Rene Magritte
1898 – 1967

Born in Lessines, Belgium in 1898, Rene Magritte would go on to become one of the most well known Surrealist painters.  His paintings are recognizable by their precise and realistic portrayals of everyday objects and settings.  Rather than distorting the objects themselves, as other artists such as Salvador Dali often did, Magritte generally preferred to keep his subjects intact and recognizable, toying instead with their arrangement and perspective.  He relied on the context of the paintings to create his unique and often subtle brand of Surrealism.  In addition, Magritte was fascinated by the relationship between objects, paintings of objects and the words we use to describe them, exploring this most closely with his series of pipe paintings.

Magritte grew up with his father, who worked as a successful manufacturer, his mother and two younger brothers.  He showed an interest in drawing at an early age, and studied sketching in the town of Chatelet, where his family moved in 1910.  Magritte’s mother suffered from severe depression, and in 1912 when Magritte was only fourteen, his mother committed suicide by drowning herself in the Sambre River.  This no doubt had a great effect on Magritte, and later in life, themes of death and the macabre would manifest in much of his artwork, perhaps in some part influenced by this event.  In 1916, Magritte was growing tired of his traditional studies and with his father’s permission he enrolled at the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels where he studied until 1918.

In 1922 Magritte married Georgette Berger, whom he had briefly met years earlier and happened upon again in Brussels.  During this time he supported Georgette and himself by creating wallpaper designs and posters for a living.  Though he was only able to devote his free time to serious painting in this period, Magritte was continuing to experiment develop his craft, ultimately choosing Surrealism as his preferred method of expression.  Of particular influence to Magritte was Giorgio de Chirico’s painting The Song Of Love, to which he was introduced in 1922.  It depicts various objects such as a Greek sculpted head and a rubber glove mounted to a wall, juxtoaposed within an architectural setting.  Magritte completed what is considered his first major surrealist work, Le Jockey Perdu, in 1925.  In 1926, Magritte was given a contract with the Galerie Le Centaure in Brussels, and he was able to pursue painting full time.  The next year he held his first solo exhibition at the gallery, but it was widely considered a flop due to the harsh criticism that it received from the mainstream art world at the time.  Undaunted, Magritte moved to Paris that same year, associating with noted Surrealists such as Andre Breton and Paul Eluard.

1930 saw Magritte separate from Breton and the Paris Surrealists.  He returned to Brussels, where he would reside for the rest of his life.  He continued to work exclusively within Surrealism, except for a short time during the 1940′s when he incorporated elements of other styles into his paintings, such as Impressionism.  By the end of the decade he abandoned these experiments and returned strictly to his familiar pre-war style.  He would paint throughout the 1950′s and 60′s, his work becoming increasingly influential as time went on.  He died in 1967 in Brussels, Belgium of pancreatic cancer.

Collections Include:
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Texas
Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
Magritte Museum, Brussels, Belgium
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York
National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf, Germany
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois
Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1898 – Rene Magritte is born in Lessines, Belgium
1912 – Magritte’s mother commits suicide
1916 – Attends the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels
1922 – Marries Georgette Berger
1927 – First solo exhibition held at the Gallerie Le Centaure in Brussels; Moves to Paris
1930 – Returns to Belgium
1967 – Dies in Brussels, Belgium of pancreatic cancer

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