René Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist. He is mostly famous for his thought-provoking images and his surrealist perception of reality. Little is known about Magritte's early life.
In 1912, he had to face a drama when his mother committed suicide. She drown herself in the river. It's not sure if he saw her rescue but some stories linked his work with people with cloth obscuring their faces to this drama if 13-year-old Magritte was present when her body was retrieved from the water.
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. He evolved in technic and inspiration and the paintings he produced between 1918–1924 were influenced by Futurism and by the figurative Cubism of Metzinger. Most of his works of this period are female nudes.
In 1920 and 1921 he was involved in the Belgian infantry before married in 1922 a girl he know since childhood. The same year he started to work as a draughtsman in a wallpaper factory. He was a poster and advertisement designer until 1926. At that time the Galerie le Centaure in Brussels offered hime a full time work as painter. The same year he was painting his first surrealist painting. In 1927 his first exhibition didn't get much success. He then decided to move to Paris where he met André Breton. He joined the surrealist group and become a leading member of the movement.
In 1930 he had to come back to Belgium because of low fame in Paris and need of money. He restart working in advertising. When Belgium was invaded by the German, he remained in Brussels which led to a break with Breton. His work was more colorful renouncing to his pessimism from his early career he joined some others Belgium artists to sign a manifesto Surrealism in Full Sunlight.
During 1947–48, Magritte's "Vache Period", he painted in a provocative and crude Fauve style. During this time, Magritte got his earning through the production of fake Picassos, Braques and Chiricos. At the end of 1948 he return to his surrealist paintings.
Magritte's work frequently displays a collection of ordinary objects in an unusual context, giving new meanings to familiar things. May be one of his most iconic painting is The Treachery of Images (La trahison des images) that shows a pipe with a text below Ceci n'est pas une pipe (This is not a pipe). This text seems a contradiction but is not. It's just an image of a pipe. With this Magritte points out that no matter how naturalistically we depict an object, we never do catch the item itself.
A good way to understand his art is in this sentence where René Magritte described his paintings as "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." Magritte's constant play with reality and illusion has been attributed to the early death of his mother.
A lot of artists have been influenced by Magritte. Artists such as John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Jan Verdoodt, Martin Kippenberger, Duane Michals and Storm Thorgerson. Especially Magritte's use of simple graphic and everyday imagery has been compared to that of the Pop artists. His influence in the development of Pop art has been widely recognized.
Magritte died of pancreatic cancer in 1967 aged 68.
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