"Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see."
RENE MAGRITTE SYNOPSIS
Surely the most celebrated Belgian artist of the twentieth century, Rene Magritte has achieved great popular acclaim for his idiosyncratic approach to. To support himself he spent many years working as a commercial artist, producing advertising and book designs, and this most likely shaped his fine art, which often has the abbreviated impact of an advertisement. While some French Surrealists led ostentatious lives, Magritte preferred the quiet anonymity of a middle-class existence, a life symbolized by the bowler-hatted men that often populate his pictures. In later years, he was castigated by his peers for some of his strategies (such as his tendency to produce multiple copies of his pictures), yet since his death his reputation has only improved. artists have admired his use of text in images, and painters in the 1980s admired the provocative kitsch of some of his later work.
RENE MAGRITTE KEY IDEAS
MOST IMPORTANT ART
This elegant work is a fine example of Magritte's early attempts to find a restrained, illustrative style. It bears comparison with contemporary Belgian Expressionism and also with the classicizing modernist styles that were then popular throughout Europe. We can recognize many of the elements that characterized his later paintings, such as the prominence of the sea and the mysterious sphere in the background. This work also bears the influence of Magritte's professional forays into the world of fashion advertising, and his interest in the works of Fernand Léger. Bather can be compared to his painting The Bather between Light and Darkness (1935-36), which explores the same scene in the artist's mature style. In 1930, the artist gifted the picture to his sister-in-law, Leontine Berger.
Oil on canvas - Private collection
RENE MAGRITTE BIOGRAPHY
Rene Magritte was the eldest of three boys, born to a fairly well-off family. His father is thought to have been in the manufacturing industry, and his mother was known to be a milliner before her marriage. Magritte's development as an artist was influenced by two significant events in his childhood; the first was an encounter with an artist painting in a cemetery, who he happened across while playing with a companion. Magritte later wrote, "I found, in the middle of some broken stone columns and heaped-up leaves, a painter who had come from the capital, and who seemed to me to be performing magic." The second pivotal event was the suicide of his mother in 1912 when Magritte was 14. According to the apocryphal account, Magritte was present when her body was fished out of a river, her face covered completely by her white dress. While current scholars believe this to be no more than a myth propagated by his nurse, the image of a head uncannily concealed by a contour-hugging cloth reoccurs throughout the artist's oeuvre.
Magritte first began to paint in 1915 and enrolled in the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels the following year. However, he was fairly uninspired by his classes, and his attendance suffered as a result. He did become close friends with a fellow student, Victor Servranckx, who introduced Magritte to, , and . In particular, Magritte was drawn to the work of and , both of whom had much influence on Magritte's early work, as is evident from his experiments with Cubism such as his 1925 piece .
In 1921, Magritte performed his obligatory military service and returned home in 1922 to marry Georgette Berger, a girl he had known since childhood. He also began work under Servranckx's supervision as a draughtsman in a wallpaper factory. This job lasted about a year, after which Magritte became a freelance designer of posters and publicity. In 1926, he signed a contract with the Galerie le Centaure in Brussels and was able to make his living as a fine artist for a brief spell. This early period was marked by profound changes in Magritte's work. Around 1925 he first saw the work ofand began to work more distinctly within the Surrealist idiom. Not only were Magritte's images from the mid-1920s reminiscent of the desolate and mysterious mood that de Chirico created in his work, but the younger artist also went so far as to actually transpose many of de Chirico's favorite objects such as spheres, trains, and plaster hands onto his own canvases.
From 1927 to 1930, Magritte lived in Paris and forged strong connections withcoterie of Parisian Surrealists that at that time included artists such as and . He began incorporating more ambiguously organic forms in his work and experimenting with quintessentially Surrealist subject matter such as madness and hysteria. However, Magritte was increasingly disillusioned by the "dark" subjects of his fellow Surrealists. Perhaps most significantly, it was in Paris that Magritte began to experiment with the use of words and language in his paintings.
By 1930, his contract with the Galerie le Centaure had ended, and, later that year, the gallery shut its doors altogether. Magritte returned to Brussels to take up work in commercial advertising once again. Scholars dispute whether Magritte also supplemented his income during this time by producing faked paintings of established artists and even perhaps forged currency. Regardless, from 1930 to 1937, Magritte had little time to devote to his own art. By the late 1930s however, the growing interest of international collectors, including Edward James in London, led to Magritte's increased financial independence, and he was at last able to give up commercial work almost completely.
Just as Magritte was achieving success and recognition, the Second World War broke out. Although he continued to develop his signature style, he also increasingly deployed a bright, impressionistic palette as a subversive response to the bleakness of the war. He wrote, "The sense of chaos, of panic, which Surrealism hoped to foster so that everything might be called into question was achieved much more successfully by those idiots the Nazis... Against widespread pessimism, I now propose a search for joy and pleasure." In 1946, Magritte signed a manifesto called Surrealism in Full Sunlight, and broke with Breton. This phase was followed by Magritte's brief experiment with an intentionally provocative "savage" style he called "vache" ("cow") that was characterized by vulgar subjects, crude coloring, and is generally regarded as parodying the. As Magritte expected, his works in this style were phenomenally unpopular. For the remainder of the 1950s and '60s, Magritte returned to his characteristic style and set of subjects. By the end of his life, he enjoyed great success and there were six major retrospectives of his oeuvre in the 1960s alone.
RENE MAGRITTE LEGACY
Magritte's work had a major impact on a number of movements that followed his death, including
RENE MAGRITTE QUOTES
"Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist."
"Any ground subtracts its own hue from the colors which it carries and therefore influences."
"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."
"We must not fear daylight just because it almost always illuminates a miserable world."
"Only thought can resemble. It resembles by being what it sees, hears, or knows; it becomes what the world offers it."
Rene Magritte Influences
Interactive chart with Rene Magritte's main influencers, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
Rene Magritte BOOKS AND ONLINE RESOURCES
By Suzi Gablik
Magritte: Attempting the Impossible
By Siegfried Gohr, Rene Magritte
Magritte/Torczyner: Letters Between Friends
By Rene Magritte, Harry Torczyner, Richard Miller
Rene Magritte at Tate Liverpool
Image Gallery for the Exhibition The Pleasure Principle at Tate Liverpool
Michel Foucault, This is Not a Pipe
Provides the Full Text of Foucault's Essays on Rene Magritte
Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images
Includes Essays, Information, and an Image Gallery from the LACMA Exhibition
Rene Magritte, La Periode vache
La Reproduction Interdite: Rene Magritte and Forgery
By Patricia Allmer
Surreal Hero for a Nation of Contradictions
By Alan Riding
Magritte And His Defiance Of Life
By Michael Kimmelman
|Matritte at Tate Liverpool: Secrets and Surrealism||SFMoMA: Rene Magritte Considers Language and Perception|
|BBC News: Tate Liverpool Exhibits Magritte||Rene Magritte. The Lovers. 1928|
Magritte: Monsieur Rene Magritte
Documentary about the artist
Rene and Georgette Maritte with their Dog After the War
Paul Simon Song
After Magritte (1971)
Surrealist play by Tom Stoppard