Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Magritte: "Son of Man" and More

The blog today is about the surrealist, Rene Magritte (1898-1967). Even if you're not familiar with his body of work, I bet you've seen his famous "Son of Man" shown here on the left. It's been featured in ads as well as movies such as "The Thomas Crown Affair." In spite of the fame of this piece, most of us know almost nothing about him.

Magritte's upbringing was a difficult one. He was a Belgian native whose father was often down on his luck. Finances caused the family to move frequently. Magritte's early trials were made emotionally harder by his mother's many suicide attempts. She finally drowned herself when Magritte was 13 years old. (Legend has it that when she was found her dress was covering her face and that it led to the many faceless or cloth-covered faces in Magritte's paintings.)

When Magritte was 18, he went to the Academy of Art and studied for two years. He found the classic training boring and soon began to experiment with other techniques. Throughout his life, whenever he decided to investigate other styles, he'd always return to Surrealism.

Magritte didn't like to have realistic definitions given to the objects in his paintings. However, since "surreal" is a dreamlike or subconscious state, what do you think he's portraying in his paintings?


"GOLCONDE" (Goldone=a once great city in India now in ruins)





  1. "Lovers" seems to me to be a statement of how little we know about the person we "love." Magritte must have been an interesting and complex man. Think I'd like to read his full bio. Harry J.

  2. I think "Lovers" is telling. I mean who is the person we fall in "love" with? Magritte seems a very complex and interesting man. Harry J.

  3. Can't say I get what's the subconscious meaning behind Family, but I sure like it.

  4. loved this blog...such a great artist...perhaps in this he is saying that no matter how close or intimate people are , their true self is hidden... We never really know who the other person is.
    After the trauma of his childhood it isnt surprising that he came to this conclusion...and how true. I love the native american proverb that you can never judge a man unless you have walked 20,000 miles in his mocassins.
    In all of us the essence is unknown...the least we can do is at least to know ourselves. Jackie

    1. I agree with you that nobody really ever knows anyone else. I also think he extended it to everything. By that I mean he didn't limit it to personal relationships, but also to everything that we file under "reality." It reminds me of a one-woman play of Lily Tomlin where she played different characters. One of them was Trudy the Bag Lady who said, "What is reality anyway but a collective hunch?" Perhaps Magritte was exposed to a different reality with his mother. I can't put all my research on an artist in a short blog, but she was actually locked in her room in the family home to try to keep her from committing suicide. That was part of Margritte's reality. It's no wonder his work is technically precise yet the subjects are in the world of surrealism.