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Rene Magritte

Birth

René Francois-Ghislain Magritte was born on November 21 1898, in Lessines, Hainaut (Belgium).

Death of his mother and his life

One image which appears in many of Magritte's paintings is that of his mother. He saw her fished from the river Sambre at the age of fourteen, she had committed suicide. The body was found naked apart from a nightgown which obscured only the face as it was tangled around her.
 
 
Rene Magritte and wife Georgette 1920This somewhat indelible image can be seen in many of Magritte's paintings, including The Rape (see below) and The Lovers I and II. Soon after the tragic death of his mother, the Magritte family moved to Charleroi this is where he also meets his future wife, Georgette Berger. Magritte enrolled at Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels in 1914 and , after a short period of military service in 1921, joins the surrealist movement. His first surrealist work was in 1926.

Defying common sense

Rene Magritte considered his paintings to be a 'defiance of common sense', in the same way as he thinks the world as we know it is.Magritte wanted to show objects as they aren't , to provide a mystery, not a symbol, and to frighten the viewer into not understanding Rene Magritte 1967 his images.He produced many of his paintings as a combination of two things -
  • A reflection of his real life and its events.
  • A chance to create a weird and wonderful set of imagery that doesn't occur in real life.
The artists style is summed up by Andre Breton when he says: "Magritte... taking his cue from the visual arts as I did from poetry, glimpsed what could result from juxtaposing words with great resonance... with forms that negated them or at the very least, did not rationally match them". Essentially what Magritte was famous for, at least during his time with the surrealist movement, was the juxtaposition of objects. Some examples are a rock floating like a cloud, an umbrella supporting a glass of water, a pair of boots with real toes and some paintings playing with the idea of light and dark.

The Rape

Rene Magritte - The RapeOne of the best examples of Magritte\'s life in his work is in 'The Rape' Magritte's mother was drowned when he was very young. She was discovered with her face veiled by her gown with her naked body showing. 'The Rape', therefore has three main attributes:
  1. The woman's facial features are replaced by the torso and pelvis of a naked woman is suggestive firstly of the way males see the woman. The idea is to create a sexual image out of the woman's face, the first thing one would usually see. This is also indicated by the name of the piece 'The Rape'.
  2. Secondly, it is an obvious reference to his mothers death and the way in which she died, with her face covered and her body naked.
  3. Thirdly, a different idea is that one might notice that the neck and head are quite flat, almost phallic. The hair also has an unnatural appearance, perhaps that of pubic hair. This is the most striking vision and is perhaps in line with the way Magritte suggested he wanted to frighten with his paintings, to provoke. It is the rape in progress, the phallus of the face or torso, penetrating the pubic mound.

Juxtaposition

Essentially what Magritte was famous for, at least during his time with the surrealist movement, was the juxtaposition of objects. Some examples are a rock floating like a cloud, an umbrella supporting a glass of water, a pair of boots with real toes and some paintings playing with the idea of light and dark. It was his customary style to place objects where they aren't usually found or to combine two or more contradictory images together. Magritte also displayed a sort of morbid wit, creating surreal copies of famous paintings including Madame Recaimer de David (1949), where he replaces a coffin for the reclining woman in the famous portrait by Jacques Louis David.

Death

Magritte died on 15th August 1967