For the most part, my Thursday Art posts have featured artists who represent a new brand of “pop surrealists.” Modern day artists like Michael Sowa, Hsiao-Ron Cheng, Paul Barnes and Hillary White all adhere closely to the basic tenants of surrealism while bringing their own unique perspectives and influences to the table. But to see how these artists got to where they are, sometimes we need to revisit the past, and where better than with the work of legendary surrealist artist René Magritte.
Born in Belgium in 1898, Magritte kicked around the French art world, influenced by Impressionist, Cubist and Futurism styles, before returning to Belgium in 1930. It was following this period that he created his best known works while becoming one of the most influential of the surrealists. Rene Magritte died in 1967 at the age of 68.
Magritte’s calling card as a surrealist was his ability to cause viewers to question what they were seeing. He’s a master at playing with pre-existing perceptions of reality, and of giving new meaning to familiar things by placing them in unusual contexts. He often played with the perception of an image and the fact that the painting of the image could never actually be the object. Magritte points out that no matter how naturalistically we depict an object, we never do catch the essence of the item itself. That may look like an apple, but it’s not an apple.
Even people who are not familiar with his art are probably aware of Magritte’s more classic paintings, particularly “The Son Of Man’ (above) and “Golconde.” Fans of The Beatles will also no doubt recognize the iconic green apple of “The Listening Room.” His work continues to influence today’s pop culture.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get reacquainted with the timeless art of René Magritte.