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Magritte, surrealist painter and master of the imagination

A child traumatized by his mother's suicide, Magritte developed one of the most important works of the twentieth century. Lulled by Impressionism and Symbolism, his artistic personality was revealed with the advent of Dadaism. Classified among the surrealists, Magritte is above all the painter who has best illustrated the power of the imagination.

Magritte: a bereaved childhood

Magritte, whose real name is René François Ghislain Magritte, is a Belgian surrealist painter. He was born on November 21, 1898 in Lessines, Belgium. His parents, Leopold and Regina, worked as tailors and milliners. Magritte's childhood was very unstable. His parents, cornered by debts, moved incessantly to escape the creditors. Overwhelmed, his mother threw herself into the Sambre. His body was found on March 12, 1912, his white shirt folded over his face. This tragic event reappears regularly in Magritte's work (veiled faces).

Artistic training of Magritte

Magritte took his first painting course in 1910, in Chatelet. He painted his first paintings in an impressionist style. In 1916, he entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels. He then took several courses with renowned artists, including that of the symbolist Constant Montald. Later, he worked under the direction of Pierre-Louis Flouquet, who introduced him to Cubism and Futurism. He exhibited with him at the Centre d'Art de Bruxelles in 1920. From 1921 to 1924, he was employed as a draftsman in a wallpaper factory. Introduced into the Dada milieu by the writers Goemans and Lecomte, Magritte made a discovery that upset him. The painting The Song of Love by Giorgio De Chirico reveals to him the possibility of painting thought. From then on, Magritte's painting will play on the perception of the spectator, on the emotion aroused by the gap between an object and its representation.

Magritte and Surrealism

In Brussels, Magritte collaborated with writers, musicians and painters who are now considered surrealists. His first painting attributed to this movement dates from 1926 (The Lost Jockey). A major exhibition was dedicated to him in 1928, at the gallery L'Epoque (Brussels). At that time, Magritte was best known for his posters, which provided him with most of his income. In Paris, where he lived from 1927 to 1930, he also rubbed shoulders with the Surrealists, notably André Breton, Paul Eluard, Salvador Dali and Max Ernst. It was there that he painted his most famous painting, The Betrayal of the Images (This is not a pipe). The crisis of 1929 caused him to lose most of his poster contracts, and he returned to Brussels. He lived thanks to advertising contracts, from 1931 to 1936, continuing in parallel his pictorial work. He exhibited in Brussels in 1931, then in 1933. In 1936, his fame became international thanks to an exhibition in New York (Julien Levy Gallery), then in London in 1938 (London Gallery).

The Renoir and Vache periods of Magritte

Between 1943 and 1945, Magritte returned to the Impressionist technique. We speak of the Renoir period, or "in full sun". His painting was then recognized and books were published on his work. In 1948, he went through a period called Vache, during which he painted about forty paintings in garish colors. In 1954, in Brussels, a retrospective exhibition retraces his work. But it is above all the American collectors who will ensure the international success of Magritte. In 1965, he inaugurated his own retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He died at home on August 15, 1967, of cancer.