Rene Magritte Oil Paintings | Biography

11-21-1898 Lessines, BEL - 8-15-1967 Brussels, BEL

Magritte, Rene

Art criticism is still today divided about whether Rene Magritte should be considered “merely” an extraordinary, if cold, creator of images or one of the most representative masters of the twentieth century. The public, on the other hand, has no doubt. The expressive power of Magritte’s images, so simple to “recognize” but impossible to “understand”, has made Rene Magritte one of the best-loved, most reproduced, and well-known painters of all time.

The great surrealist master René Francois Ghislain Magritte's advancement as a painter was affected by two critical events in his adolescence, the first was an experience with an artist, who he saw painting while playing in a cemetery and thought was magical. The second, was the suicide of his mom when Magritte was fourteen and he was there when her body was found in the river, her face covered by her white dress. True or not, the picture of a head uncannily hidden by a cloth reoccurs all through his works. Magritte's earliest paintings were Impressionistic in style, dated from 1915 when he was only seventeen years of age.

Magritte studied at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels between 1916-to 1918 and became a commercial artist for fashion magazines and a designer of wallpaper. After working briefly in advertising (a background that is reflected in all his work), His paintings were initially influenced by Futurism and Cubism, but later Magritte discovered the Metaphysical paintings of De Chirico, which proved to be a great revelation. In 1924 he became a founder member of the Belgian Surrealist group, which provided an escape from the dull routine of his everyday work. From then on, he portrayed “impossible” juxtapositions of objects, landscapes, and people, painted with absolute, still clarity. In 1925 he was friends with a number of Dadaists and befriended Francis Picabia. In 1926 Magritte painted the first oil painting that enabled him to be marked as a "Surrealist". After his first exclusive show in Brussels in 1927 which was badly critiqued, he went to Paris and lived there from 1927 to 1930 to better continue his study of the Surrealists, and befriended Salvador Dali, André Breton, and Paul Eluard, participating in the Surrealist movement and even drafting articles and essays about the movement. Then he returned to Brussels where he built his reputation for paintings of dreamlike incongruity, in which themes and objects are jumbled in bizarre, nonsensical situations, often showing paintings within paintings. During this period, Magritte continued to carefully observe recent masters, like Georges-Pierre Seurat, as well as the old masters from the fifteenth-century Italian Renaissance painting.

By the time he returned to Brussels in 1930 his style, based on oppositions and enigmatic presence, was fully consolidated. He stayed in Brussels amid the German occupation of Belgium in World War II, which prompted a break with Breton. He quickly embraced a brilliant, painterly style the “Plein-Soleil” period in 1943– 46, also known as his "Renoir Period". Between 1947– 48, Magritte changed again during his "époque vache" (Cow Period) he painted in a provocative and rough Fauvist style. And at the same time, Magritte supported himself through the creation of phony Picassos, Braques, and de Chiricos reproductions.

Magritte's Paradox, Contradiction, and the Interplay of Images.

To understand him, The Treachery of Images provides the key to understanding Magritte’s Surrealism. The artist painted a pipe and then wrote the words “This is not a pipe” underneath; indicating a betrayal of reality, a parallel universe where nothing is as it seems.

Magritte painted Homesickness in Carcassonne, a famous medieval town in the north of France when the Nazi advance was crushing both France and Belgium, the two countries dearest to his heart. Here, in addition to the usual features of stillness and silence, there is a feeling of separation and incommunicability, and even impending menace, conveyed by the presence of the lion, Magritte identifies with the man dressed in black (a recurring character in his work) who, in this case, has wings he longs to use to escape from this disquieting reality.

Many of his oil paintings are in the vein of Euclidean Promenades. The superimposition of interiors and exteriors is a recurring theme in Magritte’s work. Here, a canvas on an easel is perfectly superimposed on the “real” view from the window. This is an easily legible symbol of the illusion and ambiguity of the painting itself.

This famous painting has been reproduced countless times, in Golconda the ‘shower” of little men in their bowler hats and dark gray clothes have become a metaphor for the human condition in the twentieth century when people began to suffer from a loss of individual identity and the monotonous banality of everyday life.

Magritte’s work is almost timeless. The painter reworked images, motifs, silhouettes, characters, and objects he had used many years before to achieve new, alienating effects. As always, the titles are deliberately misleading, never describing the subject that is actually represented as shown in The Great Family.

Manet and Magritte, a Balcony Painted 82 Years Later.

Inspired by one of Edouard Manet’s most celebrated works, The Balcony painted in 1868 and held at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, eighty-two years later Rene Magritte made a macabre parody of it in Perspective II Manet's Balcony. It must be added that Manet himself was inspired by a similar painting by Francisco Goya of two girls and a man leaning over the railing of a balcony.

Amid the late 1940s to mid-1950s, Magritte made a progression of which he called "Perspective" canvases based on works by the French artists François Gérard, Jacques Louis David, and Édouard Manet, in which he substituted coffins for the figures in the original artworks. Perspective I Madame Récamier by David is the first "coffin" painting. The structure of this work is relatively indistinguishable to that of Jacques Louis David's renowned Neoclassical portrait of Madame Récamier, aside from that the alluring youthful sitter has been supplanted by a casket, with a falling outfit left as the main hint of her past presence.This disconcerting reinterpretation is a significant example of the Belgian Surrealist’s attitude toward the painting tradition. Magritte uses the masterpieces of the past to illustrate a new theory of reality, a novel view of the world and the images it represents.

Magritte himself stated: “ What makes me see coffins where Manet saw white figures is the image presented in my painting, where the decoration of the balcony was suitable for the coffins. The ‘mechanism’ at work here might be the subject of a learned explanation, of which I am not capable. This explanation might be valid, even definite, but this does not mean it would cease to be a mystery”. The history of art proceeds through these allusions, through the eras, styles, and institutions of the great masters. He is regarded in the United States as a forerunner of Pop Art.

Art Movement: Surrealism.
Artists Influencing Rene Magritte: Constant Montald, Georges Seurat, Max Ernst, Jean Metzinger, Fernand Léger, Edouard Manet, Giorgio de Chirico.
He Traveled To France, England, USA.
Painters Rene Magritte Influenced: John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Jan Verdoodt, Martin Kippenberger, Duane Michals, Storm Thorgerson, Luis Rey.
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.

Rene Magritte Hand-Painted Oil Painting Reproductions.

Rene Magritte Museum Art Replicas on Canvas.

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