We must not fear daylight just because it almost always illuminates
a miserable world". -Rene Magritte
Rene Magritte was a groundbreaking Surrealist who combined wit and illusion. Magritte, who originally designed wallpaper, posters and ads, began painting full time after receiving a gallery contract. In Magritte’s signature style, he places ordinary objects in unexpected contexts, often blocked faces with floating objects to challenge preconceptions about the unknown. Despite harsh initial criticism of his work, he became one of the world’s most significant artists. Public awareness of René Magritte escalated when his art was featured on 1960’s album covers, and it still remains provocative and highly influential.
René Magritte's painting "Son of Man" (shown) was painted as a self portrait. The painting consists of a man in a suit and a bowler hat standing in front of a small wall, beyond which is the sea and a cloudy sky. The man's face is largely obscured by a hovering green apple. However, the man's left eye can be seen peeking over the edge of the apple. Another subtle feature is that the man's left arm appears to bend backwards at the elbow.
Rene Magritte has this to say about the painting: "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"
René Magritte was born on the 21st November, 1898 in Hainaut, Belgium. His father was a tailor and a merchant. As his business did not go well the family had to move often. René lost his mother early and tragically, she committed suicide for unclear reasons. René was only 14 years old at the time. From 1916 through 1918 René Magritte studied in the Royal Academy of Arts in Brussels. In 1922 René Magritte married Georgette Berger, whom he had met in 1913.
René Magritte worked as an assistant designer in a wallpaper factory, and was a poster and advertisement designer until 1926, when a contract with Galerie la Centaure in Brussels made it possible for him to paint full-time. In 1926, René Magritte produced his first surreal painting, "The Lost Jockey" (Le jockey perdu), and held his first exhibition in Brussels in 1927. Critics heaped abuse on the exhibition. Depressed by the failure, René Magritte moved to Paris where he became friends with André Breton, and became involved in the surrealist group.
Rene Magritte's work makes a constant call on us to relinquish, at least temporarily, our usual expectations of art. Magritte never responds to our demands and expectations. René Magritte offers us something else instead. His friend Paul Nougé has expressed the problem better than anyone else and what he said in 1944 still holds good: "We question pictures," he said, "before listening to them, we question them at random. And we are astonished when the reply we had expected is not forthcoming."
In Paris, René Magritte's system of conceptual painting was formed and it remained almost unchanged until the end of his life. His painting manner, intentionally dry and academic, polished in the technical sense with precise and clean draftsmanship demonstrated a paradoxical ability to depict trustworthy an unreal, unthinkable reality. René Magritte challenges the difficulty of artwork to convey meaning with a recurring motif of an easel, as in his
The Human Condition series, painted between 1933 and 1935. "The Human Condition" ("La condition humaine") refers to a number of works, of which the two most famous are both oil on canvas paintings. There are also a number of drawings of the same name.
René Magritte wrote to André Breton about The Human Condition saying that "it was irrelevant if the scene behind the easel was different than what was depicted upon it, but the main thing was to eliminate the difference between a view seen from outside and from inside a room." The windows in these pictures are framed with heavy drapes, suggesting a theatrical motif. Just as theatre reflects our lives, or ideal replications of our lives, to an audience simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar with the situation, so does Magritte's artwork.
The 1960s brought a great increase in public awareness of Magritte's work. One of the means by which his imagery became familiar to a wider public was through reproduction on rock album covers including, the 1969 album Beck-Ola by the Jeff Beck group, Jackson Browne's 1974 album, Late for the Sky, and the Firesign Theatre's album Just Folks . . . A Firesign Chat. Styx adapted Magritte's Carte Blanche for the cover of their 1977 album The Grand Illusion, while the cover of John Foxx's 2001 The Pleasures of Electricity, was based on Magritte's painting Le Principe du Plaisir. Jethro Tull mentions Magritte on a 1976 album and Paul Simon's song "Rene And Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War" appears on the 1983 album Hearts and Bones. Paul McCartney, a life-long fan of Magritte, owns many of his paintings, and claims that a Magritte painting inspired him to use the name Apple for the Beatles' media corporation. Magritte is also the subject and title of a John Cale song on the 2003 album HoboSapiens.
"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."- René Magritte