Rene Magritte

Magritte is a Belgian surrealist artist. He is famous for his witty and thought provoking images such as, The Treachery of Images, 1928-29. This is a painting of a pipe with the words ceci n’est pas une pipe painted underneath, which translate as 'this is not a pipe'. Of course Magritte is right. This is not a pipe, but it is a painting of a pipe.         

In the 1920s artists (inspired by philosophy) began to question the meaning of art. They realised that a painting of an object can never actually be that object. A painting is just a symbol for the object.


His Life and Art

  • On 12 March 1912, Magritte's mother died by drowning in the River Sambre. It was rumoured that Magritte, aged thirteen at the time, was present when her body was lifted out of the water with part of her clothing covering her face. It was believed that this experience was the basis for many of his paintings of people with cloth covering their faces such as, Les Amants (The Lovers), 1927-28. However more recent research has discredited this. It is now believed that the cloth covering people’s faces may symbolise the distance between people and the fact that humans never reveal their true personality. It is the idea that people are always hiding something or hiding behind something, afraid to reveal what is called their 'real selves'.
  • The earliest paintings that Magritte created dated from about 1915 and were impressionistic in style.
  • Between 1916 and 1918 Magritte studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.
  • The paintings he created from 1918 to 1924 were mostly influenced by Futurism and  Cubism.
  • The Lost Jockey (Le jockey perdu), 1926, was Magritte’s first surreal painting.
  • In 1927 Magritte moved to Paris where he became friends with Andre Breton. There, he particularly engaged with the French surrealist art movement.  After his time in Paris, he returned to Brussels. In the 1940s the Nazis invaded Belgium so Magritte fled back to France, to the south of the country.
  • Magritte died of pancreatic cancer in 1967.


Magritte's Painting Style

  • His paintings are flat and colourful, playful and humorous
  • His style is often seen as a precursor to Pop Art
  • They contain elements of fantasy and surreal reality
  • Magritte makes the everyday seem fantastical and absurd


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