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La Belle Captive: Magritte's Surrealism 

Friday, March 6, 2009 9:54:55 AM

Hi,

Here's an article on Magritte by Ben Stoltzfus that appeared in:

Online Magazine of the Visual Narrative   
Issue 13. The Forgotten Surrealists: Belgian Surrealism Since 1924
La Belle Captive: Magritte's Surrealism, Robbe-Grillet's Metafiction 
Author: Ben Stoltzfus; Published: November 2005

Alain Robbe-Grillet's ties with surrealism do not readily come to mind because he is known primarily as a French new novelist and cinematographer. However, his 1975 novel, La Belle captive , illustrated with 77 René Magritte paintings, establishes a clear link between surrealism and metafiction. Magritte died in 1967 and was unaware of the writer's project, but the title of the novel derives from four seascapes and two landscapes that he painted between 1931 and 1967, all of them entitled La Belle captive.

What characterizes the La Belle captive series of paintings is the undecidability of the image. Each one of the six canvases contains an easel that holds a painting within a painting, a procedure that establishes specular duplication with mise-en-abyme effects. The painting on the easel replicates the landscape beyond it and the internal frame breaks the continuity of the image while accentuating it. Although the background and the foreground overlap, the perspective is impossible. Is the canvas transparent or opaque? Are we looking through it at images in the distance or are these images in front of us. This ambiguity sets up a visual paradox that cannot be resolved and the undecidability of the perspective elicits epistemological and ontological concerns in the mind of the observer.

The 77 paintings were in the collection of Magritte's widow, Georgette, and Robbe-Grillet used them to generate the written narrative - a running commentary on Magritte's art, Surrealism, and the aesthetics of metafiction. Robbe-Grillet generates meaning from the mysterious and ludic structures of the paintings, and this new order asks the reader/observer to picture and hear the links between the two texts. The images speak and the sentences see and the role of the observer is to look at and listen to the humor, the contradictions, and narrative displacements.

This generative interaction draws its energy from the Surrealist aesthetic of the marvelous whose purpose was to astonish, and it is this sense of astonishment that produces the spark of recognition - the spark that illuminates the juxtaposition of distant entities. This illumination, in turn, unveils the woman connoted in the title - a woman hidden within the denotations of nature, but fully revealed in the painting entitled Representation (1937). Representation depicts the naked torso of a woman from the thighs to the breasts, a body enclosed in a brown picture frame but seemingly reflected in a mirror. The frame follows the sensuous contours of the body, so much so, that it emphasizes and anticipates the intentions of the artist and the writer who pursue and unveil the image of the beautiful captive, a captive like Sandro Botticelli's Birth of Venus emerging from the waking dream of their unconscious.

Robbe-Grillet animates the figures, the repetition of a theme is developed diachronically, and the title of a painting is incorporated into the fictive adventure. The written text reflects the visual one, as in a distorting mirror, and vice-versa. The observer is encouraged to play with this intertext, pursue pleasure, and produce meaning from the subversion of narrative conventions, cultural myths, and scientific laws. In this topsy-turvy world, Memory (1938) is the head of a statue that bleeds. The red wound on the right temple of the white bust of Memory seems to have been caused by the round cowbell lying on the ground next to it. The grelot appears frequently in Magritte's art and often connotes "woman."

Surrealists and metafictionists rely on this subversive game of the unexpected in order to attack realism and, by emphasizing the language of art they draw the observer's attention to the signifier rather than the signified. The primacy of the signifier signaled an important shift from art as a mimetic form to art as a free and independent sign system. Freed from the obligation to mirror reality art could display a creative potential unfettered by the need to represent the world. The imagination of the artist could play with reality, change it, reorganize it, or even discard it, as Mondrian and Kandinsky did when using color, shape, and line as their subject matter instead of a woman, a horse, or a cannon. Art became its own subject matter. The Beautiful World (1960) dramatizes the process with stage curtains. The round shape of the grelot has now become an apple in the picture's foreground - an apple situated between two drawn curtains. The blue curtains appear against a blue sky full of lacy white clouds and the outline of a third curtain also contains blue sky and clouds.

The Surrealists and the metafictionists, however, never discarded the world entirely because they needed it as a point of reference and also because they wanted to subvert the images of social discourse and the encoded ideology within language. For the Surrealists, one way to transcend the real was to incorporate unconscious images into their art so that reality was altered, as in a dream. But Freud's "condensation" and "displacement" are essentially the rhetorical tropes we call metaphor and metonymy - figures of speech that have always been part of our tropical discourse. And with Magritte and Robbe-Grillet these tropes no longer served the designs of realism as in Portrait of a Woman (1961). The realism of this picture is subverted by the giant upside-down head of a woman looking through an oval doorway at two very small men inside the room. The giant boulder on the right, like the woman's head, dwarfs the two men. Such art defamiliarizes the everyday and, with poetic license, Magritte and Robbe-Grillet deconstruct doxa . Doxa , according to Roland Barthes, "is Public Opinion, the mind of the majority, petit bourgeois Consensus, the Voice of Nature, the Violence of Prejudice" (47). It is ideology itself.

Surrealists and metafictionists alike have striven to decompose this arrogant bourgeois consciousness and, in doing so, the Surrealists fused the conscious and the unconscious realms into the Surreal. This fusion, they said, produced a higher form of consciousness. As for metafictionists, they are less interested in the unconscious, although it is always present, and they are more attentive to the language of art as a creative process. When he published La Belle captive , Robbe-Grillet touched bases with Magritte and he fused Surrealism with metafiction. Both artists foreground the signifying chain, be it visual or verbal, as in the Invisible World (1953), and the picto-novel represents the fortuitous encounter of their seemingly different worlds. The Invisible World represents a seascape. The clouds, the sky, and the water are framed by two open glass doors and a balustrade. In the foreground, in the center of the room, on the wooden planks of the floor is an oval boulder. The all-too visible and incongruous boulder is out of place and it casts doubt on the realism of the picture. What is the boulder doing in the room and why does it appear so frequently in Magritte's art?

Pierre Reverdy once said that poetic reality emerges from the bringing together of two distant realities.[1] In time, Surrealism synthesized the real and the unreal, the immediate and the virtual, the banal and the fantastic. Coincidence and strange encounters were deemed to be the result of "objective chance" which, in turn, revealed correspondences between subjective and universal automatisms. André Breton and Robert Desnos practiced automatic writing because they believed it could unearth the marvelous, resolve contradictions, astonish, change life. Magritte's strange juxtapositions were also designed to unveil the invisible world of the unconscious.

The Surrealists wanted to transform the world and WOMAN, or the idea of WOMAN, was their perceived ally. Breton saw her as the queen of objective chance. Indeed, Magritte's and Robbe-Grillet's beautiful captive is the true woman of their dreams. According to them she unveils desire and sharpens our understanding of the real and the unreal. What is this new and Surreal world? In "Envergure de René Magritte" Breton praises the beautiful captive, saying that there is no more desirable a captive than one who denudes herself in full mystery. A painting such as The Threatened Assassin (1926-27) captures this mystery for all three artists. The painting derives from a scene in Louis Feuillade's Fantômas of 1912. It depicts two figures concealed by the doorway, armed with strange weapons, watching the "murderer," who is dressed in a business suit. Fantômas , the film, was based on the thirty-two-volume series written by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain, each of whom wrote alternate chapters. Both Magritte and Robbe-Grillet seem fascinated by the character of Fantômas who can pass unseen through matter, defy the establishment, and subvert its order.

Magritte's room portraying the "stabbed mannequin," by its very complexity, sets up resonances that echo throughout Robbe-Grillet's text. It matters little that the latter's narrative contradicts details in the painting or adds to them, since the picture is subverted in the same manner that reality is contradicted. The three men looking in the window of The Threatened Assassin are not mentioned in Robbe-Grillet's text and the bowler-hatted man on the left, outside the door, is holding a baluster, not a club. Robbe-Grillet invents the sound of the phonograph that the young man inside the room is listening to and the narrator says it is replaying the woman's cry. This cry animates the painting and the naked mannequin which becomes a "real" woman. Although there is no sewing machine in the picture, the narrator tells us that the phonograph is the same age as the sewing machine, an allusion to Lautréamont's dissecting table where the fortuitous encounter of an umbrella and a sewing machine generates the ultimate spark of Surrealist beauty and activity.

In 1938, Breton wrote an introduction to the Complete Works of Lautréamont, illustrated by a number of Surrealists, including Magritte. The Rape (1934) was one of the illustrations and it shocks us because the body of a woman has been transformed into a head. Magritte himself says that "in this picture a woman's face is composed of the essential details of her body. Breasts have become eyes, her nose is her navel, and the sexual organs replace her mouth" ( Ecrits Complets 144, my translation). James T. Soby notes that "it is the rape of all logic in broad daylight" (15). Ten years later, in 1948, a new edition of The Songs of Maldoror was published in Brussels (Editions La Boétie) with 77 illustrations by Magritte. There is an obvious link between Robbe-Grillet's book, La Belle captive , with its 77 Magritte images, and the previous editions. In his Ecrits Complets Magritte says that Lautréamont's fortuitous encounter on a dissecting table of an umbrella and a sewing machine is symbolic of a certain disorder because things are not where they should be. On the one hand there is the mystery of things and, on the other hand, there is the marvelous and luminous surprise that sparkles when we juxtapose disparate objects (647). In his manifestoes Breton maintained that the marvelous is always beautiful and only the marvelous is beautiful. Magritte's Ladder of Fire (1933) captures the flaming and incongruous juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated objects. This painting juxtaposes three objects all of which are in flames: paper, a chair, and a tuba. Paper and wood burn but metal does not, at least not at room temperature.

Robbe-Grillet's aesthetic of the nouveau roman is grounded in similar incongruities, and they also astonish. He favors a certain diegetic disorder because it defies the conventions of realism. In his autofiction, The Recurring Mirror , he describes the writer's adventure as the necessary dramatization of the death struggle between order and disorder, between reason and subversion ( Miroir 133). The disorder in Magritte's and Robbe-Grillet's art shocks because it violates the codes of mimesis and classic realism. What is the attaché case doing on the mirror in Magritte's Chariot of the Virgin (1933), a picture of a hand mirror that is larger than life and an attaché case so small that it sits on the mirror's oval surface? Our experience of size has been contradicted and the normal order of things has been violated. Codes of order are also embedded in every culture's ideology and we feel comfortable as long as these codes are observed. Nonetheless, the subversion of codes is part and parcel of Robbe-Grillet's and Magritte's agenda. Robbe-Grillet says that we must turn ideology inside out like a glove. "My art," says Magritte, "has value only insofar as it opposes bourgeois ideology in whose name we are extinguishing life" ( Ecrits Complets 85, my translation).

According to Michel Carrouges, Surrealism is a radical revolt not only against ideology and order, but also against the rationalism of Descartes and Voltaire, against abstract philosophies that have enslaved the world, against classical art, bourgeois mentality, and labor economies. Surrealism, says Carrouges, calls for an intellectual and artistic revolution, a social revolution, and the complete liberation, of humanity (7).

La Belle captive, both the novel and the paintings, are arguably less revolutionary than Carrouges would like, at least on the cultural level, but they do subvert realism. Robbe-Grillet's novel is circular, without plot, contradictory, and without clearly defined characters - characteristics that define metafiction as a genre. However, if form can be revolutionary, then La Belle captive is it. It begins with The Castle of the Pyrenees (1959), a painting of a rock in the sky, suspended over the sea in a kind of timelessness that defies gravity. The first lines are: "It begins with a stone falling, in the silence, vertically, immobile. It is falling from a great height, a meteor, a massive, compact, oblong block of rock, like a giant egg with a pocked, uneven surface." [2]

The rock resembles an egg - an egg that both generates the novel and contains it. Together, the picture and the text beget a visual and writerly process, and it is not by chance that the rock has an oval shape, because Surrealists attributed a privileged role to eggs and to stones. The Domain of Arnheim (1962) is a kindred painting in which the mountain resembles a bird. In the foreground is a nest of eggs, and the slippage of meaning between the stone bird and the eggs on the wall suggests that the mountain in the background might have laid them. The Idol (1965) is a stone bird, perhaps one of the hatchlings, and in its flight it also defies gravity.

In The Truth in Painting , Jacques Derrida notes that "Rythmos , as we know, has come to signify both the cadence of a writing and the undulation of the waves" (160). For Robbe-Grillet, the unfurling waves beneath the rock in The Castle of the Pyrenees contain both the rhythms of writing and of dreaming, rhythms in which women such as Vanadis, the mother, the student, the siren, and the beautiful captive connote mythical entities. This mythology subverts the coordinates of our familiar world and replaces them with pictures such as The Flowers of Evil (1946) in which animate and inanimate elements together form new living species. Originally, The Flowers of Evil was the title of Baudelaire's book of poems. Whatever else Magritte's canvasses may be, they are are also a painterly homage to literary precursors. The Domain of Arnheim (1962) is a nod to Edgar Allan Poe. Dangerous Liaisons (1936), a painting that blends and dislocates the animate and the inanimate, is a tribute to Choderlos de Laclos . Philosophy in the Boudoir (1947) salutes the Marquis de Sade. The undecidability of perception within this painting is typical of Magritte's art and we are hard put to choose between breasts and nightgown, between feet and shoes, between body parts that are alive and objects that are not. Magritte creates a new genetic order: living statues, birds that are leaves, men of stone, and sirens with the head of a fish and the legs of a woman, as in The Collective Invention (1934). These new species connote an inherent world mystery as well as a wry sense of humor. The Saudis picked up on this wry sense of humor when they sold thousands of postcards of The Collective Invention with a caption stating that this was the picture of a real siren washed up on a beach of Saudi Arabia.

In Ecrits Complets Magritte describes The Flowers of Evil as "the statue of flesh of a naked woman holding a rose of flesh. The other hand leans on a stone. The open curtains reveal the sea and a summer sky" (175, my translation). In addition to the title of Baudelaire's book, the picture is an intertextual allusion to his poem entitled "Beauty": "I am beautiful, oh mortals! like a dream of stone" (41, my translation). The woman's body has a sensual reality but she is made of stone. She seems alive but her eyes are vacant. This movement back and forth between the true and the false, between living flesh and inanimate matter gives rise to an undecidability that is both mysterious and postmodern because the foregrounding of one possibility brackets the other one by putting it under erasure. From a Surrealist point of view, the body is marvelous and astonishing. From a postmodern point of view it is contradictory and its status is undecidable unless, of course, we suspend the voice of reason. But suspending reason is precisely what the Surrealists wanted us to do so that we could slip into a sensual dream world where everything is possible and in which even metal burns with a hot and living flame.

Such metamorphoses resonate throughout Magritte's and Robbe-Grillet's works. In his film Glissements progressifs du plaisir (1974) Robbe-Grillet describes a living mannequin that has been stabbed, hair that is seaweed, a shell vulva, and stone eggs that reproduce. As for Magritte, his Beautiful Captive (1947) features a transparent canvas on which is reflected the flame of a burning tuba. The picture is simultaneously opaque and transparent and, once again, we have contradiction and undecidability. It's a synthesis of the true and the false, of the possible and the impossible. "My pictures," says Magritte, "are visible thoughts" (537).

In The Flood (1930), Magritte establishes correspondences between the half-naked torso of a woman and a tuba, by virtue of their juxtaposition. However, unlike this picture, the tuba in other paintings is burning, and fire, for Magritte has overtones of pleasure. He says that "the astonishing discovery of fire, due to the rubbing together of two bodies, reminds us of the physical mechanism of pleasure" (259, my translation). Suzi Gablik says that "fire has always been an image of primary sexuality" (98) and, as in The Invention of Fire (1946), it's the hidden sexuality of the beautiful captive that will begin to burn. This painting depicts a naked woman on hands and knees, and behind her, a huge phallus-like baluster with an erotic head. The pursuit of pleasure is one of Magritte's and Robbe-Grillet's coordinates. Pleasure anchors their notions of love and freedom, and fire is the visible and metaphorical synthesis of the two. In his painting entitled Pleasure (1927) Magritte depicts a woman eating a bird from a "bird-tree" as though she were eating an apple. WOMAN is always an implicit presence within the Surrealist sensibility and she is the one "hidden in the forest" of their dreams. She connotes love, and Breton's "mad love" is truly a force of providence.

Who is the beautiful captive disguised within Magritte's many variants of her, such as The Human Condition (1933)? She seems to represent the artist's pursuit of a triple reality: the subject, the object, and representation. In this painting we can't tell if the landscape is inside the room on the canvas, or outside, because the tree, the bushes, and the clouds in the sky can be situated both inside and out. The beautiful captive can be construed as the observer, the observed, and the language that melds this interactive process. She is the dramatization of art, and the red curtains that appear in many of Magritte's paintings are there to emphasize this dramatization. Magritte's pictures, as with Memoirs of a Saint (1960), open onto the stage of language. In this painting the blue sky and white clouds of The Beautiful World are enveloped by two red circular curtains. Robbe-Grillet's writings also dramatize language. La Belle captive is therefore a portrait not of reality but of a radically different world, and Magritte's art becomes the "false mirror" of reality which is also, paradoxically, a truer portrait of the Surreal experience.

The False Mirror (1934) is an eye that sees with mind and body. In this painting a blue sky and white clouds form the iris of the eye that is pierced by a black pupil. The eyelids frame both the eye and the sky. It is an intelligent eye and a sensual eye that reminds us that perception is both objective and subjective. Do we see the world as it really is, or do we project a false image of reality onto the mind screen of consciousness? How does language color what we see? These are the questions and problems that Magritte asks in his art, and the beautiful captive is a painterly and philosophical exploration of language and perception.

For Magritte, the beautiful captive denotes art but connotes woman, whereas for Robbe-Grillet she denotes woman but connotes art. The paintings and the novel are false mirrors because they are not an exact reflection of each other. They disfigure. They dislocate nature in order to stress the production of art. They imagine new worlds and, in doing so, they also highlight our freedom to invent new worlds. Robbe-Grillet's parthenogenetic eggs, like Magritte's boulders, hatch new and interesting possibilities. Of special interest is the dialogue between the pictures and the text, and when we activate the dialogue, we discover the woman hidden within. When we find her, we realize that we too are free to produce meaning and to reinvent our lives.

References 
Barthes, Roland . By Roland Barthes . New York: Hill and Wang, 1977.

Baudelaire, Charles. Les Fleurs du mal . Paris: Hachette, 1951.

Breton, André. "Envergure de René Magritte." Magritte . Little Rock: Arkansas Art Center, 1964.

______. Manifestes du surréalisme . Paris: Ga11imard, 1963.

Carrouges, Michel. André Breton et les données fondamentales du surréalisme . Paris: NRF, 1950.

Derrida, Jacques. The Truth in Painting . Trans. Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1987.

Gablik, Suzi. Magritte . Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Soclety, 1970.

Magritte, René. Ecrits complets . Paris: Flammarion, 1979.

Robbe-Grillet, Alain. Le Miroir qui revient . Paris: Minuit, 1984.

______and René Magritte. La Belle captive . Paris: La Bibliothèque des Arts, 1975.

______. La Belle Captive. Trans. Ben Stoltzfus. Berkeley: U of California P, 1995.

Soby, James T. René Magritte . New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1965.

Notes 
[1] As quoted by André Breton in his first Surrealist manifesto (31). My translation.

[2] Both the French edition of La Belle captive and my translation entitled La Belle captive are out of print. 
 
   
An internationally renowned author and scholar, Ben Stoltzfus is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Riverside. He is the author/translator of La Belle Captive: Alain Robbe-Grillet and René Magritte (1995) and The Target: Alain Robbe-Grillet and Jasper Johns (2005). Lacan and Literature: Purloined Pretexts (1996) won the 1997 Gradiva Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis (NAAP). 
 

Chronology of Surrealism 

Thursday, March 5, 2009 3:30:42 PM

CHRONOLOGY OF SURREALISM

1916 While recuperating from a shrapnel wound in a military hospital, Jacques Vache meets Andre Breton, then a medical student.  The two become close friends and continue a correspondence after Vache's return to the front lines.

1917 Breton meets Louis Aragon, also a medical student, and Philippe Soupault.

1919 André Breton, Louis Aragon, and Philippe Soupault unite in Paris begin publishing the avant-garde periodical, Littérature, begin an association with Dada. Before his planned arrival, Vache dies from an opium overdose. Breton and Soupault experiment with automatic writing, dedicating their first collection, The Magnetic Fields, to the memory of Jacques Vache. Breton corresponds with Dadaists, including Tristan Tzara, who arrives in Paris later that year.

1920 Along with Tristan Tzara, Jean Arp and Francis Picabia, the Litterature group participates in numerous Dada activities.

1921 Breton visits Sigmund Freud in Vienna.

1922 Breton appropriated the term “Surrealism” as a group — which now included Paul Éluard, Benjamin Péret, Man Ray, Jacques Baron, René Crevel, Robert Desnos, Georges Limbour, Roger Vitrac, and Joseph Delteil — organized under Breton and pulled away from the influence of Tristan Tzara and the Dadaists. Marcel Duchamp frequently associated with this group but never officially joined.

Having splintered from the traditional Dadaists, the Litterature group, now calling themselves Surrealists, includes Breton, Aragon, Soupault, Benjamin Peret, Paul Eluard, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Robert Desnos, Jacques Baron, Rene Crevel, Georges Limbour, Jacques Rigaut and Roger Vitrac, among others.  Marcel Duchamp also periodically participates in the group's activities.

"Sleep experiments" are conducted, examining an individual's verbal and artistic responses while under hypnosis.  Desnos and Crevel emerge as the most gifted participants in these investigations.

1923 Artists Andre Masson and Yves Tanguy join the Surrealists.  Masson experiments with automatic drawings.

1924 Breton publishes the First Manifesto of Surrealism, along with his collection of automatic writing, Soluble Fish.  Aragon's The Libertine and Vache's Letters From the Front (written to Breton during World War I) are also published. Members also included Antonin Artaud, Andre Masson, Raymond Queneau, Joan Miró, Max Morise, Pierre Naville, Mathias Lübeck, Jacques-André Boiffard and Georges Malkine. Giorgio de Chirico briefly associated with the group but never joined.

After five years (1919-24), the publication of Litterature comes to an end, as the group launches a new periodical, La Revolution Surrealiste.   A Bureau of Surrealist Enquires is opened in Paris.

Antonin Artaud, Joan Miro, Raymond Queneau, Max Morise, Pierre Naville, Jacques-Andre Boiffard and Georges Malkine join the Surrealist group.  Giorgio de Chirico also periodically participates in the group's activities.

Miro paints The Hunter and Harlequin's Carnival, while Ernst paints Woman, Old Man and Flower and Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale.

A Surrealist group in Yugoslavia forms under the leadership of Marco Ristitch.

1925 Jacques Prévert, Yves Tanguy, Pierre Brasseur, Marcel Duhamel, and Michel Leiris joined the group. Desnos writes Mourning For Mourning, a collection of automatic writing.  Artaud writes Umbilical Limbo.

The Surrealists present their first group art exhibit at Galerie Pierre in Paris.

Ernst develops "frottage," a creative approach that involves drawing (or rubbing) over a textured surface, producing unusual and automatic patterns.  His painting The Horde (1927) utilizes this technique. 

1926 Rene Magritte, E. L. T. Mesens, Camille Goemans, Marcel Lecomte, Paul Nouge and others started a Surrealist group in Belgium.

Pablo Picasso associated with the Surrealists but never officially joined. Le Cadavre Exquis (The Exquisite Corpse), an artistic game that emphasizes spontaneity and collaboration, is invented by the group. 

Man Ray directs the surrealist film Emak Bakia.  Surrealist publications include Aragon's Paris Peasant, Artaud's Nerve Scales, Eluard's Capital of Pain and Desnos' A la mysterieuse. 

1927 Andre Breton has his first flirtation with the Communist Party.  Artaud, Vitrac and Soupault are expelled from the group.  Soon after, Artaud and Vitrac form the Alfred Jarry Theater, where Artuad begins developing his thoughts concerning a Theater of Cruelty.  The company opens with a production of Vitrac's play The Secrets of Love.

Desnos writes his masterpiece Liberty or Love.  Other Surrealist literature includes Leiris' The Cardinal Point and Aragon's Irene's Cunt.

A Surrealist Gallery is opened in Paris.

1928 Un Chein Andalou, a surrealist film by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali, is screened for the first time.  Shortly after, the two Spainards join Breton and his group.  L'Etoile de Mer, a film directed by Man Ray and scripted by Robert Desnos, is also premiered.

Several important Surrealist works are written, including Breton's Nadja, Leiris' Aurora, Aragon's Treatise on Style, Peret's Mad Balls and Desnos' play La Place De La' Etoile.

A series of round table discussions are held by the Surrealists, exploring the nature of sex.  They continue, sporadically, until 1932.

An uneasy alliance develops between the Surrealists and the group Le Grand Jeu, featuring Rene Daumal, Roger Gilbert-Lecomte, Maurice Henry, Joseph Sima, Arthur Harfaux and Roger Vaillant.

The Alfred Jarry Theater presents an experimental production of Strindberg's A Dream Play, directed by Artaud.  Six months later, Vitrac's Victor, or The Children Are In Power is performed. 

Magritte paints The False Mirror, Titanic Days and The Lovers .

1929 For various reasons, including the political direction Breton was taking Surrealism, several members — Prévert, Baron, Desnos, Leiris, Limbour, Masson, Queneau, Morise, Boiffard — broke with the group and organized under Georges Bataille. However, several new members joined: Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel, Alberto Giacometti, René Char, and Lee Miller. Breton also reconciled with Tzara. When the second Surrealist Manifesto was published, it was signed by Aragon, Ernst, Buñuel, Char, Crevel, Dali, Eluard, Ernst, Péret, Tanguy, Tzara, Maxime Alexandre, Joe Bousquet, Camille Goemans, Paul Nougé, Francis Ponge, Marco Ristitch, Georges Sadoul, André Thirion, and Albert Valentin.

Federico García Lorca was friends with Dalí and Buñuel and is often called a Surrealist though he never officially joined the group; he broke contact with Dalí and Buñuel in 1929 when he interpreted their film, Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog), as an attack on him.

A number of Surrealists join the Communist Party.

Prevert, Baron, Desnos, Leiris, Limbour, Masson, Queneau, Morise and Boiffard are expelled from the group.  Several go on to collaborate with Georges Bataille on his periodical Documents.

Bunuel, Dali, Alberto Giacometti, Rene Char and Lee Miller join the Surrealists.  Tristan Tzara reconciles with Breton.

Breton writes his Second Manifesto of Surrealism, which addresses the expulsions of several ex-members.

After five years (1924-29), the publication of La Revolution Surrealiste comes to an end, as the group begins preparing a new, more politically-driven periodical  Le Surrealisme au service de la revolution.

Surrealist writings include Benjamin Peret's Death to the Pigs and Giorgio de Chirico's Hebdemeros.

Dali paints The Lugubrious Game and The Great Masturbator.

Federico Garcia Lorca studies at Columbia University in New York City.  Influenced by his close friends Bunuel and Dali, he begins a collection of surrealist poetry, Poet in New York, as well as a surrealist film script, Trip to the Moon.

A Surrealist group forms in Czechoslovakia, featuring the participation of Vitezlav Nezval, Jindrich Styrsky, Karel Teig and Toyen.

Jacques Rigaut commits suicide.

1930  The first issue of  Le Surrealisme au service de la revolution is published.

Several ex-surrealists, including Desnos, Limbour, Baron, Vitrac and Queneau, sign an anti-Breton pamphlet Un Cadavre.

L'Age d'or, a surrealist film by Bunuel (co-written with Dali) is screened, causing a riot.  Several paintings by surrealist artists, which had been exhibited in the lobby of the theater, are destroyed.

Breton and his circle begin creating surrealist objects.  Tzara completes his epic poem Approximate Man, while Breton and Eluard collaborate on The Immaculate Conception.

1931 Countless surrealist objects are created. The Surrealists join the Association des Ecrivains et Artistes Revolutionnaires (The Association of Revolutionary Writers and Artists). 

Dali paints The Persistence of Memory.  Breton writes Free Union, perhaps his most famous poem.

1932 Aragon and Georges Sadoul sever ties with the Surrealists because of the conflict between Communism and Surrealism and their dedication to the Communist party. Meret Oppenheim, Victor Brauner, Roger Caillois, Georges Hugnet, Jehan Mayoux, Henri Pastoureau, Guy Rosey, Claude Cahun and J. M. Monnerot joined the group.

Meret Oppenheim, Victor Brauner, Arthur Harfaux, Maurice Henry, Georges Hugnet, Marcel Jean and Gui Rosey, among others, join the Surrealists.

Breton writes Communicating Vessels.

1933 Breton is expelled from The Association of Revolutionary Writers and Artists for "refusing to submit to the discipline of self-criticism." 

The final issue of  Le Surrealisme au service de la revolution is published.  Breton takes part in the publication of Minotaure, a glossy magizine, which soon includes the contributions of numerous surrealists.

The group gives a show at the Salon des Surindependants, with artist Wassily Kandinsky as their guest of honor.

1934 Óscar Domínguez, Dora Maar, Richard Oelze, Gisèle Prassinos, Kurt Seligmann, and Brion Gysin joined the group.

A Surrealist group in Egypt forms under the leadership of Georges Henein.

Dali paints Atavistic Vestiges After the Rain and Mae West's Face Which May Be Used as a Surrealist Apartment.    

1935 Wolfgang Paalen, Pierre Mabille, and Jacques-B. Brunius joined the group. Hans Bellmer’s work was published in Minotaure. Bellmer begins creating a series of startling objects, photographs and drawings, which he titles The Doll. The artist continues exploring this theme for several years to come.

Brion Gysin was expelled.  The first Bulletin International du Surrealisme is published in Prague, followed by the second Bulletin International du Surrealisme in Brussels.

The Surrealists take part in the "Contre-Attaque" movement, an anti-facist "Fighting Union of Revolutionary Intellectuals."

Rene Crevel commits suicide. 

1936 Joseph Cornell debuted Rose Hobart. Though Cornell was influenced by the Surrealists and friendly with many of them, he never officially joined the group. Dalí’s negative criticism of Rose Hobart further inspired Cornell to distance himself.

An exhibit of Surrealist Objects is held at the Galerie Ch. Ratton in Paris.

The first international Surrealist exhibition is held in London, featuring the participation of several British Surrealists, including David Gascoyne, Humphrey Jennings, Henry Moore, Hughes Skys Davies, Eileen Agar, Paul Nash and Herbert Read.  The third Bulletin International du Surrealisme is published.

A Surrealist newpaper is developed in Tokyo, Japan, under the direction of Yamanaka.

Dali appears on the cover of Time magazine.  Lorca is shot to death by a Spanish nationalist.

1937 Kay Sage met Tanguy, and Leonora Carrington met Ernst. Also, Remedios Varo settled in Paris with Peret.

Breton's Mad Love is published. Artaud is interned in a mental hospital.

1938 Breton had a falling out with Eluard but reconciled with Masson.

Breton visits Mexico, meeting Leon Trotsky, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo during his stay.  He collaborates with Trotsky on the manifesto Towards a Free Revolutionary Art. Frida Kahlo is often called a Surrealist though she never officially joined. Roberto Matta, Gordon Onslow Ford and Bellmer joined the group.

The second international Surrealist exhibition is held at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts in Paris.  Belgian artist Paul Delvaux, who has created several dream-like paintings, takes part in the show.  A third exhibit is held in Amsterdam. 

Matta joins the Surrealists, while Eluard breaks with the group, devoting himself to Communism.

1939 Dali creates the Dream of Venus Surrealist Funhouse at the World's Fair in New York.  Other Surrealists travel to the United States, including Tanguy and Matta, while Wolfgang Paalen goes to Mexico.  Angered by Dali's self-promotion and commercialism, Breton creates the anagram  "Avida Dollars" for the artist.

Dali is kicked out of the group for multiple reasons including his apparent support of Francisco Franco, his commercialism, and his abrasive personality. The group essentially referred to him as if he were dead. Caillois and Hugnet also left the group.

1940 Wifredo Lam joined the group. An international Surrealist exhibition is held in Mexico. 

Germany invades France, causing many of the Surrealists to disperse.  Some make their way to the United States, while others remain in the country, fighting  for the resistance.  

1941 Breton met Aimé Césaire in Martinique. Soon after, he develops a surrealist magazine Tropiques.Breton, Ernst and Masson emigrate to the United States.  Peret joins Paalen in Mexico.

A Surrealist group emerges in Bucharest. Dali paints Soft Cell Portrait.

1942 An international Surrealist exhibition is held in New York.  The periodical VVV is published by Breton, Duchamp and others.  Breton, Duchamp, Ernst, Calas, and Carrington gained a following in New York with the publication of VVV. Newer members included Dorothea Tanning, Enrico Donati, Charles Duits, David Hare, Robert Lebel, Isabelle and Patrick Waldberg. Other artists directly influenced by the Surrealists in New York include Robert Motherwell, William Baziotes, Alexander Calder, and Frederick Kiesler  join the exiled Surrealists.

A surrealist magazine, Dyn, appears in Mexico. Dali's autobiographical book The Secret Life of Salvador Dali is published. 

1943 The View published the poetry of 15-year-old Philip Lamantia who later became acquainted with Breton and others in New York.

In Brussels, Nouge publishes Rene Magritte ou les Images defendues.

Gilbert-Lecomte dies at the age of 36. Desnos is arrested in France and is ultimately sent to a concentration camp, where he dies two years later. 

1944 Breton and Matta met with Arshile Gorky and highly praise the artist's work. Seligman left the group. Breton meets Arshile Gorky and Rene Daumal dies.  Like his close friend and colleague Gilbert-Lecomte, he is only 36. Dali's novel Hidden Faces is published.

1945 In Mexico, Peret publishes Deshonneur des poetes, a pamphlet against the patriotic poems of Aragon and Eluard, which were being distributed by the underground movement in France during the German occupation.

Dali designs the dream sequence for Alfred Hitchcock's film Spellbound.

1946 Breton returns to Paris.  Artuad is released from a mental hospital.

1947 An international Surrealist exhibition is held at the Galerie Maeght in Paris.

Breton protests a lecture given by Tristan Tzara, in which the former Dadaist criticizes Surrealism.

Breton's Arcanum 17 is published.

Artaud gives lectures in Paris and writes a radio play, To Have Done With The Judgment Of god.

1948 Peret returns to Paris. International Surrealist exhibitions are held in Prague and Santiago, Chile.

An anti-religion collective manifesto, A la niche, les glapisseurs de dieu, is published, signed by fifty-two Surrealists, including fifteen from the pre-War group.

Dali begins a series of innovative photographs with Phillippe Halsman, including Dali Atomicus and Nude With Popcorn.

Artaud's To Have Done With The Judgment Of god is shelved by French Radio the day before it is scheduled to air, on February 2, 1948.  Artaud dies one month later.

Arshile Gorky commits suicide. Matta, blamed for Gorky’s suicide, is kicked out of the group.

1949 J. Caceres, leader of the Surrealist group in Chile, dies.

Peret completes The Elegant Ewe, an automatically written book he began during the 1920s.

1950 Luis Bunuel reemerges as a prominent film maker with the release of Los Olvidados, shot in Mexico.  While the film is done in the spirit of neorealism, it does contain a memorable dream sequence.

1951 In what was called “The Carrouges affair”, Michel Carrouges, a writer associated with the Surrealists, was found to be a practicing Catholic and was expelled. Maurice Henry, Jacques Hérold, Marcel Jean, Robert Lebel, Patrick Waldberg, and Henri Pastoureau leave the group.

Dali and Phillippe Halsman create the photograph The Skull. Roger Vitrac dies.

1952 Wolfgang Paalen returns to Paris.

Surrealists work on Libertaire, a newspaper of the Anarchist Federation.  An exhibition of Surrealist art is presented in Saarbrucken.

Bunuel directs the film El in Mexico. Paul Eluard dies.

1953 Tanguy is expelled by the Surrealists.

1954 Ernst received the Grand Prix of the Venice Biennale and was subsequently expelled from the group. Dali and Phillippe Halsman publish the book of photographs Dali's Mustache. Francis Picabia dies.

1955 Bunuel directs the film The Criminal Life of Archimboldo de la Cruz in Mexico.

Tanguy dies.

1958 Peret's Natural History is published.

Oscar Dominguez commits suicide.

1959 Jean Benoît and Mimi Parent joined the group. Peret dies.  Paalen commits suicide.

1960 Ted Joans met Breton in Paris. An international Surrealist exhibition is held at the Galerie D. Cordier in Paris.

Breton and his followers protest Marcel Duchamp's decision to accept a painting by Dali at an international Surrealist exhibition in New York.

1961 Bunuel directs Viridiana in Spain.

1962 Bunuel directs The Exterminating Angel in Mexico.

1963 Tristan Tzara dies.

1964 A major surrealist exhibition is held in Paris.  Breton protests, because he was not asked to organize the exhibit.

Dali's Diary of a Genius is published.

1965 Bunuel directs Simon of the Desert in Mexico.

A major exhibition of Richard Oelze's paintings tours Germany.

1966 Andre Breton dies. 

(Over the past forty years, while various groups of surrealists have continued to appear throughout the world, in the eyes of many, Surrealism, as an organized movement, ended with the death of Breton.)

1967 Bunuel directs Belle de Jour in Paris. Rene Magritte and Paul Nouge die.

1968 Dali's Open Letter to Salvador Dali is published.

Marcel Duchamp dies.

1969 An Autobiography of Surrealism, which features a series of interviews with Andre Breton, is published.

Bunuel directs The Milky Way.

1970 Soft Cell Portrait, a documentary about Dali, is released.  The film is narrated by Orson Welles.

1972 Bunuel's film The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie wins the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

1973 The Unspeakable Confessions of Salvador Dali, a book of "confessions" as told to Andre Parinaud, is published.

1974 The Dali Theater Museum in Figueres opens. Bunuel directs The Phantom of Liberty.

1975 Hans Bellmer dies.

1976 Max Ernst and Raymond Queneau die.

1977 Man Ray dies.

1983 Bunuel writes his autobiography My Last Sigh.  He dies a few months later. Joan Miro dies.

1989 Salvador Dali dies.

1990 Michel Leiris dies.

1994 Paul Delvaux dies.

2003 The library, art work and other historical treasures that were part of Andre Breton's apartment on 42 Rue Fontaine in Paris, are sadly auctioned off, dispersing the legacy of the Surrealist Movement.  Among the items are more than 500 sheets of paper noting down the utterances emanating from the sessions of hypnotic sleep in 1922, as well as a 1924 copy of the Surrealist Manifesto, signed by Breton, Paul Eluard and Louis Aragon.  An original 1928 edition of Nadja is also included, along with letters from the Nadja, whom Breton had fallen in love with two years earlier.

2008 The original Surrealist Manifesto by Andre Breton is auctioned off in Paris, selling, along with several other documents, for 3.2 million Euros (more than 5 million dollars).  The work is now displayed in the privately-owned Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in Paris.

 

Magritte and the Belgian Surrealists 

Thursday, March 5, 2009 3:03:54 PM


“Le rendez-vous de chasse“, Bruxelles, 1934 Rene Magritte 2nd from left back row

Sitting from left to right: Irène Hamoir, Marthe Beauvoisin, Georgette Magritte. Standing from left to right: E.L.T. Mesens, René Magritte, Louis Scutenaire, André Souris, Paul Nougé.

Belgian Surrealism emerged with the publication of Correspondance in 1924, the same year as Breton's First Manifesto. The periodical was printed on different colored fliers and featured critiques of many of the French Surrealists' writing & philosophies. Other periodicals published by the group during the 1920s included Osophage, Marie and Distance.
The Belgian Surrealist group featured, among others, E.L.T. Mesens, Paul Nouge, Rene Magritte, Camille Goemans, Marcel Lecomte and, a bit later, Marcel Marien.

Several members of the Belgian Group interacted and collaborated with the French Surrealists. In fact, both Nouge and Magritte are featured in the famous 1929 photomontage of the French Surrealist members with their eyes closed, printed that year in
Le Revolution Surrealiste.

Here is an article by Patricia Allmer and Hilde Van Gelder:  

The Forgotten Surrealists: Belgian Surrealism Since 1924  
  Patricia Allmer and Hilde Van Gelder  
 

Belgian Surrealism has, until now, been marginalised by most Anglo-American explorations of Surrealism. One reason for this might be that it offers internal complexities and contradictory meanings which, however problematic, also make it a truly fascinating object of analysis and exploration. Belgian Surrealism seems to interfere with contemporary canonical approaches to the movement, which very much rely on and prefer French Surrealism. However, any understanding of Surrealism which does not consider the Belgian element remains incomplete - understandings which include this element will, in contrast, arrive at new, altered and extended definitions of what Surrealism is.

With this in mind, the Image & Narrative special issue 'The Forgotten Surrealists: Belgian Surrealism From 1924' has been conceived to offer an inaugural platform for the exploration of different aspects of the movement through bringing together and presenting essays by distinguished, international scholars. Many of the essays have grown out of the 2005 Association of Art Historians conference session with the same title. The conference session opened interesting debates and discussions and made particularly clear how important such a publication is.

Belgian Surrealism emerged with the publication of Correspondance in 1924, the same year as Breton published the First Surrealist Manifesto, the official beginning of a movement which, arguably, has been the most influential avant-garde in 20 th century art. Already in this first period of Belgian Surrealism, which can be dated from 1924 - 1926, the term comprised two distinct groupings. On one side, Paul Nougé, Camille Goemans and Marcel Lecomte (who were later joined by two musicians, Paul Hooreman and André Souris) published Correspondance, which consisted of different coloured flyers. The journal consisted of one-page tracts which, under the auspices of being 'A Reply to an Investigation on Modernism', dissected writings by Marcel Proust, Paul Valéry, André Gide and French Surrealists such as Louis Aragon, Paul Éluard, Philippe Soupault and particularly André Breton, whose theories of dreams and the unconscious were repeatedly criticised. Paul Nougé called this practice of critical enquiry 'serpigineuse' and Marcel Mariën elaborated on it as follows: "It was as if they would slip into the skin of their subjects of criticism and seize their pens - they grab the texts from their insides whilst helping themselves to the words of their subject of criticism, in order to bend these words to their own purposes" ('Der Surrealismus aus Brüsseler Sicht', 16, our translation) - a definition which could perhaps be seen as foreshadowing the practices of deconstruction and détournement.

On the other side, René Magritte and E.L.T. Mesens were still involved in the Dada mindset and together published the periodical Osophage in March 1925. Mesens's periodical Marie in June and July 1926 published Magritte alongside Lecomte, and drew together the two groupings which, can be described as the Brussels Surrealist Group. Valuable publications emerged out of this union, such as the journal Distance in 1928, and co-operations with French Surrealists like those on the special issues of Variétés in 1929, Documents in 1934 and the collective work of Violette Nozières in 1933 which brought together Breton, Char, Dali, Eluard, Mesens, Ernst, Arp and Magritte. The first elements of 'dialogism' in Belgian Surrealist artistic production, as observed in Correspondance, remained and were further cultivated into inter-textual exchanges between each other, between Belgian and French surrealism and between Belgian surrealism and its own traditions, exchanges which also formed inter-art dialogues. These are examined in a number of essays here. Ben Stoltzfus (University of California, Riverside) explores the discursive relations between Magritte and Robbe-Grillet: La Belle captive: Magritte's Surrealism, Robbe-Grillet's Metafiction, and Ainsley Brown (Princeton University) offers an insight into René Magritte and Paul Éluard: An International and Interartistic Dialogue. Silvano Levy's (University of Keele) essay explores Magritte at the Edge of Codes, while David Scott (Trinity College Dublin) examines Word & Image in Belgian Surrealist Art: The Case of Paul Delvaux. Affinities between Belgian Surrealists and the work of the Marquis de Sade are explored in Stacy Kathleen Fuessle's (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) The Belgian Surrealists and Sade: A Criminal Affinity.

However, whilst the Brussels Surrealists were, as stated above, critical of French Surrealist theories, a group of Walloon Surrealists was formed in Hainaut in 1934 which was much more receptive to French theories, and importantly organised the International Exhibition on Surrealism in La Louvière in October 1935. The Rupture Group was independent and consisted of Achille Chavée, Fernand Dumont, André Lorent, Armand Simon and Marcel Havrenne. Its dismemberment in 1938 led to Chavée, Dumont, Simon and others forming the Hainaut Group.

It is already apparent that Belgian Surrealism not only differs from French, but likewise resists being seen as a unified, coherent whole. Instead it was divided, exploring and being marked by the differences within its own history, and between Flemish and Walloon traditions and identities. Such differences triggered the formation and re-formation of different groupings which formed contrasts between each other, but also shared points of collaborations with each other as is apparent in the publication of L'Invention Collective in 1940 on which the Hainaut Group worked together with the Brussels Group. Regional significances and the impossibility of presenting Belgian Surrealism as a coherent whole is closely examined in An Paenhuysen's (University of Leuven) essay Surrealism in the Provinces: Flemish and Walloon Modernity in the Interwar Period, and Janet Styles Tyson (University of North Texas) addresses The Persistence of Mystery: René Magritte as a Regional Artist . Belgian Surrealism's international relations are addressed in Neil Matheson's (University of Westminster) Brussels-Paris-London: E.L.T. Mesens and the Surrealist International. Sebastian Hackenschmidt (MAK, Vienna) re-examines meanings of Marcel Broodthaers' bones in his essay A Material Matter: Marcel Broodthaers' Use of Bones as a Surrealist Intervention against the Political Cult of the Dead.

The complexity of Belgian Surrealism is enhanced by the formation of later groups such as the Revolutionary Surrealist Group, Cobra, Phases, Phantomas and Daily-Bul which broadened the meaning of Surrealism still further, perhaps even to that point where the ultimate Surrealist act is to be fragmented, to question and even negate itself, as Paul Nougé asserts: "Exegetes, if you want to be able to see clearly, cross out the word Surrealism." (Les Lèvres Nues)

References 
Marcel Mariën, 'Der Surrealismus aus Brüsseler Sicht' in Kunstverein und Kunsthaus Hamburg René Magritte und der Surrealismus in Belgien. Translated by Jörg Ebeling, Brussels: Leeber Hossmann (1982).

Paul Nougé, 'Journal 1941 - 1950', Les Lèvres Nues, Brussels (1968). 
 

 

The Treachery of Images  

Thursday, March 5, 2009 8:46:23 AM


 

"This Is Not A Pipe" from The Treachery of Images
René Magritte, 1929
Oil on canvas
63.5 cm × 93.98 cm (25 in × 37 in)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California

Hi,

The Treachery of Images (La trahison des images 1928–29) is a series of paintings by René Magritte, famous for its inscription Ceci n'est pas une pipe (French for "this is not a pipe"). The paintings are currently housed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in Los Angeles, California and at the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas.

The picture shows a pipe that looks as though it might come from a tobacco store advertisement. Magritte painted below the pipe: "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (This is not a pipe), which seems false but is actually true. The painting is not a pipe, but rather an image of a pipe. As Magritte himself commented: "The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture ‘This is a pipe,’ I’d have been lying!"  Magritte extends the style and effect in his 1930 painting The Key of Dreams.

Check out the article by Izabel I.S. Gass at the end of this blog.

Here's info about the 2007 exhibit in LA-Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images is the first major exhibition to explore the impact of Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte's (1898-1967) work on U.S. and European artists of the post-war generation. Featuring sixty-eight paintings and drawings by Magritte, including many international loans of his signature works, and sixty-eight works in diverse media by thirty-one contemporary artists such as Richard Artschwager, John Baldessari, Vija Celmins, Robert Gober, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, and Andy Warhol, the exhibition examines the different and sometimes unconscious ways that pop, conceptual, and post-modern sensibilities have referenced Magritte's ideas and imagery. In addition, the exhibition installation is specially designed by conceptual artist John Baldessari and includes an inventive presentation that is playful and humorous, yet provides a deep visual understanding of Magritte's work. Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images is on view at LACMA from November 19, 2006, through March 4, 2007, and will not travel to other venues.

Co-curated by Stephanie Barron, LACMA Senior Curator of Modern Art, and Michel Draguet, Director of the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, with cooperation from the Magritte Foundation, Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images goes beyond overt analogies between the work of Magritte and contemporary artists to explore the more idiosyncratic and subtle connections of visual, thematic, and philosophical references. Looking at works in a range of media from a number of decades, the exhibition reveals the ways in which Magritte's visual vocabulary and artistic strategies have seeped into our culture, and demonstrates how his subversive juxtaposition of words and images, flat painting style, and constant exploration of perception have profoundly affected subsequent generations of artists. The exhibition features works by contemporary artists Eleanor Antin, Art and Language, Richard Artschwager, John Baldessari, Mel Bochner, Marcel Broodthaers, Vija Celmins, Robert Gober, Philip Guston, Douglas Huebler, Jasper Johns, Ray Johnson, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Jeff Koons, Joseph Kosuth, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Raymond Pettibon, Sigmar Polke, Richard Prince, Robert Rauschenberg, Charles Ray, James Rosenquist, Ed Ruscha, David Salle, Jim Shaw, Andy Warhol, and Lawrence Weiner.

At the center of the exhibition is LACMA's Magritte masterpiece — The Treachery of Images (This Is Not a Pipe), (1929) — a seminal painting and popular cultural icon.

In popular culture
Countless other works of art or entertainment have made use of the phrase "Ceci n' est pas...", a translation, or a variation on the concept of the difference between an object and its image (or symbol), one example being The Simpsons couch gag for the season nineteen episode "That 90's Show" where The Simpsons are seated on the couch with the caption, "Ceci n'est pas une couch gag". "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" is also the name of a level in Lemmings 2 and in Neverball. It is also mentioned in the song "If not now, whenever" by "The Books".

Literary and cultural criticism
French literary critic and philosopher Michel Foucault discusses the painting and its paradox in his 1973 book, This is not a Pipe (English edition, 1991).

In Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, the painting is used as an introduction to the second chapter. McCloud points out that, not only is the version that appears in his book not a pipe, it is actually several printed copies of a drawing of a painting of a pipe.

Douglas Hofstadter also discusses this painting and other images like it in his book Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, a treatise on formal systems and intelligence.

Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
- Izabel I.S. Gass -

Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images, curated by John Baldessari, is a miscellany of iconic contemporary works interspersed with Belgian Surrealist René Magritte’s paintings. Like a baffling slide comparison exam, juxtaposed works require conceptual synthesis. In fact, Baldessari reported in many recent interviews that he curated the show with the pedagogical intent of asking viewers what Magritte’s relationship to contemporary art is. Playing the role of responsible pupil, the critic might venture that the very complexity of this art historical synthesis is its solution.

Just as contemporary art is a multifarious aggregation of objects, words and images indescribable by a singular essence, Magritte’s paintings espouse disunified representational strategies and subject matter. Such unrestricted artistic production descends from a common philosophical platform: what Magritte shares with contemporary art is a constructionist epistemology—the notion that categories of existence, such as male and female or art and non-art, are constructed or arbitrarily defined through socially prescribed customs and behaviors.

Constructionism opposes essentialism, the contention that categories of being are defined by eternal and universal essences. Magritte’s methodology pervades three levels of production, the first being subject matter, most saliently expressed in depictions of gender as a social construction—an interest shared by Barbara Kruger and Robert Gober. The second level is technique, as Magritte’s word-image paintings articulate the arbitrary relationship of language to the world reverberated in the contemporary by Ed Ruscha. The third aspect, historical significance, established by Magritte’s refusal for an essentialist definition of art, is echoed by conceptual artists such as Joseph Kosuth.

Constructionist depictions of gender are salient in contemporary art due to anti-essentialist Third Wave Feminism and Post-Structural gender studies led by theorist Judith Butler, who contends that gender is constituted by an individual’s active adherence to preexisting social norms rather than biological or temperamental characteristics. Kruger’s Untitled (It’s a small world but not if you have to clean it) features an obedient fifties housewife professing a relativist perspective on the value of domesticity. The ironic subversion of the title’s altruism reveals that, while men find comfort in the idea of a familial and intimate world, the archetype of such intimacy—the home—represents an overwhelming chore to the woman, who must literally perform her femininity by constantly laboring within a domestic sphere that is only a temporary refuge for male subjectivity.

While Kruger exposes “domestic bliss” as an ironically taxing imposition on feminine livelihood, Magritte’s The Titanic Days (1925) similarly portrays feminine docility as a cruelly imposed condition of life rather than an essential characteristic of the female psyche. The image of a male rapist is here superimposed on the image of a female nude (iconic of feminine subservience to male artistic authority), intimating that female passivity is a behavioral response to misogyny. Beyond merely exposing gender as constructed through social conditions, actually dismantling the binary categories of male and female is key to unraveling essentialist gender construction.

In this vein, Gober’s Untitled unites one half of a male and a female chest under a single blanket of waxy flesh, suggesting that even corporeal traits, such as nipples, navels and the wrinkled marring of aged skin, are not inherently sexually divided. Similarly, Magritte’s Elementary Cosmogony (1949) depicts a balustradelike inanimate object posed like a reclining nude with two human arms—one female and one male. In supplanting the expected corporeal with an architectural element and then confusing our ability to anthropomorphize it as distinctly male or female, Magritte outmaneuvers the essentialist binarism of gender.


Robert Gober, Untitled (Torso), 1990 Beeswax, human hair, pigment
24 1/4 x 17 x 11 inches
Collection of the artist>/p>

The assemblage of disparate visual elements in Elementary Cosmogony is representative of Magritte’s constructionist technique, stringing together images like words—and sometimes images with words—in a nonsensical syntax to create visual neologisms. This linguistic technique is especially prominent in Magritte’s so-called word-image paintings, in which visual images are paired with words in ways that question the culturally accepted relationship between language and images. The word-image paintings ultimately demonstrate that material objects (the signified) and the language or images that we use to represent them (the signifiers) do not share a particular essence but, rather, belong to distinct systems of logic and are only related through socially constructed associations.

To contrast this understanding of language with an essentialist viewpoint, German phenomenologist Martin Heidegger conversely held that every signifier shared a timeless, transcendent essence with the signified. Thus, for Heidegger, etymological inquiry revealed the purposive value of material objects, such as “home” or “technology.” Magritte turns such essentialism on its head with The Interpretation of Dreams (1935), which features images of everyday objects titled by words that do not describe them, such as the French word lune (moon) used to describe an image of a shoe. This arbitrarily reconstructed verbal/imagerial lexicon evinces that, in an alternate, oneiric state of logic, words and objects can acquire new relationships, as they are not transcendentally united.

Likewise, Magritte’s well-known painting for which the exhibit is titled, The Treachery of Images (1929), features an image of a pipe above a phrase translated as “this is not a pipe.” The painting establishes three distinct systems of logic—image, language and object—which must be actively paired and parsed to construct an intellectually ordered world. Ruscha’s Lion in Oil similarly distinguishes systems of representation from material objects: “Lion in Oil” is a palindrome, which signifies nothing outside itself but reaches a kind of meaning through internal logic—the arrangement of individual letters. While an essentialist would search for the transcendent qualities shared by a signifier and signified, such as the word and the animal ‘lion,’ Ruscha instead reveals that the word ‘lion’ belongs to a separate order of meaning distinct from the object it signifies, similar to Magritte’s pipe that is not a pipe.


Ed Ruscha, Lion in Oil, 2002
Acrylic on canvas
413 x 464 3/4 cm
Fisher Landau Center for Art

Magritte’s constructionist depictions of gender and language ultimately ally him with many conceptual artists featured in the show, none more so than with Joseph Kosuth, whose 1969 essay Art After Philosophy defined art through the tautological statement that every work of art created is itself the ever-expanding definition of art. Kosuth and his contemporaries rejected essentialist definitions of art as painterly, abstract or illusive, instead legitimizing anything an artist claims to be art. This constructionist notion of art as a social contract or public statement of authorship leads Kosuth to refuse formalist methodology in favor of linguistic presentations—communicative moments between artist and viewer such as his Definition (“Thing”).

While Marcel Duchamp is understood as the harbinger of Conceptualism for asserting that authorial intent is art, Magritte also offered something to this intellectual legacy. In maintaining legible representational strategies while upsetting traditional logic (as in his depictions of gender) and in using language to disrupt visual representation (as in his word-image paintings), Magritte dismantles both abstractive formalism and figurative narrativism from the inside out, reconstituting art as an act of unrestricted communication between artist and viewer—a constructionist triumph for art history

Quotes by Magritte 

Thursday, March 5, 2009 8:24:04 AM

Quotes by Magritte

Hi,
 
Here are a few quotes by Magritte that give some insight into his character:

Between ourselves it's terrible what one lays one self open to when drawing an innocent picture.

I make use of painting to render thoughts visible.

Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.
Commenting on his self-portrait, The Son of Man

My painting is visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question: "What does that mean?". It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.

People who look for symbolic meanings [in my work] fail to grasp the inherent poetry and mystery of the image. The image must be seen such as they are. Moreover, my paintings imply no supremacy of the invisible over the visible.

Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.

I detest my past, and anyone else's. I detest resignation, patience, professional heroism and obligatory beautiful feelings. I also detest the decorative arts, folklore, advertising, voices making announcements, aerodynamism, boy scouts, the smell of mothballs, events of the moment and drunken people.

The void is the only mystery left for man.

The present reeks of mediocrity and the atom bomb.

"Rene Magritte" excerpt by Abraham Marie Hammacher  

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 9:14:49 PM

Excerpt from "Rene Magritte" by Abraham Marie Hammacher

"René Magritte was no doubt disappointed that, aside from the small circle of his kindred spirits among the Surrealists, the world needed over a quarter of a century to discover that his work has both philosophical and poetic content which corresponds to certain social and intellectual trends, particularly of the second half of the twentieth century. Magritte's work was not easy to approach at the outset, however. He is a difficult painter, and his simplicity is misleading. A world ever more disturbed and unstable - in labor, trade, and industry, as well as in intellectual and university circles - is a world in which reason remains indispensable. Yet the irrational no longer allows itself to be thrust aside, and today it is struggling to win recognition. As a result, there is now a greater possibility, especially among the younger generation, to arrive at a better and deeper understanding of Magritte's art.

"His work makes a constant call on us to relinquish, at least temporarily, our usual expectations of art. Magritte never responds to our demands and expectations. He offers us something else instead. His friend Paul Nougé has expressed the problem better than anyone else; what he said in 1944 still holds good: "We question pictures," he said, "before listening to them, we question them at random. And we are astonished when the reply we had expected is not forthcoming."

"Magritte's work allows one to conjure up a state of being which has become rare and precious - which makes it possible to observe in silence. Reading and reflection call for silence, listening no less. Silence can be used for waiting for an illumined vision of things, and it is to this vision that Magritte introduces us.

"The fascinating and challenging images in Magritte's works stem from revelations of the mystery of the visible world. To him this world was a more than adequate source of lucid revelations, so that he did not need to draw on dreams, hallucinations, occult phenomena, cabalism. Nonetheless, preconsciousness - that is, the state before and during waking up - always played an important role in his work.

"In studying Magritte one begins to understand that attempting to solve puzzles must be avoided but the artist himself provides clues to his manner of painting and the mental process on which it is founded. Some are inclined to call this process "visual thinking. I prefer to give it no name. The term "visual thinking" is not subtle enough and involves too many misunderstandings regarding the possible subordination of the visual to thought, or vice versa. The misunderstanding caused by calling Magritte "cerebral" has also been demonstrated all too often, despite the unusually large quantity of literary, philosophical, and linguistic affinities Magritte's work suggests, and which bring us closer to their meaning. Also the term "literary" is a misconception in his case, although it is understandable because of the literary origins of the leading figures in Surrealism. Let us refrain, then, from favoring one formula or the other and instead take a frank look to see with whom, and with what, Magritte and his marvelous cabinet of instruments can be compared.

"The author who wishes to show complete respect for the struggle Magritte waged against faulty interpretations and explanations - and it was indeed a struggle - nevertheless finds he has to ignore Magritte's own personal ban. Even Magritte himself attempted to explain why he wanted no explanations.

"His pronounced hostility to the idea of the symbol in relation to his work, his undisguised dislike of psychoanalysis in particular, and his distrust of any and every interpretation naturally had reasons. He was defending the very essence of his work by adopting this attitude. If, therefore, we try to understand something of the meaning of his resistance - and Magritte never forbade us to attempt that - we shall come closer to his work by this roundabout way.

"Seeing, says Magritte, is what matters. Seeing must suffice. But what kind of seeing must it be? Of what quality? A form of understanding is possible beyond the confines of any verbal explanation, which, if it is of any use at all, must be authenticated by a way of seeing. Unfortunately, for a large proportion of the public, seeing is not sufficient. People often see things hastily and think about them carelessly; they have been educated in disciplines and traditions in which words represent ideas and have a dominant function. This function has left the realm of revelation beyond words neglected and unexplored.

"Magritte, who was a painter and a painter tout court, albeit an unusual one, was nevertheless more aware than any of his contemporaries of words and of the dubious status they had acquired. His consciousness of words is evident in both his writings and paintings. Dealing with words was a dangerous game to play, though, for by playing it he introduced the element "Word" into his painted "images." Thus, anyone seriously concerned with Magritte's work cannot avoid taking a thorough account of what Magritte sought of words in his work and of the value he attached to them.

"The simplicity in his work is a suspect simplicity. In his writings - which include general articles, a few literary pieces, and special articles on specific themes - and in the titles he gave to his works, Magritte was methodical, as he was in his painting. The unexpected is never mere caprice. Moreover, it resides not so much in Magritte as in ourselves. We are not prepared for, and we do not instantly grasp, his technique of thinking and painting. It is not recalcitrance on his part but a natural need to react to the stereotype phenomena of everyday life in a way contrary to expectation; it is a need to correct. What is more, in Magritte's work this became a discipline of feeling, thinking, and behaving which he discovered and evolved for himself. Accordingly, his method - others feel it was a discipline - is as valid a subject for our inquiry as the works themselves.

"Magritte attempted, as it were, to achieve a controlled resonance in his work. After he had finished a painting, it set up a resonance within him, in which he involved his closest friends. This resonance in the artist himself was necessarily different from that in us, who are the uninitiated in regard to his pictorial and verbal imagery. Yet, despite everything, Magritte probably attached more than usual importance to having people feel the right kind of resonance. That he could do anything about this himself was an illusion; the others were the critics, the art historians, the museums, the art dealers, the collectors, who play their own game with a variety of intentions.

"More often than not, Magritte chose ordinary things from which to construct his works - trees, chairs, tables, doors, windows, shoes, shelves, landscapes, people. He wanted to be understood via these ordinary things. Those who find him obscure should not forget that he had turned his back on the fantastic and on the immediate world of dreams. He did not seek to be obscure. On the contrary, he sought through a therapy of shock and surprise to liberate our conventional vision from its obscurity.

"...[L]et us therefore keep, so far as we can, to Magritte himself, to his own resonance, to his method. Even though his is a complex, sophisticated world in which we often lose sight of simplicity, we are able to find this simplicity again in the works themselves, a fact that can only increase our astonishment."

 

 

Rene Magritte Biography 

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 8:56:56 PM

René Magritte Biography

Hi,

This is a brief biography of René François Ghislain Magritte (November 21, 1898– August 15, 1967) who was a Belgian surrealist artist who painted around 1,300 (others list 1,600) pieces. The article is a combination of original thought and information obtained from various sources. This biography is surreal.


    Magritte with a surreal pose

I'm not a fan of abstract art. Although some images like fractals pose an awesome type of beauty and wonderment to me, real images connect me to my world. If you're not trying to say something, if you're not trying to get the viewer involved mentally and emotionally- why bother. Provoking thought is an essential element of art for me and even though some surrealist images are not to be fathomed, making me think is enough. That's why Magritte is important to me.

Magritte is poking fun at reality itself, at meaning and at our perception of reality. Sometimes he tells us that what we see is not real it's just paint on canvas. Sometime night is day and day is night. And the symbols like the egg and apple have profound meaning...well maybe not. It's just a joke you see.

Rene Magritte described his paintings saying, "My painting is visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, 'What does that mean?' It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable."

Here's an intersting paragraph from History of Art: Magritte was a painter of ideas; a painter of visible thoughts, rather than of subjects. He valued neither lyrical nor the abstraction. In his view, those artists producing such work, in presenting subject-matter, were presenting nothing worthy of a single thought, nor even deserving of one's interest. Magritte did not possess a studio in the strict sense of the word, responding maliciously to those who commented in surprise upon this that painting was done in order that it might land on the canvas, and not on the carpet, which indeed revealed not the slightest stain. The truth is that we cannot even say with any certainty whether Magritte actually enjoyed painting. He clearly liked to think in pictures; as soon as he had elaborated these thoughts with the aid of sketches and little drawings, however, he baulked at the idea of transferring them onto canvas, preferring to go and play chess in the "Greenwich", a well-known Brussels cafe. He was not as passionate a player as Man Ray or even Marcel Duchamp (who was infuriated at losing twice in a row to an eleven-year-old boy named Fischer); nevertheless, Magritte loved this form of visible mathematics more than the act of painting. Numerous anecdotes attest to his great contempt for that which Bram Bogart called "peinture-peinture" (which may be roughly translated as "painting pretty pictures") and Marcel Duchamp the class of the "retiniens" ("retina-cretinas") - in contrast to the class of the 'grey subject-matter.' "

The above paragraph from the History of Art expesses why I feel an afinity with Magritte- it's almost as if we are in some way kindred souls. If you want to get images of what exist- get a camera. Here's another example of Magritte's behavior (History of Art) that seems similar to mine:

"One day, Magritte let himself be persuaded by Georgette and a couple with whom they were friends to undertake a trip to Holland to visit an exhibition on Frans Hals, possibly the greatest master of using black in painting. Upon arriving in front of the museum, Magritte informed the others that Loulou, his little dog, did not want to see Frans Hals. And so, while his wife and their friends went round the exhibition, he waited for them in a little cafe, getting drunk on advocaat, an extremely sweet, egg-based alcoholic drink which rapidly makes one feel nauseous. He loathed so-called cultural trips. His laconic comment, upon seeing the pyramid of Cheops at Gizeh: "Yes... much as I expected." In the same way, he frequently repeated that the reproduction of a painting was all that he wanted, that he needed to see the original exactly as little as he had to read the original manuscript of books which he had read. The legacy of Dada in such jokes is unmistakable."

Magritte also liked to shock and surprise. His painting The Rape which features of a woman's face replaced by sexual attributes: breasts, belly button and pubic hair, certainly pushed the limit. To avoid a scandal this painting was hidden by a velvet curtain at the Minotaure exhibition in Brussels.

Early Life
"The void is the only great wonder of the world," once said Magritte who was born in Lessines, in the province of Hainaut, in 1898, the eldest son of Léopold Magritte, a tailor, and Adeline, a milliner. November 21, 1898. But it is in "le Pays Noir" ("the Black Country": an area of coal mines and tips) that he spent most of his childhood and adolescence, particularly in the city of Châtelet, where he studied in our school.

His father, Léopold, born in Pont-à-Celles in 1870, was a tailor while his mother, Régina Bertinchamps, born in Gilly in 1871, was a modiste till she got married in 1898. After living in Lessines for a few months, his parents decided to settle in Gilly where his younger brothers, Raymond and Paul were born, respectively in 1900 and 1902. Paul who died in 1975, was a poet, a musician and a humorist; he was always very close to René.

The whole family lived in Chatelet from 1904 to 1917, except for two temporary stays in Charleroi and Brussels in 1913 and 1916. They successively stayed at numbers 79 and 95 in the "rue des Gravelles" in Châtelet. We know very little in fact about René Magritte's youth, for this great artist was loath to look into his past. Thanks to Paul, we know that Léopold, the father, was a successful businessman who gave his family the opportunity of living handsomely and could even afford a small staff of servants. Léopold certainly had a sense of humour but must have been rather ill-natured.

The tragic end of Régina Magritte, whose body was recovered in the Sambre Feb. 23, 1912, raised a lot of questions. No doubt she deeply influenced her son's work, in which water is omnipresent along with veiled characters (when Régina's body was taken away of the water, her face was covered with her dressing gown). After Régina's death, the education of the three brothers was entrusted to servants. Châtelet retains the memory of boisterous and mischievous kids, who were not particularly brilliant at school. In Charleroi, where he studied at the present "Athénée Ernest Solvay", he is remembered as a student who showed very little interest in Latin and many other branches. It is at the 1913 Fun Fair of Charleroi that he first met the one who would become his wife in 1922: Georgette Berger.

René felt an artistic calling in Châtelet where he took his first lessons in art; Eugène Paulus, the well-known sculptor, must have been one of his teachers. In 1911 already, René completed his first great oil painting :"Chevaux dans une pâture" (Horses in a pasture) which filled his father's heart with pride [confirmed by Magritte's autobiography]. Magritte's early impressionist works date back to 1915. The very first exhibition of works by René Magritte was held in the summer of 1915, in the "Château Bolle", rue de Couillet in Châtelet. This exhibition also displayed, among others, works by Albert Chavepeyer. Between 1915 and 1920, he intermittently attended classes at the Fine Arts Academy of Brussels but took far less interest in what he was being taught than in the people he met there. 

In an interview Michael Georis of the newspaper Le Peuple asked Magritte, "When did you start you to draw, to paint?"

"As a very young person, around six or seven years," Magritte answered. "I attended later the Athenaeum of Charleroi and I liked much to draw and paint. My mother had died when I was very young. My father liked my drawings, my painting... He was benevolent and encouraged my vocation."

"Magritte retained few memories of his childhood in the province of Hainaut, where his parents' house in Lessines is today a little museum containing various documents. His memories were all the more vivid for being so few, however. His earliest recollection concerned a crate next to his cradle; it struck him as a highly mysterious object, and aroused in him that feeling of strangeness and disquiet which he would encounter again and again later in his adult life. His second recollection was connected with a manned hot air balloon which had landed on the roof of his parents' house. The manoeuvres undertaken by the men in their efforts to fetch down the enormous, empty bag, together with the leather clothing of the "aeronauts" and their earflap helmets, left him with a deep sensitivity for everything eluding immediate comprehension." [History of Art]

Magritte himself speaks of the third and last childhood recollection, with which we will concern ourselves here, in a lecture given in 1938: "During my childhood, I liked to play with a little girl in the abandoned old cemetery of a country town... We used to lift up the iron gates and go down into the underground vaults. Once, on regaining the light of day, I noticed an artist painting in an avenue of the cemetery, which was very picturesque with its broken columns of stone and its heaped-up leaves. He had come from the capital; his art seemed to me to be magic, and he himself endowed with powers from above. Unfortunately, I learnt later that painting bears very little direct relation to life, and that every effort to free oneself has always been derided by the public. Millet's Angelus was a scandal in his day, the painter being accused of insulting the peasants by portraying them in such a manner. People wanted to destroy Manet's Olympia, and the critics charged the painter with showing women cut into pieces, because he had depicted only the upper part of the body of a woman standing behind the bar, the lower part being hidden by the bar itself. In Courbet's day, it was generally agreed that he had very poor taste in so conspicuously displaying his false talent. I also saw that there were endless examples of this nature and that they extended over every area of thought. As regards the artists themselves, most of them gave up their freedom quite lightly, placing their art at the service of someone or something. As a rule, their concerns and their ambitions are those of any old careerist. I thus acquired a total distrust of art and artists, whether they were officially recognized or were endeavouring to become so, and I felt that I had nothing in common with this guild. I had a point of reference which held me elsewhere, namely that magic within art which I had encountered as a child."

Another source says: "He began lessons in drawing around 1910 in Chatelet where his family had moved- his father was also a trader which lead to a nomadic lifestyle in search of money. Magritte's first painting, a Belgian landscape was done in 1910 and is on display at the Rene Magritte Museum in Jett, a suburb of Brussels." As a young man Magritte also wrote mystery novels (under the name Renghis- a combination of his first and middle names) and poetry. He also read mystery novels. Maybe that's why his artwork is... mysterious.

Rene Magritte had two brothers, Paul and Raymond, both somewhat younger than himself. Raymond, the youngest, was a clever businessman with a practical and realistic intellect; art and poetry meant nothing to him. Even after his brother's first great successes, Raymond continued to regard him as an idiot and a "nut-case". It is true that Magritte demonstrated something of an antisocial tendency; with his rebellious temperament, he found it difficult to conform to existing conventions. One day, the King wished to give a banquet in his honour, perhaps intending to commission a picture from him; Magritte rang up the master of ceremonies a few hours before the dinner was due to begin, informing him that he had unfortunately burnt a hole in his dinner jacket with his cigarette, and would therefore be unable to participate in the festivities. He soon fell out with Raymond, whom he criticized for being bourgeois and conformist; on the other hand, he always felt very close to his other brother. Paul, who studied music with ELT Mesens, wrote popular songs, composing "Le petit nid", "Quand je t'ai donne mon coeur", and arranging two works by Georgius, "J'aime ma maison" and "Je suis blase". He also composed the music for a poem by Paul Colinet, "Marie trombone chapeau buse", a minor masterpiece every bit the equal of Satie and Fargue.

History of Art: "Paul and Rene often joined forces against Raymond during their childhood; they were both extremely interested in the love affairs of their father, who knew only too well how to console himself as a widower. They also shared a boundless love for the pleasures of the cinema, avidly following the famous Fantomas series in 1913 and 1914, which had been inspired by the novel by Souvestre and Allain. Their Thursdays and Sundays were filled with the heroic deeds of this enigmatic being. Fantomas was a sinister hero without identity, totally criminal but highly popular, who in some enviable way had succeeded in becoming revered precisely because of his disgraceful deeds. There can be no doubt that this mysterious challenge to the established order and the laws of the ruling class represented a rich source of inspiration for Magritte, one which also played a role in the subject matter of some of his pictures: one thinks, for example, of such pictures as The Return of the Flame or The Threatened Assassin."

Death of his Mother- 1912
One night in 1912, his mother Régine Bertinchamp, who suffered from depression, left the house while the rest of the family was asleep and she threw herself over a bridge, into the River Sambre. Magritte (then only 14) was reportedly present when her dead body was retrieved from the water. According to one of the many legends associated with Magritte, the image of his mother floating, her nightgown obscuring her face, influenced a 1927–1928 series of paintings of people with cloth obscuring their faces, including Les Amants and The Heart of the Matter.


Les Amants- The Lovers
(Legend associates these obscured images with his mother's suicide)


The incident was described much later by Louis Scutenaire in words which, according to Georgette, stylized the whole episode into a legend. The only recollection which Magritte himself admitted to having of the affair was that of a feeling of pride at suddenly finding himself the focal point of interest and sympathy both in the neighbourhood and among his fellow pupils at the Charleroi grammar school. It is certain that he never saw his mother's corpse, "its face covered with a nightdress". The psychological interpretations of Magritte's work by David Sylvester and others that the death of Rene's mother influenced a 1927–1928 series of paintings of people with cloth obscuring their faces, including Les Amants (The Lovers; see above) and The Heart of the Matter are unfounded. The painting that I believe deals directly with her death is his 1926 painting, "The Musings of a Solitary Walker." 
 

         "The Musings of a Solitary Walker" 1926

Magritte Recalls His Early Work- 1915
"In 1915 I attempted to regain that position which would enable me to see the world in a different way to the one which people were seeking to impose upon me," Magritte explained. "I possessed some technical skill in the art of painting, and in my isolation I undertook experiments that were consciously different from everything that I knew in painting. I experienced the pleasure of freedom in painting the most unconventional pictures. By a strange coincidence, perhaps out of pity and probably as a joke, I was given a catalogue with illustrations from an exhibition of Futurist painting. I now had before my eyes a mighty challenge directed towards that same good sense which so bored me. It was for me the same light that I had encountered as a child whenever I emerged from the underground vaults of the old cemetery where I spent my holidays."

In retrospect, the image of the little girl and little boy climbing out of an underground vault in which death is present, and then discovering a painter who is attempting to record his view of the cemetery on canvas, seems almost an advance announcement of Magritte's later career. The artist's childhood, and the dreams bound up with it, should not of course be regarded as the sole veritable key that enables us to gain access to the mysteries of creative output. It is clear that such pictures from the depths of the past cannot play a role in the creation of a work of art until they have been reappraised and reinvented with the help of and as a consequence of decisions taken, encounters made and coincidences experienced by the meanwhile mature artist. Given Magritte's concern to record in written form precisely this recollection, however, it is fair to assume that it contains elements which - in the manner of a kind of educative experience - serve to introduce us to the imaginary world of his work. The record of his childhood experience specifically mentions the sharp contrast between the view of the two children, who are in principle as far away as can be from the end of life, and the place where they are playing. A cemetery is the place par excellence in which one's memories of those no longer with us are preserved and cherished. It soon becomes clear that elements almost always appear in Magritte's pictures such as present a sharp contrast to each other, thereby triggering a shock which shakes the intellect out of its apathy and sets one to thinking. The simultaneity of day and night in his picture The Empire of Lights, probably his most famous work, makes this clear.

Georgette Berger; Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels 1913-1923
At the age of 15, Magritte met Georgette Berger, the girl who would be his future wife, model and creative muse. Here's an account of the meeting from History of Art:

"The monotony of everyday life in Charleroi was interrupted not only by the pleasures of the cinema but also by the annual fair, which took place at the Place du Manege opposite the Musee des Beaux-Arts, in direct proximity to the Palais des Beaux-Arts, home of one of Magritte's most famous frescoes, The Ignorant Fairy. The fair of 1913 was to confer a lustre upon his life for ever more. A merry-go-round salon stood between the stalls and various amusements, a fairground institution which is no longer to be found. After a turn on the wooden horses, the boys and girls would walk around hand in hand, to the strains of a Limonaire organ. This merry-go-round was among those places where boys and girls met to embark upon their first flirtations. Magritte, who was fifteen that year, invited a little girl not yet even thirteen to a round: Georgette. Her father was a butcher in Marcinelle. Love was clearly already in the air at their first rendezvous: while life was to separate the two of them for some time, they would find each other again in the end, thereafter never to be parted. When, following the death of Georgette's mother, neither she nor- even more so- her older sister, Leon-tine, could bear the thought of their widowed father remarrying, the sisters left Charleroi and moved to Brussels. They found work in an arts and crafts co-operative near the Grande Place, and settled down in the capital. Leontine married Pierre Hover, the owner of a business; Georgette, after initially remaining alone, met her Rene again in 1920 while they both were walking in the Botanical Gardens (today the Maison de la Culture). The two stayed together, and Georgette became his sole model. They were married in 1922, a year which surely represented the most decisive in Magritte's entire life, not only for the artist himself but also for the direction taken by his work."

A year later after he met Georgette, in 1915, he left her behind, when he quit high school and enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels to learn how to paint with all the "proper" techniques usually attributed to artists who worked in the figurative style, his plan was to master these techniques before breaking free of them. From then until 1920 he attended classes in Drawing, Decorative Painting and ornamental composition. Some of his early works were landscapes showing the Sambre river where his mother had committed suicide.

In 1919, Pierre-Louis Flouquet, a French artist living in Brussels, shared his workshop with René Magritte that he introduced to cubists and futurists; Magritte also got acquainted with the Antwerps avant-garde.

While studying at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, Magritte met many artists who would influence his style, amongst them were E.L.T. Mesens, Pierre Flouquet, Paul Delvaux and Piérre Bourgeois. In 1918 when Rene began work as a poster and advertisement designer for a wallpaper company at Peters Lacroix, he met the painter Victor Servranckx, who had already turned to non-figurative art. Magritte worked under the supervision of Servranckx and they had become friends and colaborators. In 1919 Magritte’s first exhibit displayed his creations in advertising, not in painting. He exhibited two ads: one for Sherlock and the other for Monnaie Butterfly. The trade fair was organized by Víctor Bourgeois and Aimé Declerq at the Belgian Galerie Centre d’Art.

After lecture on the Dutch movement by abstractionist Theo van Doesburg titled De Stijl (The Style)in February 1920, Magritte began a series of paintings exploring those principles. Around the same time Servranckx and Magritte developed an artistic style based on purism and futurism they called Cubo-Futurist which in some ways was similar to Art Deco. Then in 1922 they wrote "Pure Art: A Defence of the Aesthetic." Here's an excerpt:

APPLIED ART KILLS PURE ART: The devastation caused by applied art is considerable. In order to survive many artists waste their time on the production of applied art objects which are sold on a large scale. These mediocre works tend to satisfy the aesthetic needs of mankind. As a result people lose interest in the pure works of art of these artists to the extent that they become unsaleable. Artists should be able to support themselves with their work. (Magritte and Servranckx- 1922)


     Youth- 1924 shows Magritte alliance to futurism and the Italian artist Gino Severini (7 April 1883–26 February 1966), a leading member of the Futurist movement.


1925 Blue Cinema- By 1925 Magritte was emegering from his Cubo-Futurist style and heading towards his more mature style. This painting has an Art Deco feel to it.

That same year (1922), he made one of the most important artist discoveries of his carreer in Giorgio De Chirico's pre-surrealist works (194-1918). Rene and his friend ELT Mesens were shown a reproduction of De Chirico's The Song of Love in Les Cahiers Libres and he was so moved by the image that it moved him to tears. This provided true inspiration Magritte decided to make each of his painting a visual poem; a quality he found present in De Chirico's works.


Giorgio de Chirico- The Song of Love (1914)

According to legend Marcel Lecomte showed Magritte a reproduction of Giorgio de Chirico's painting The Song of Love (1914), and the image (above), illustrated in the Roman periodical Valori Plastici, is said to have moved him to tears. The strange juxtaposition of objects in de Chirico's work revealed to Magritte the poetic possibilities of painting, and thereafter he adopted a similar painting style.


Rene and his muse Georgette

In 1920 he met Georgette Berger Maison de la Culture, also a wallpaper artist, and they rekindled their interest in each other. She became his only model and muse. Magritte's best friend the time was the young poet Pierre Bourgeois, of whom he made several portraits. 

Magritte briefly entered miltary service in 1921 and then married Georgette in 1922. Rene sold his first painting, a portrait of the singer Evelyne Brélia in 1923. He created his first really outstanding works which are characterized by Cubo-Futurist reminiscences and the presence of a very sensual representation in which women and colors are the dominant elements. He realised that resorting to abstraction has not enabled him to 'make reality manifest.' What he wants to establish is a disturbing relationship between the world and objects as found in de Chirico's work from 1914-1918.

ELT Mesens, Dada and Surealism


René Magritte's Portrait of E.L.T. Mesens, Rene's friend and sponsor

In the 1930s E. L. T. Mesens moved to England and by 1936 directed the London Gallery. He suggested that the English Surrealists had never been worth their salt anyway, having always abstained from such direct action as driving horses into theatre foyers on first nights of distasteful plays, or "letting off revolvers in the street while distributing leaflets." Here's a bio of Magritte's benefactor who bought 200 of his paintings at one time!

Fellow Belgian ELT Mesens (Edouard Léon Théodore) (1903–1971) met Magritte in 1920 and became Magritte's close friend and eventual sponsor. Mesens started his artistic career as a musician influenced by Erik Satie (through Rene's recommendation, Mesen became Paul Magritte's piano teacher) and an author of dadaist poems. He was a publisher of the books Œesophage and Marie, both with Magritte. His activity as one of the leaders of the surrealist movement in Belgium was eased by the fact that he was an owner of a gallery, where he organised the first surrealist exhibition in Belgium in 1934. As its organiser, he also went to co-organise the London International Surrealist Exhibition which made him settle down in London. There he became the director of the London Gallery (which he ran during the late 30s and after World War II with Roland Penrose) and the chief editor of the London Bulletin (1938-1940) - which was one of the most important bulletins among the English-language Surrealist periodicals. A biography of Mesens by George Melly, Don't Tell Sybil: An Intimate Memoir of E.L.T. Mesens, was published in 1997.

Magritte and Mesens were involved in many avant-garde political movements. Dada was a reaction against the politics that lead to First World War (1916) and remained a popular artistic movement until around 1924. Both men espoused Dadaism and shortly after they met in 1920 studied Marinetti's futurism pamphets. In late 1924 the Dada movement became aligned with Surrealism and Breton's publications in October 1924. Beside political influences the psychoanalytical dogmas of both Freud (dreams and imagery) and Jung (collective unconscious) played an important role in the imagery of dreams that was the foundation of surrealism. Breton went to Vienna to secure backing for the surrealist movement from Frued but failed to do so.

By the end of 1924 Magritte and E. L. T. Mesens helped form a unified Belgian Surrealist group that included Paul Nougé, Camille Goemans, and Louis Scutenaire, an early chronicler of Magritte's art. The Surrealists, who included writers and composers too, overturned conventional notions by exercising their unconscious impulses for creative effect, and Magritte's paintings often took on a bizarre, dream-like quality. Working at a rapid rate, he investigated these new non-formalist concerns. The poet Paul Nougé became the interpreter for the Belgian group of Andre Breton's Surrealist Manifesto published in October 1924.

In August 1925 the leader of surrealism and writer of the surrealist manifesto Andre Breton visted the Belgian group. Breton was not sure of Magritte's role in the new group and Rene's seemingly ordinary paintings of reality. As his friend the poet Paul Nougé, Magritte remained attached to Belgian Surrealism but had differences with some of Breton's points regarding automatism and actualization. Despite Breton's reservations of Rene, he still used Magritte's work on the covers of two of his 1934 publications.

Dadaistic and surrealistic poetry constituted an important artistic inspiration for Magritte. In 1925Magritte co-operated the magazines Aesophage and Marie, together with E.L.T. Mesens, Jean Arp, Francis Picabia, Schwitters, Tzara and Man Ray. His close with this group of Dadaists helped him decide that he will only paint objects with all their visible detail by placing them in situations which are unfamiliar to the spectator and abandons the qualities of pictorial art in favour of a colder style that portrays images from which all aestheticism had to be removed. Nocturne is one of the first works to reveal this change of emphasis. The work contains elements from the iconography that Magritte recognises for the first time and which he will use throughout his life: the painting within a painting, the bird in flight, the fire,& the stage curtain and the use of the wooden bilboquet.


Above is Magrittes 1926 Norine Ad- note his use of the iconic bilboquet which appears in many paintings

Norine Commercial Work
Norine was run by a charismatic couple: the cultural and intellectual polymath Paul-Gustave Van Hecke, who became a patron of Magritte's art, and the grande couturière Honorine “Norine” Deschrijver. They established their couture business during World War I. For the first time, a Belgian couture house created its own designs instead of buying them from Paris, and offered an attractive and highly original local alternative. After the war, they became one of the most important couture houses in the country. Their avant-garde designs boldly transcended the modest conventionality of Belgium. The national and, to some extent, international artistic intelligentsia were their customers. The history of Belgian avant-garde fashion begins with Norine.

Norine was a prominent representative of the Modernist movement in fashion. In fact, Van Hecke and Norine’s environment was entirely modern and was a hub of Surrealism and Expressionism: their private home, Van Hecke’s art galleries and journals and the couture house’s salons featured work by national and international contemporary artists. They firmly embedded art in fashion; this symbiosis with modern art gave their creations high art status. The couture house’s beautiful graphics were conceived by Belgian artists such as Frits Van den Berghe, Leon de Smet and—most importantly, by René Magritte. Also the techniques and imagery of modern art were literally incorporated into the house’s creations. Their signature dress of the second half of the 1920s, the “robe peinte” (painted dress) displayed hand-printed Art Deco motifs. A photograph from 1925 shows us a dress that was embroidered with a Raoul Dufy composition. In addition, Norine was unique in its pioneering use of Surrealist imagery with Modernist fashions. In 1927, the embroidery on a sports ensemble refers to the work of Max Ernst. When Surrealism in fashion became well established in the late 1930s, Norine turned to Ernst’s and Man Ray’s imagery for their embroideries. Among the few extant garments (only 8 so far), we have a blouse dating from this decade of which the print mimics the vocabulary of Surrealism.

Norine enjoyed its largest success during The Roaring 20s. Funded at the expense of Van Hecke’s art business, the couture house survived the world economic crisis of the early 1930s. Even during World War II, they continued to be influential. The late 1940s saw the decline of Norine. After a persevering struggle for survival, the Van Heckes officially closed their couture house in 1952.

Bilboquets
During the 1850's in Europe, bilbo catchers or bilboquets became quite the rage for entertainment. The one shown here is of similar design and the principle is like the ball and cup. On one end of the shaft, the ball is caught in a shallow depression, requiring considerably more practice than in the ball & cup shown above. On the other end of the shaft, the hole in the ball is stuck on the pointed "spike" of the shaft. For those that thing the action cannot be done, we watched an interpreter at a historic site succeeding about 60 percent of the time on the cup end and about one out of three times on the spike end.

Creates His First Surreal Painting 1926- The Use of Words
Around 1926 Magritte saw two books of poems by Paul Eluard, illustrated by Max Ernst's superb collages. Magritte began producing surreal collages ala Max Ernst with repeated images (icons) like the balluster (also called a bilboquet: resembling a chess pawn or wooden table legs) and curtains. Whether some of these works are his first surreal works is open for debate.

At the time he worked as an assistant designer in a wallpaper factory, and was a poster and advertisement designer until 1926, when a contract with Galerie la Centaure in Brussels made it possible for him to paint full-time.The picture of The Lost Jockey from 1926 is the first work to which Magritte himself allowed the label "Surrealist" to be applied. However, there had already been initial signs beforehand heralding the artistic process for which he would later become famous. We will return to this later. The well-known bilboquets, for example, a form of baluster or oversize playing piece to which Max Ernst gave the beautiful, vivid name of "phallustrade", turn up again in the portrait of Georgette with Bilboquet , while the picture The Bather clearly demonstrates that Magritte had abandoned the Cubist technique in favour of a manner of creating pictures that was already fully Surrealist. 


The Lost Jockey (Le jockey Perdu)- 1926


The Lost Jockey (Le jockey Perdu)- 1940

In 1926, Magritte produced his first surreal painting, The Lost Jockey (Le Jockey Perdu)that contrasted oversized balasters (resembling chess pieces) with a horse and rider. The ballusters are alive with fresh braches growing from their trunks and some are set on giant chess boards. There is a curtain on the right as if the horse is riding across the stage. The second image above is the 1940 rendition, the earlier work (seen first) is a collage.

At that time, through his association with Belgian surrealists Rene developed a profound dislike for the decorative arts. He later would state: "I detest my past, and anyone else's. I detest resignation, patience, professional heroism and obligatory beautiful feelings. I also detest the decorative arts, folklore, advertising, voices making announcements, aerodynamism, boy scouts, the smell of moth balls, events of the moment, and drunken people."

As early as 1926 in his painting La Miroir Vivant Magritte began placing words in his paintings. This marks a period of about ten years where he would use written words to provoke thought about the meaning of images and words.

For Magritte this established one of his fundamental concepts: representation, that art is a represntation of an image but not the image itself. Thus in his famous painting of a pipe he writes "This is not pipe" meaning that in fact it's just a painting of a pipe. The painting is a representation of a painting. Magritte contributed an article about words and images to Breton's 1929 La Revolution Surrealiste.

Magritte held his first one-man exhibit was in Brussels in 1927, and as it was with his contemporaries, his art drew the ire of the critics and the conservative art crowd. But what made Magritte's work so special was his incredible skill at painting realistic objects and figures. The critics could not deny his talent, nor could they dismiss his work as an exercise in "laisser-faire". Like De Chirico, and Dali, he was a true technician, and a technician with soul. What set him apart from the other surrealists was his technique of juxtaposing ordinary objects in an extraordinary way; while Dali would "melt" a watch, playing with the consistency of an object (amongst other things), Magritte would leave objects intact, but play with their placement in reality, playing with logic. This technique is sometimes called Magic Realism. Of course, what really upset the critics was that Magritte's art did not provide answers, but only confusion, and questions as to why...

Magritte and Nouge designed advertising catalogues for the Samuel Furrier company (the first for the 1926- 27 season, the second for 1928). Magritte supplied the images and Nouge the words.

Paris 1927
After Magritte's first one-man show, in Brussels in 1927, was a critical failure, he moved to the Surrealist center, Paris, befriending poet Paul Eluard and André Breton, spokesman for the movement. Salvador Dali, and other artists and writers who were part of the surrealist movement also lived there. At the time Gala, who was Paul Eluard's wife, lived with Max Ernst and her husband. Paul and Gala brought Ernst to Paris in 1922. The Magritte's who became close friends with Paul Eluard helped him when Gala, who had broken off her affair with Ernst left Eluard for Dali in 1929.

Breton released his two Surrealist manifestoes in 1924 and 1929, and between these years the movement was perhaps at its most exuberant. One main inspirational source for the Surrealists was the literature of Isidore Ducasse, alias the Comte de Lautréamont, who around 1870 had written that nothing is "as beautiful a…. the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table." Later, in 1948, Magritte illustrated Lautréamont's complete works with 77 drawings which rivaled the text in strangeness.

The images and techniques of the movies were an influence on Magritte, especially the French film anti-hero Fantômas, a master of crime and disguise. Many of Magritte's works at this time, in keeping with Surrealist practices, disclosed a sinister side of human personality, as in Pleasure (1926) or The Threatened Assassin (1926-1927). Magritte met Salvadore Dali in the spring of 1929 for the filming of Un Chien Andalou. In 1929 Cadaquès, Spain, the Magritte family stays at the Dali's in the company of Paul and Gala Eluard. Magritte contributed to the final issue of the "Révolution Surréaliste."

"Psychoanalysis has nothing to say, not even about works of art, which evoke the mystery of the world. Perhaps psychoanalysis itself represents the best case for psychoanalysis." Magritte regarded it as a pseudo-science of the unconscious, a criminological and ideological starting point. As Michel Foucault - with whom Magritte had an interesting and instructive correspondence - succinctly explained, psychoanalysis aims at finally confirming existential repression by restricting desire to the family triangle, to the legally legitimized married couple. In psychoanalysis, love always means Daddy, Mummy and me! Magritte was a Surrealist from the depths of his being through his sense of amour fou, once writing: "Happy is he who betrays his own convictions for the love of a woman." He opposed Freud's theses, automatist experiences based upon the power of the unconscious, and everything that all too often in the circle around Andre Breton, the artist, threatened to become dogma and law. It was unavoidable that those artists who were obviously permeated by Surrealism would be excluded sooner or later from the Surrealist movement. Andre Masson had realized this, and himself demanded his own exclusion. Breton's reply to this was remarkable: "Why? I have never exerted any pressure upon you." "Proof, retorted Masson, "that you have exerted it upon others." Magritte, for his part, to whom Breton had written indignantly, "Your dialectics and your Surrealism enplein soleil are threadbare", answered, "Sorry, Breton, but the invisible thread is on your bobbin."

It would be possible to mention further anecdotes in this context; however, this would only do harm to the deep unanimity which served to weld together this little group of inspired people despite their various divergences, childish acts and comments. 

Philosophical and Artistic Gestures
The Treachery of Images, 1928-1929 A consummate technician, his work frequently displays a juxtaposition of ordinary objects in an unusual context, giving new meanings to familiar things. The representational use of objects as other than what they seem is typified in his painting, The Treachery of Images (La trahison des images), which shows a pipe that looks as though it is a model for a tobacco store advertisement. Magritte painted below the pipe "This is not a pipe" (Ceci n'est pas une pipe), which seems a contradiction, but is actually true: the painting is not a pipe, it is an image of a pipe. It does not "satisfy emotionally" – when Magritte once was asked about this image, he replied that of course it was not a pipe, just try to fill it with tobacco.

Magritte used the same approach in a painting of an apple: he painted the fruit realistically and then used an internal caption or framing device to deny that the item was an apple. In these Ceci n'est pas works, Magritte points out that no matter how closely, through realism-art, we come to depicting an item accurately, we never do catch the item itself.

The Break From Paris-The incident with Breton- 1929
On Dec. 14th, 1929 Magritte and Georgette were attending a dinner party at Andre Breton's house, when Breton made a comment about a cross Georgette wore around her neck. According to legend Breton (there are several versions of this event and it is generally accepted not accurate) asked that she remove the cross, a family keepsake. The Magritte's quickly left the party and the incident cause a riff between them and Breton. They broke away from the Paris surrealists and soon moved back to Brussells. This legend has been perpetuated over the years by various authors including Suzi Gablik and Pollizotti. The facts are that this minor may have been upsetting the relationship between Breton and the Magrittes along with some of the Belgium group was already strained. The Magritte's friendship with Eluard whose wife Gala left him for Dali also helped deepen the riff between the Magrittes and the Parisian group since Dali was now a central figure.

Here's a more accurate account from History of Art: One evening, when Georgette and Rene Magritte were in a taxi with Paul Eluard on their way to a meeting of the Surrealist group, Eluard drew Georgette's attention to the small golden cross which she was wearing around her neck, advising her to hide it since Breton would be sure to take offence at it. She refused, and "The Pope" indeed made reference to the un-Surrealist character of the object, prompting Magritte to decide that he and his wife would forthwith stay away from these meetings. The whole affair had blown over by the next day, however, and the Magrittes continued to attend the gatherings, along with Breton, Dali, Miro, Max Ernst and the others, while Georgette went on wearing the keepsake from her mother around her neck. With regard to relations within the group, persistent legends occasionally have a tendency to magnify small, harmless disagreements out of all proportion. The only thing of importance here is that Magritte's work is decisively Surrealist.

Magritte still waits to have a one-man exhibition but Paris is in the midst of recession after the 1929 Great Depression. The effect of the economic crisis is all too apparent to the artist. His friend Goemans is forced to close his Paris gallery and collectors and galleries become bankrupt. Magritte no longer has a steady income and his relationship with Breton has deteriorated as a result of their different interpretaions of Surrealism and what path if any it is taking. Discouraged, Magritte returns to Brussels and turns to commercial work returned to Brussells in July 1930 and the Belgium group continued to publish articles through Mesens. They remained coordial to but separate from the Paris group.

135 Esseghem Street, Jette (outskirts of Brussels)- July 1930
Magritte and his wife Georgette lived here for over two decades. They arrived in 1930, when the artist was 32, and stayed until 1954 when they moved to Schaerbeek, a suburb to the east of Jette. Magritte had already spent three years in Paris, meeting and working with others in the surrealist movement, such as Salvador Dali, but a disagreement with the movement's unofficial philosopher, André Breton, and a lack of buyers for his work, drew him back to his native Belgium.

Jette is now squeezed between the district of Heysel, with its stadium, and the "royal" suburb of Laeken (so called because the Belgian royal family has its home here, a splendid palace closed to the public). But in the 1930s, it was on the edge of the countryside. Magritte made his home here in order to be close to his brother, Paul, a pianist, and to his wife's family. He rented the ground-floor flat in order to have a garden for his dogs. But he also made use of the space to build a studio. From here, he and his brother ran their own company, Studio Dongo. They produced illustrations, advertising artwork and covers for musical scores as a means of making money while Magritte was selling few of his paintings.

The decorative taste in the house reflects Magritte's love of colour, with walls of pink and green, and a wardrobe and wooden chest, both designed by Magritte and painted bright red. Magritte made extensive use of his surroundings when he painted. The fireplace, the doors separating the sitting room from the bedroom, the windows at the front of the house, all feature in his paintings. The staircase was used, too, although in real life, unlike art, it leads to the floor above rather than coming to an abrupt halt.

The years spent in Jette were among Magritte's most prolific, and artistically his most creative, even though he met with little financial success. He painted half of his 1,600 canvases in the modest dining room that doubled up as his studio, and was also the centre of the Belgian surrealist movement.

Studio Dongo 1931-1935
After Magritte was back in Brussels in 1930, during those difficult Great Depression years, Magritte and his brother Paul set up an advertising company, Studio Dongo, named after Fabrice Del Dongo. It soon turned into a full-time professional activity for Magritte. It must be noted, however, that this activity was secondary: Magritte took it up only because he was in financial difficulty. Unfortunately, many of Magritte’s projects were rejected, and he destroyed some of them himself. Because of that, he suffered from a depression and began to hate his job. The Studio Dongo adverts faithfully follow the rules of advertising: their messages are neutral and simple. Magritte’s only concern was for efficacy, transparency, and clarity, and this is reflected in the simplicity of the ads, which simply feature the name of the brand and an illustration.The René Magritte museum is located in the house where the famous surrealistic artist lived and worked for 24 years. After 3 years in Paris, René and Georgette Magritte returned to Brussels in July 1930 and rented an apartment in the 135 Esseghem Street, Jette (outskirts of Brussels). Magritte occupied the ground floor and the garden.

In 1931 he built at the back of his garden the Studio Dongo, where he worked on his publicity projects. It was in the dining room-studio that he painted most of the time and where he created nearly half of all his paintings and gouaches. It was in this modest room that Magritte’s most creative period took place, which led to many masterworks. And that's why several elements of the house are integrated in the painter’s works.

The 135, Esseghem Street was also the headquarter of the Belgian surrealists. The painter’s friends met here weekly and organized all kinds of performances. These meetings resulted into many subversive activities, books, magazines and tracts.

It is in this house that Magritte knew his “Renoir” period, his “Vache” period and negotiations regarding exhibitions in museums. All these activities are illustrated on the first and second floors of the museum by original works, documents, objects, letters and photos. On the third floor, one can have a view of the painter’s attic.
Besides, some 30 drawings, gouaches, paintings of Magritte punctuate the journey, among which "Olympia", "La lampe d'Aladin" or "Lola de Valence", one of the best pieces of his "période vache".

This house which Magritte left in 1954 was restored between 1993 and 1999 and became a museum to pay a permanent homage to one of the most brilliant artists of all time. Although Magritte showed twice at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels in the 1930s (a one-man show of 59 works in 1933, followed by a group show with Man Ray and Yves Tanguy in 1937), he was temporarily left without a commercial outlet for his paintings on the closure of Le Centaure in 1930. The gallery’s stock of 200 recent paintings by Magritte was purchased by his friend E. L. T. Mesens, who moved in 1938 to London, where he became director of the London Gallery. Through Mesens, Magritte gained greater recognition in Great Britain.
 

When Edward James took over Magritte's Dongo Studio company around 1936, Magritte quit and devoted himself entirely to painting. Thanks to his English patron, Magritte’s art came to be recognized internationally. Consequently, when companies began to contact Magritte, it was the not the publicist they wanted to hire; they were after the painter. Under those circumstances, it is unsurprising to find that some of the Belgian artist’s ads were inspired directly by his canvases. For example, the design used for a New York perfume company, Mem, is an elaborate version of his painting La clef des songes.

Although he admired de Chirico, who found poetry in the combination of normally unrelated objects, Magritte preferred to examine unexpected encounters between objects already in some way associated with each other. In the winter of 1932–3, for instance, he painted a birdcage containing an enormous egg, titling it Elective Affinities (priv. col.; see Waldberg, p. 228), after Goethe’s novel Die Wahlverwandtschaften (1809). Often taking his titles from literature, films and musical scores on the completion of the picture, he invited friends, notably the writers Paul Nougé and Louis Scutenaire, to make suggestions. While the titles of his first Surrealistic paintings maintained a certain logic in relation to the imagery, from the 1930s words and images gradually acquired greater independence from each other, often retaining only an associative link. For example, he entitled a miniature reproduction in plaster of the Venus de Milo, a torso admired as the expression of feminine beauty in spite of the fact that it has no arms, the Copper Handcuffs (h. 370 mm, 1936; Paris, Charles Ratton priv. col.; see 1978–9 exh. cat., no. 200). Magritte continued to make frequent use of abstract forms, particularly in paintings that included texts, such as Bel Canto (1938; priv. col.; see Waldberg, p. 166), until the late 1930s. As a means of broadening the range of association, he sometimes represented an object undergoing metamorphosis into something else, as in the Red Model (1935; e.g. Stockholm, Mod. Mus.; Paris, Pompidou), in which the pointed toes of a pair of boots become the toes themselves. Such strategies, drawing attention to the relationship between inanimate and living objects, were similar to those employed by other Surrealists

The Human Condition, 1935- The Painting Within a Painting


             The Human Condition- 1935

Magritte challenges the difficulty of artwork to convey meaning with a recurring motif of an easel (painting within a painting), as in his The Human Condition series (1933, 1935) or The Promenades of Euclid (1955) (wherein the spires of a castle are "painted" upon the ordinary streets which the canvas overlooks). He wrote to André Breton about The Human Condition that it was irrelevant if the scene behind the easel was different than what was depicted upon it, "but the main thing was to eliminate the difference between a view seen from outside and from inside a room." The windows in these pictures are framed with heavy drapes, suggesting a theatrical motif. Just as theatre reflects our lives, or ideal replications of our lives, to an audience simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar with the situation, so does Magritte's artwork.

London
Edward James was an eccentric poet, collector, and patron of both Dalí and Magritte. In 1935 James visited Salvador and Gala at their home in Catalonia. Dali was invited to London to help decorate the Monkton house in Chelsea with surreal furnishings and paintings. Through an introduction from Dali, Magritte also was consulted about the interior designs. The famous lobster telephone came from James collaborations. James remained an important supporter and collector of Magritte's work and Magritte stayed with him on several occasions in London.

1939-1940 Marital Difficulties- World War II Approaches
On his trips to London to visit James and Mesens to prepare for his exhibitions, Rene had an affair with the young surrealist model known as the "Surrealist Phantom" of 1936, the artist Sheila Legg (in her mid-20s), who posed for surrealist events with Dali and others and was one of the most photographed surrealist woman at the time. Apparently this started in March 1937. As a result, Magritte himself paid several visits to London in order to work in connection with Sheila Legg. According to one source: "Magritte, in fact, fell in love with her."

A 1936 Time Magaszine article reported: [Highlight of the exhibition was Artist Salvador Dali's living design, Phantom of Sex Appeal, for which Artist Sheila Legge solemnly glided through the crowded, stuffy gallery in a tight white satin gown, her head in a wire cage covered with pink paper rosebuds, a facsimile female leg in her hand. She had substituted the leg for a pork chop prescribed by Artist Dali. 

"That get-up," a bystander whispered, "must be very hot." "Very," admitted Phantom Legge.]

Legge, who was very hot in more ways than one, was also pursued by ELT Mesens, close friend of Magritte and Director of the London Gallery. Mesens wanted her to be his secretary.

Magritte did not want to hurt Georgette or arouse her suspicions, so he arranged for his friend, Paul Colinet (1898-1957) a Belgian surrealist poet, to spend time with Georgette and keep her entertained. While Magritte was away Georgette and Paul Colinet had an affair. Georgette, much to everyone's astonishment, pursued her affair and at one point asked Rene for a divorce.  

Rene Magritte fled Brussels and his marital problems for France in May 1940, five days after German troops invaded Belgium and Holland. Georgette did not go with him. Magritte spent three months in Carcassonne, France,
with Paul Eluard and Scutenaire. When conditions allowed, Magritte returned to Brussels and reconciled with Georgette. At this point Magritte became depressed and experimented with different style perhaps to escape his emotional demons.

1940s- A Time of Change
In order to show the 'bright side of life', Magritte changed his style and began to paint the leaf-birds which we see in two works from 1942, Treasure Island and The Companions of Fear. His new style was called "Surrealism in full sunlight" (Torczyner 186) or the "Sunlit" period.


       Treasure Island- 1942

Within a year he became obsessed by a reproduction of Pierre Auguste Renoir's Bathers which started his impressionistic transformation. Enticed by the sensuality of the colors, he opted for a more luminous palette. His objects and figures were looser lacking the meticulousness detail for which he was known, unleashing color in new, warmer and more cheerful tonalities.

In the 1940s Magritte again joined the communist party, which he had joined for the third time. Magritte's political involvement was based essentially upon his spirit of opposition. All of his poster designs were rejected on principle by the party leadership, and he could not bear having to subordinate his art to an ideological party line, even one so broadly conceived. "There is no more reason for art to be Walloon than for it to be vegetarian", was his reply to those seeking to enlist him for exhibitions aimed at demonstrating regionalist interests. Ultimately, his sole, his real banner was the mystery inherent in objects, in the world, that mystery which belongs to everyone and to no one.

In 1947 Alexander Iolas, who became Magritte's principal dealer in the United States, successfully exhibits the artist's work in New York. Iolas then suggests that Magritte forget Renoir and focus his output on images which overwhelmingly appealed to the public, like Treasure Island. Obligated to come to terms with the necessities of life, Magritte creats new combinations out of old images. he became internationally famous only after signing a contract in 1948 with Alexandre Iolas, the New York dealer who remained his agent until his death. He produced several privately commissioned portraits and from 1951 to 1961 also executed one ceiling painting and three wall paintings, for which he adapted motifs from his easel pictures. Having experimented from the 1920s with black-and-white still photography, borrowing subjects from his paintings in order to record unconventional staged situations, from 1956 he also made a number of brief and often comical Surrealist films, using friends as directors and actors. In 1967 he produced a series of wax sculptures based on his paintings; eight of these, including Madame Récamier (Paris, Pompidou), after the painting by Jacques-Louis David, but with an L-shaped coffin in place of the high society figure, were cast in bronze after his death.

Later that decade, Magritte experimented with a brash Fauve-inspired style (1948) dubbed "Vache" (literally, cow), which he premiered at an exhibition at the Galerie du Faubourg, in Paris. Of course, by then, his fans had grown accustomed to his previous style, and did not appreciate the new direction he was taking. Discouraged by horrible reviews, he returned to his trademark technique, a sad bit of irony, especially in light of Magritte's contempt for the nostalgic. 

Man Ray exhibited with Magritte in Trois peintures surrealistes: Rene Magritte, Man Ray, Yves Tanguy at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, December 1937. ELT Mesens moved to London and on April 1, 1938 the London Gallery reopened under his directorship. Mesens managed to organize solo exhibitions at the Gallery for many of his surrealist friends including Magritte. Mesens gallery mission statement read "painters of the surrealist movement will be the principle feature of this gallery."

The first Surrealist Exhibition took place in London in July 1936. In 1937 Magritte was visited back to London by James to add surreal elements to his house on Wimpole St. The paintings by Magritte included La Modele Rouge II, La Jeunesse Illustre, and two portraits of James, one of which was La Reproduction Interdite.

Magritte completed Megalomania in 1948 which reveals similarities with The Marches of Summer(1938-1939): a female torso (now in three parts), weightless cubes, blue sky with clouds and a parapet.

The Domain of Arnheim, a work originally painted in 1936 is repainted in 1949. Magritte enjoys the game of juxtaposing and manipulating motifs. An image could exercise such powers of seduction that the painter felt compelled to reproduce it many times. Rather than falling into repetitive indifference, he excels in revisiting work in this way. Nowhere is this more evident than in The Dominion of Light, an evocation of the simultaneous presence of day and night, a magnetization of the contradictions dear to the Surrealists. There are sixteen versions of this work.

1950s
From 1950 onwards he is commissioned to produce some large canvasses for Edward James, a patron of surrealism in London and was also hired in 1953 to create some murals for the Casino at Knokke-Le-Zoute. The resulting mural The Enchanted Realm, reprised various themes from his iconographic repertoire. From 1952-56 Rene also becomes the director of a new artist review publication called "La carte d'après nature".

Among the paintings of this period one that gained a lot of interest was Golconda, which featured bowler hatted men in raincoats floating weightlessly in a blue sky in front of houses. The bowler hatted men although being seen before becomes his trade mark emblem and is present in many of his future works. These type of images remain through out the rest of his career.

Later Years 1960-67
In later years, he was commissioned to create large canvasses for Edward James in London, and later on, he is hired to paint murals for the casino at Knokke-le-Zoute. His hobbies are amateur cinematography and chess, and he enjoys taking walks with his wife and his dog, Lou-Lou. In 1965, New York's Metropolitan Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art hold retrospectives of his work Magritte refers to his work of the latest period (1958-1965) as his 'found children'. The iconographic elements, between them, in a reverting manner, finished by binding everything together in the last ten years of Magritte's life. Magritte is in poor health, and exhausted from his travels to the US. A year later, he spends Christmas and New Year's Eve in Cannes, with his beloved Georgette, and in 1967, he has a retrospective in Rotterdam, Holland, and an exhibit at the Iolas Gallery in Paris.

Magritte died of pancreatic cancer on August 15, 1967 and was interred in Schaarbeek Cemetery, Brussels. Popular interest in Magritte's work rose considerably in the 1960s, and his imagery has influenced pop, minimalist and conceptual art. In 2005 he came 9th in the Walloon version of De Grootste Belg (The Greatest Belgian); in the Flemish version he was 18th.

Rene Magritte, two months before his death, wrote Sarane Alexandrian a splendid letter in which he said: 'I conceive of the art of painting as the science of juxtaposing colours in such a way that their actual appearance disappears and lets a poetic image emerge. . . . There are no "subjects", no "themes" in my painting. It is a matter of imagining images whose poetry restores to what is known that which is absolutely unknown and unknowable.'

Magritte continued painting until 1967, the year of his death, leaving an unfinished painting (below). The work had been commissioned by a young German collector from Cologne, who wanted "something in the nature of Empire of the Lights; he was destined never to take possession of the picture he had ordered. The uncompleted painting would remain on its easel in the painter's house in Brussels until the death of Georgette Magritte in 1986.


Magritte's last unfinished painting: The Empire of the Lights- 1967

René Magritte described his paintings by saying, "My painting is visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, "What does that mean?" It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable."

Titles
The influence of the Fantomas figure also played a significant role in Magritte's selection of titles for his pictures. Patrick Waldberg has been able to provide evidence of the considerable importance of the titles of Magritte's pictures within his work as a whole, where their purpose may be seen as providing a counterpoint to realistic perception. For instance, the woman in the feathered hat, her face hidden by a bunch of violets, should be seen as The Great War, as an incessant conflict with that which is visible, where each object always hides another. In revealing itself, an object simultaneously conceals itself, thereby functioning as the curtain for another. Magritte was always deeply conscious of this tightrope walk between revelation and masking. Things have a flip side, a reverse, which is even more curious and fascinating than their manifested form, the facade presented to everyone, their face; and it was this reverse, this dark side, which Magritte so subtly captured and rendered visible, in defiance of all logic. Accordingly, the titles of his pictures never serve to describe or identify. On the contrary, they bring some additional infringement, some further false trail, into play, the function of which is to create a confrontation within language and the logic of words, one analogous to the confrontation arising out of the painted picture. Magritte's work is certainly representational, and yet, at the same time, it constitutes an incessant attack upon the principle of reproduction in art. What his figures thereby lose in identity, they gain in mystery and otherness. Mystery finds its way into the everyday in Magritte's art, while subversive thought becomes gentle custom. Joy is constant; every moment is a festival.

In Popular Culture
The 1960s brought a great increase in public awareness of Magritte's work. One of the means by which his imagery became familiar to a wider public was through reproduction on rock album covers; early examples include the 1969 album Beck-Ola by the Jeff Beck group (reproducing Magritte's The Listening Room), Jackson Browne's 1974 album, Late for the Sky, with artwork inspired by Magritte's L'Empire des Lumières, and the Firesign Theatre's album Just Folks . . . A Firesign Chat based on The Mysteries of the Horizon. Alan Hull of UK folk-rock band Lindisfarne used Magritte's paintings on two solo albums in 1973 and 1979. Styx adapted Magritte's Carte Blanche for the cover of their 1977 album The Grand Illusion, while the cover of Gary Numan's 1979 album The Pleasure Principle, like John Foxx's 2001 The Pleasures of Electricity, was based on Magritte's painting Le Principe du Plaisir.

Jethro Tull mentions Magritte on a 1976 album and Paul Simon's song "Rene And Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War" appears on the 1983 album Hearts and Bones. Paul McCartney, a life-long fan of Magritte, owns many of his paintings, and claims that a Magritte painting inspired him to use the name Apple for the Beatles' media corporation. Magritte is also the subject and title of a John Cale song on the 2003 album HoboSapiens.

The Son of Man, 1964
Numerous films have included imagery inspired by Magritte. The Son of Man, in which a man's face is obscured by an apple, is referenced in the 1992 film Toys, the 1999 film The Thomas Crown Affair and in the 2004 short film Ryan. In the 2004 film I Heart Huckabees, Magritte is alluded to by Bernard Jaffe (Dustin Hoffman) as he holds a bowler hat. According to Ellen Burstyn, in the 1998 documentary The Fear of God: 25 Years of "The Exorcist", the iconic poster shot for the film The Exorcist was inspired by Magritte's L'Empire des Lumières.

The Spanish television show El Planeta Imaginario (1983–1986) dedicated two episodes to René Magritte: "M, el extraño viajero" (M, the strange traveller) and "La Quimera" (The Chimera).

Magritte's painting The Treachery of Images is referred to in The Forbidden Game: The Chase, a book by L. J. Smith, in which the difference between image and reality becomes key to solving the entire conflict. The same painting (and its caption, "This is not a pipe") inspired a graphic in the video game Rayman Raving Rabbids. The online game Kingdom of Loathing refers to this painting, as well as to The Son of Man.

Artists influenced by Magritte
Contemporary artists have been greatly influenced by René Magritte's stimulating examination of the fickleness of images. Some artists who have been influenced by Magritte's works include John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Vija Celmins, Marcel Broodthaers and Martin Kippenberger. Some of the artists' works integrate direct references and others offer contemporary viewpoints on his abstract fixations.

Selected Works in Chronological Order
1920 Landscape
1922 The Station and L'Écuyère
1923 Self-portrait, Sixth Nocturne, Georgette at the Piano and Donna
1925 The Bather and The Window
1926 The Lost Jockey, The Mind of the Traveler, Sensational News, The Difficult Crossing, The Vestal's Agony, The Midnight Marriage, The Musings of a Solitary Walker, After the Water the Clouds, Popular Panorama, Landscape and The Encounter
1927 Young Girl Eating a Bird, The Oasis (started in 1925), The Meaning of Night, Let Out of School, The Man from the Sea, The Tiredness of Life, The Light-breaker, A Passion for Light, The Menaced Assassin, Reckless Sleeper, La Voleuse, The Fast Hope, L'Atlantide and The Muscles of the Sky
1928 The Lining of Sleep (started in 1927), Intermission (started in 1927), The Flowers of the Abyss, Discovery, The Lovers I & II[1] [2], The Voice of Space, The Daring Sleeper, The Acrobat's Ideas, The Automaton, The Empty Mask, Reckless Sleeper, The Secret Life and Attempting the Impossible
1929 The Treachery of Images (started in 1928), Threatening Weather and On the Threshold of Liberty
1930 Pink Belles, Tattered Skies, The Eternally Obvious, The Lifeline, The Annunciation and Celestial Perfections
1931 The Voice of the Air, Summer and The Giantess
1932 The Universe Unmasked
1933 Elective Affinities, The Human Condition and The Unexpected Answer
1934 The Rape
1935 The Discovery of Fire, The Human Condition, Revolution, Perpetual Motion, Collective Invention, The False Mirror and The Portrait
1936 Clairvoyance, The Healer, The Philosopher's Lamp, Spiritual Exercises, Portrait of Irène Hamoir, La Méditation and Forbidden Literature
1937 The Future of Statues,The Black Flag, Not to be Reproduced, Portrait of Edward James and Portrait of Rena Schitz, On the Threshold of Liberty
1938 Time Transfixed, The Domain of Arnheim and Steps of Summer
1939 Victory
1940 The Return, The Wedding Breakfast and Les Grandes Espérances
1941 The Break in the Clouds
1942 Misses de L'Isle Adam, L'Ile au Tréson, Memory, Black Magic and The Misanthropes
1943 Universal Gravitation and Monsieur Ingres's Good Days
1944 The Good Omens
1945 Treasure Island, Les Rencontres Naturelles and Black Magic
1946 L'Intellience and Les Mille et une Nuits
1947 The Cicerone, The Liberator, The Fair Captive, La Part du Feu and The Red Model
1948 Blood Will Tell, Memory, The Mountain Dweller, The Art of Life, The Pebble, The Lost Jockey, God's Solon, Shéhérazade, L'Ellipse and Famine and The Taste of Sorrow
1949 Megalomania, Elementary Cosmogany, and Perspective, the Balcony
1950 Making an Entrance, The Legend of the Centuries, Towards Pleasure, The Labors of Alexander, The Empire of Light II, The Fair Captive and The Art of Conversation
1951 David's Madame Récamier (parodying the Portrait of Madame Récamier), Pandora's Box, The Song of the Violet, The Spring Tide and The Smile
1952 Personal Values and Le Sens de la Pudeur
1953 Golconda, The Listening Room and a fresco for the Knokke Casino
1954 The Invisible World, The Explanation and The Empire of Light
1955 Memory of a Journey and The Mysteries of the Horizon
1956 The Sixteenth of September
1957 The Fountain of Youth and The Enchanted Domain
1958 The Golden Legend, Hegel's Holiday, The Banquet and The Familiar World
1959 The Castle in the Pyrenees, The Battle of the Argonne, The Anniversary, The Month of the Grape Harvest and The Glass Key
1960 The Memoirs of a Saint
1962 The Great Table, The Healer, Waste of Effort, Mona Lisa (circa 1962) and L'embeillie (circa 1962)
1963 The Great Family, The Open Air, The Beautiful Season, Princes of the Autumn, Young Love, La Recherche de la Vérité and The Telescope
1964 Evening Falls, The Great War, The Son of Man and Song of Love
1965 Carte Blanche, The Thought Which Sees, Ages Ago and The Beautiful Walk (circa 1965)
1966 The Shades, The Happy Donor, The Gold Ring, The Pleasant Truth and The Mysteries of the Horizon
1967 Les Grâces Naturelles, La Géante, The Blank Page, Good Connections, The Art of Living and several bronze sculptures based on Magritte's previous works.

Artistic Influences 

Monday, February 16, 2009 11:06:15 AM

Hi,

One goal of my blog is to look at some of the major influences on my art. There's a short list of artists that we'll spend time analyzing and they are: Leonard Da Vinci; William Blake; Vincent Van Gogh; Pablo Picasso; Gustave Dore; Salvadore Dali, Maxfield Parrish, M. C. Escher and Rene Magritte.

From that list I'd say my work and style are closest to Rene Magritte, although I certainly have not done much outside the box.  Surrealism without meaning has little appeal, if you say something but no one understands it- what good is that. If it makes you think then there is some value. That's why most abstract art, other than appealing forms and colors, does nothing for me.

Realism is important to me, even if the subject is fantastic. Using realism to portray events that don't exist is appealing to me. Copying nature exactly had no appeal- why not get a camera and do as photograph. Unless you are adding something to nature or the subject matter- why bother.

Later in the week we'll start looking at Leonardo, then got through the short list.

Richard

  

A Fig Leaf For You 

Saturday, February 14, 2009 1:01:49 AM

Now that Friday 13th is over it's time to get down to the real grit, a serious controversial topic: Nudity in Art.



Whoever was painting the little loin clothes on Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, knows what I mean. They may be dead but hopefully well clothed and hopefully in Heaven. Yes, God does not condem the narrow minded. I'm a Christian, do I think the human body is ...well...blush...beautiful? Is a flower beautiful, or a sunset, or a tree?

We can blame all the morality on the Eve and the Serpent or Pandora. Would Michelangelo would be crucified for painting all that filth in a church today? Move over Jesus, make room , make room. The great American artist Maxfield Parrish, who was the darling of high society in the 1920s, would certainly be labeled a pedophile in 2009 because there is no innocence left today. Move over Max, make room, make room. There's always a martyr nearby and anyone can be a target, how 'bout you! Move over, make room, make room. There's no beauty left in this cynical world only #$%^&^&* ugliness.

Yes, there is some nudity on my art web-site. Move over, make room, make room. Hopefully I'll only be judged by God and not by man.

Richard 

 

 

Black Cat Cross Your Path 

Friday, February 13, 2009 3:01:57 PM

Hi,

Today's Friday the 13th, what could go wrong! I've got half the site up in two days, looks like I'm going to need to take a few pics. I'm finally starting to learn how to use mojoportal the operating system.

Good luck, don't let a black cat cross your path.

Richard

 

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