Sunday, October 20, 2019

Biography of René Magritte, Belgian Surrealist

Biography of Renà © Magritte, Belgian Surrealist Renà ©Ã‚  Magritte  (1898-1967)  was a famous 20th-century Belgian artist known for his unique  surrealist works. Surrealists  explored the human condition through unrealistic imagery that often came from dreams and the subconscious. Magrittes imagery came from the real world but he used it in unexpected ways. His goal as an artist was  to challenge the viewers assumptions by using odd and surprising juxtapositions of familiar objects such as bowler hats, pipes, and floating rocks. He changed the scale of some objects, he deliberately excluded others, and he played with words and meaning. One of his most famous paintings, The Treachery of Images (1929), is a painting of a pipe below which is written Ceci nest pas une pipe.   (English translation: This is not a pipe.)   Magritte died August 15, 1967 in  Schaerbeek, Brussels, Belgium, of pancreatic cancer. He was buried in  Schaarbeek Cemetery. Early Life and Training Renà © Franà §ois Ghislain Magritte (pronounced mag ·reet) was born November 21, 1898, in Lessines, Hainaut, Belgium. He was the eldest of three sons born to Là ©opold (1870-1928) and Rà ©gina (nà ©e Bertinchamps; 1871-1912) Magritte. Aside from a few facts, almost nothing is known of Magrittes childhood. We know that the familys financial status was comfortable because of Là ©opold, ostensibly a tailor, made handsome profits from his investments in edible oils and bouillon cubes. We also know that young Renà © sketched and painted early on, and began taking formal lessons in drawing in 1910 - the same year that he produced his first  oil painting. Anecdotally, he was said to be a lackluster student in school. The artist himself had little to say about his childhood beyond a few vivid memories that shaped his way of seeing. Perhaps this relative silence about his early life was born when his mother committed suicide in 1912. Rà ©gina had been suffering from depression for an undocumented number of years and was so badly affected that she was usually kept in a locked room. On the night she escaped, she immediately went to the nearest bridge and threw herself into the River Sambre that flowed behind the Magrittes property. Rà ©gina was missing for days before her body was discovered a mile or so downriver. Legend has it that Rà ©ginas nightgown had wrapped itself around her head by the time her corpse was recovered, and an acquaintance of Renà ©s later started the story that he was present when his mother was pulled from the river. He was certainly not there. The only public comment he ever made on the subject was that hed felt guiltily happy to be the focal point of sensation and sympathy, both at school and in his neighborhood. However, veils, curtains, faceless people, and headless faces and torsos  did  become recurring themes in his paintings. In 1916, Magritte enrolled in the  Academie des Beaux-Arts  in Brussels seeking inspiration and a safe distance from the WWI German invasion. He found none of the former but one of his classmates at the Academie introduced him to  cubism, futurism, and purism, three movements he found exciting and which significantly changed the style of his work. Career Magritte  emerged from the  Academie  qualified to do commercial art. After a compulsory year of service in the military in 1921, Magritte returned home and found work as a draughtsman in a wallpaper factory, and worked freelance in advertising to pay the bills while he continued to paint. During this time he saw a painting  by the Italian surrealist  Giorgio de Chirico, called  The Song of Love, which greatly influenced his own art. Magritte created his first surreal painting, Le Jockey Perdu  (The Lost Jockey) in 1926, and had his first solo show in 1927 in Brussels at the Galerie de Centaure. The show was reviewed critically, however, and Magritte, depressed, moved to Paris, where he  befriended Andre Breton and joined the surrealists there - Salvador Dalà ­, Joan Miro, and Max Ernst.  He produced a number of important works during this time, such as The Lovers,  The False Mirror, and the Treachery of Images. After three years, he returned to Brussels and to his work in advertising, forming a company with his brother, Paul. This gave him money to live on while continuing to paint. His painting went through different styles during the last years of World War II as a reaction to the pessimism of his earlier work. He adopted a style similar to the Fauves for a short time during 1947-1948, and also supported himself doing copies of paintings by Pablo Picasso,  Georges Braque, and de Chirico. Magritte dabbled in communism, and whether the forgeries were for purely financial reasons or intended to disrupt Western bourgeois capitalist habits of thought is debatable.   Magritte and  Surrealism Magritte had a witty sense of humor that is evident in his work and in his subject matter. He delighted in representing the paradoxical nature of reality in his paintings and in making the viewer question what reality really is. Rather than depicting fantastic creatures in fictional landscapes, he painted ordinary objects and people in realistic settings. Notable characteristics of his work include the following: His arrangements were often impossible under the laws of physics.The scale of these mundane elements was frequently (and deliberately) wrong.When words were painted - as they were periodically - they were usually a witticism of some sort, as in the aforementioned painting, The Treachery of Images on which he painted, Ceci nest pas une pipe. (This is not a pipe.) Although the viewer can clearly see that the painting is, indeed, of a pipe, Magrittes point is just that - that it is only a  picture  of a pipe. You cant pack it with tobacco, light it, and smoke it. The joke is on the viewer, and Magritte points out the misunderstandings that are inherent in language.Ordinary objects were painted in unusual  ways and in unorthodox juxtapositions in order to evoke mystery. He is known for painting men in bowler hats, perhaps autobiographical, but perhaps merely a prop for his visual games. Famous Quotes Magritte spoke about the meaning, ambiguity, and mystery of his work  in these quotes and others, providing viewers with clues  as to how to interpret his art: 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, it is unknowable.Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist. Important Works: The Menaced Assassin, 1927The Treachery of Images, 1928-29The Key of Dreams, 1930The Human Condition, 1934Not to be Reproduced, 1937Time Transfixed, 1938The Listening Room, 1952Golconda, 1953 More of Renà © Magrittes work can be seen in the Special Exhibition Gallery Renà © Magritte: The Pleasure Principle. Legacy Magrittes art had a significant impact on the Pop and Conceptual art movements that followed and on the way, we have come to view, understand, and accept surrealist art today. In particular, his repeated use of commonplace objects, the commercial style of his work, and the importance of the concept of technique inspired Andy Warhol and others.  His work has infiltrated our culture to such an extent that it has almost become invisible, with  artists and others continuing to borrow Magrittes iconic images for labels and advertising, something that would no doubt greatly please Magritte. Resources and Further Reading Calvocoressi, Richard. Magritte.London: Phaidon, 1984. Gablik, Suzi. Magritte.New York: Thames Hudson, 2000. Paquet, Marcel. Rene Magritte, 1898-1967: Thought Rendered Visible.New York: Taschen America LLC, 2000.

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