An attempt at a very famous painting by René Magritte.
And Finally! The last sheet in that awful book!
Here’s my version of French artist Magritte’s The Son of Man. What should be a blue sea looks more like a green field – I must check the reference I used! Even though I hated painting on that canvas I really like the texture that’s showing through on this piece, especially on the coat.
René Magritte The Artist
René Francois Ghislain Magritte, one of the world’s most famous and influential surrealist artists, was of Belgian origin. He was born in November 1898 in Lessines, Belgium to a tailor father and milliner mother.
René and his siblings were raised by their grandmother after the suicide of their mother when René was around 13. She had shown suicidal tendencies before but had somehow managed to escape their father’s guard and drowned herself in the River Sambre. This tragic incident was thought to have had an influence on René’s artwork, in particular his habit of showing people with cloth over their faces might be traced to the fact that she was found with her dress covering her face.
Between 1916 and 1918 René was enrolled at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts of Brussels. He wasn’t much inspired by what he was taught at the Academy and his work in the years that followed were more influenced by Futurism and Cubism. He eventually developed his own trademark style that combined realism with fantasy – strange objects in unexpected places, juxtaposed, odd, surreal!
In 1920 Magritte was re-introduced to a young woman by the name of Georgette Berger who he had met in childhood, they married in 1922.
Magritte worked in a wallpaper factory and also as an advertising illustrator until 1926 when he got a contract with a gallery which allowed him to pursue his art full time. In 1927 he had his first one man show with over 200 pieces on display including The Lost Jockey which is one of his most famous works. However the critics weren’t too impressed and René, frustrated at the poor reception, moved to Paris.
He was in Paris for about three years becoming a leading member of the Surrealist movement there. It was during this period that he became friends with Andre Breton, the French writer and poet who is celebrated as the co-founder of Surrealism.
He remained in Belgium during World War II and the German occupation of his country. He began painting in a colourful style in this time, perhaps as an escape from the situation around him. To support himself during the post-war period René took to making fake art (Picassos and other well known artists) and even fake bank notes! Happily, in 1948, he returned to his pre-war Surrealist style.
Magritte produced some of the most compelling images associated with the Surrealist art movement. His work has been shown at major institutions around the world and continues to be celebrated today.
René Magritte died in Brussels on 15 August 1967, he was suffering from pancreatic cancer.
Here are some of his most famous works:
The Treachery of Images
One of his most famous paintings is titled “La Trahison des images” or “The Treachery of Images” and was painted in 1929. It depicts a pipe below which Magritte has added the following comment: “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” or “This is not a pipe”. This oil on canvas painting is currently held in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The Son of Man
Another one of his very famous paintings, apparently a self portrait, shows a bowler hatted man standing in front of a sea wall with his face mostly obscured by an apple. To add to the oddness he has, for some reason, given the man a backward bend in the left elbow. This painting is currently in a private collection.
The Lost Jockey
He considered The Lost Jockey (1926) to be his first Surrealist work. His first take on this was a collage that was inspired by the collages of Max Ernst. The version I’ve shown below is a gouache that he painted in 1948.
The Human Condition
Magritte’s work was well-known for its ability to stimulate viewers’ imaginations so that they could interpret it in diverse ways. This painting within a painting (which is a trompe-l’oeil window painting) is currently held in the National Gallery of Art Washington.
Matisse certainly liked his men in bowler hats. Here he has them suspended in the sky in front of some stark looking suburban buildings. Golconda is the name of a 14th-17th Century Indian City whose name became synonymous with ‘a mine of wealth‘ due to it being a centre of the diamond industry. He seems to be commenting on the blandness and uniformity of the wealthy middle classes. This painting is held at the Menil Collection, Houston, Texas.