means of evoking that mystery.” RM

“This is not a pipe.” RM

Contemporary artists have been greatly influenced by René Magritte’s stimulating examination of the fickleness of images. Some artists who have been influenced by Magritte’s works include John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Jan Verdoodt, Martin Kippenberger, Duane Michals and Storm Thorgerson. Some of the artists’ works integrate direct references and others offer contemporary viewpoints on his abstract fixations.

According to Ellen Burstyn, in the 1998 documentary The Fear of God: 25 Years of “The Exorcist”, the iconic poster shot for the film The Exorcist was inspired by Magritte’s L’Empire des Lumières.

“I do not like money, either for itself or for what it can buy, since I want nothing we know about.” RM

“The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meaning is unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.” RM

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