Today I entered the Magritte museum as an appreciator (or so I thought) of Rene Magritte. I walked out of the museum as a huge fan.
Rene Magritte (1898-1967) was born in Belgium and attended art school. He played around with different styles and didn’t even find his signature style until he was 28. His signature style is surrealist, but it’s not the same kind as, say, Salvador Dali. While Dali was inspired by the subconscious and dreams, Magritte’s art has a lot of wordplay and challenges the viewer to interpret in different ways. He once said, “If you can analyze my paintings completely, they are not good paintings.”
One thing I like about Magritte is that he seemed like a very real guy. He looked to his wife, Georgette, for inspiration and advice on his paintings. He was conscious of the art market and what sells. (I can’t stand artists who pretend that they don’t care if they aren’t making any money. Be real. We know you care.) He said art should have a purpose, make you think, be useful. He let his poet friends help name him paintings. (Ok, so that last point isn’t that normal, but still.)
Another cool thing about Magritte was how into wordplay he was. For example, the painting above is called “Forbidden Literature.” You can read the word “siren” in the painting (the finger is the “i”). Siren is a mythological word that has many meanings. One is a woman who seduced men and led them to their death. In the painting, you can see a staircase that also leads to nothing. The painting has an air of despair about it. See? Siren!
The painting below is one of his most famous. It is called the “Treachery of Images.” Magritte was fascinated by the relationship between words and images and how they are not always the same. Is this a pipe? Yes. But also no. Magritte would’ve liked my favorite movie.
Magritte was well known in art circles for a long while, but he didn’t garner international fame until he was well into his fifties. He had to do commercial art to make money almost his entire life. The collection in the Magritte Museum in Brussels is made up mostly of donations from his wife’s personal collection and from the collection of a family friend. It is awesome and definitely a must-see for Brussels.