A famous artist during his lifetime who preferred the quiet anonymity of a middle-class existence, Rene Magritte embodied his art. Born November 21, 1898 in Belgium, today we celebrate his 116th birthday and rich legacy. From humble beginnings as a commercial artist, producing advertising and book designs, Magritte grew into one of the most celebrated Surrealist artists of the 20th century. Although he despised the label, he had a captivating, idiosyncratic approach to the style.
While some French Surrealists experimented with new techniques, Magritte settled on a deadpan technique where he chose to focus on the fact that no matter how naturalistically an object is depicted, the item itself can never be caught. His desire was to create poetic imagery and once described the act of painting as “..the art of putting colors side by side in such a way that their real aspect is effaced, so that familiar objects—the sky, people, trees, mountains, furniture, the stars, solid structures, graffiti—become united in a single poetically disciplined image. The poetry of this image dispenses with any symbolic significance, old or new.” (Frasnay, 99-107)
This type of thinking is what inspired Magritte’s greatest works, The Son of Man (1964), Golconda (1953) and The Treachery of Images (1929) to name a few and influenced countless generations of artists that include John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Jan Verdoodt, Martin Kippenberger, Duane Michals and Storm Thorgerson. With a legacy like that, it’s certainly clear that Magritte was a man who died much too young at the age of 68 due to cancer. However we are forever graced with his brilliance and continue to celebrate him through exhibitions, books, and specials.
Frasnay, Daniel. “The Artist’s World. “Magritte.” New York: The Viking Press, 1969. pp. 99-107