Who is Rene Magritte the pictorial alphabet artist?
Magritte says of his paintings, “Everything in my work comes from a sense of certainty that we belong, in fact, to a mysterious world.”
The name René Magritte was associated with surrealism and was considered a master of mysteries, known for his paintings of metaphors and messages that highlight the difficulty we face in making reality match our mental images.
Through his smart and exciting paintings, he sought to push viewers to question their perceptions of reality and re-view the world around them with a higher sensitivity. He also worked by creating joint images and placing them in extreme contexts to make them question the ability of art to represent an object.
Magritte developed a pictorial alphabet using recurring motifs, such as the apple, the bird, the man in the bowler’s hat, and segmented bodies, and his images are often hidden behind other images that combine two levels of reading potential, visible and invisible.
“Everything in my work comes from the certainty that we belong, in fact, to a mysterious world,” Magritte says of his paintings.
Magritte was born in 1898 in Lessens, Belgium, and was the eldest son in a family of 5. During his childhood he was fond of photography, watching movies and reading novels, especially comedies.
Magritte’s mother was a suicidal woman, so her husband locked her in her room, and one day she escaped and was found dead in a nearby river after she drowned.
According to accounts, the 13-year-old Magritte was there when they retrieved the body from the river, and when she was pulled out of the water, her dress covered her face.
Magritte began taking his first drawing lessons at the age of ten, and in 1916 he entered the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels, but left it after two years after finding the instructions uninspiring and unsuitable for his taste, but that period allowed him to see the most important artistic movements and became a member of the Vanguard Circle Literary, where she was discussing the ideas of Dada and Surrealism.
It was only after serving for a short period in the Belgian infantry that he began his actual artistic career as a painter, drawing posters and drawing copies of paintings by famous artists, such as Picasso, Braque and Chirico.
In 1924, he was in contact with the “Dada” movement and was strongly influenced by a painting by “De Chirico”, and soon formed with other artists what became known as “Belgian Surrealism”.
The painting “The Threatened Assassin” 1926 was one of his early works, and it contained elements that spread in many of his later works, such as characters, wearing hats, colors, etc., all of which played a role in his surreal beginnings, including giving a sense of strangeness and mystery. “The Lost Jockey” 1925 is an indication of his style, especially after he later added to it new elements to motivate the viewer.
His first solo exhibition, which took place in 1927 at the Galerie la Centaurie in Brussels, was not well received by critics, which made him depressed and went to Paris.
The art of irony between criticism and philosophy
After moving to the French capital, he contacted the surrealist movement to merge later with the group “Breton”, the founder of the surrealist movement, and became a prominent figure in the “Visual Surrealists” movement, and his name shined as one of the most skilled elite artists, using his techniques in merging detailed reality and intellectual imagination, and after he established In France for 3 years, he returned to Brussels to work in a small advertising company.
Magritte was influenced by the works of Giorgio de Chirico, as well as by the methods of John Miro and Salvador Dali, but unlike the latter, he was never a fan of psychoanalytic theories, but rather focused on the symbols, myths and beliefs that he explains or ridicules. In a deliberately neutral and meticulous manner, his style took a turn towards conceptual art.
Magritte, a much loved, though bewildering painter, exhibited his work throughout Europe all the way to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Magritte was diagnosed with cancer, and died in 1967 after an outbreak of the disease in his body, but his works influenced many artists to this day, as well as had a clear impact on many songs, films and books.
In 2009, he opened a museum of his works in Brussels, and most of the works on display belong to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Belgium.