Rene Magritte

Written by Blaire Chandler-Wilcox
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Rene Magritte (Belgian 1898-1967) couples a misleading sort of realism with a deadpan wit. His work often features juxtaposition of images and elaborate fantasies. Many authorities insist that his work requires a sense like listening to be fully appreciated.

Rene Magritte: For Your Listening Pleasure

Magritte's early career was as a graphic designer drawing wallpaper patterns. Landscapes featuring the Sambre River, the site of his mother's 1912 suicide, were among his first works. In 1928 he became deeply affected by the work of Giorgio de Chirico, a popular surrealist, and soon after devoted himself to this new style.

The most well-known example of Rene Magritte's work is Son of Man. . This painting shows a staid looking fellow, in a sensible business suit complete with red tie and neat bowler hat. Very realistic, very clean. But his face completely obscured by a bright green floating apple. Huh? This is the reaction Magritte sought, and he refused to ever give hints as to his meaning. Mystery, he felt, was by nature unknowable.

Magritte's paintings after 1941 have a misleading cheerfulness about them. Rather than this being a representation of his actual mindset, paintings showing the "happy side of life" were instead a desperate attempt to relieve the fear and anxiety that he felt too often suffocated his earlier work. Magritte never felt that his work was fully appreciated, and throughout his career sought new ways to communicate, though he always ultimately returned to his special version of "magical realism."


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