This quiet revolutionary, who despised disorder, noise and dust, set out quietly to put things in their true poetic perspective. From 1916 to 1918 Magritte studied at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, then worked as a designer for a wallpaper manufacturer, while making abstract paintings. In 1922 he married a childhood friend, Georgette Berger, who became his devoted lifelong companion. It was after seeing a reproduction of de Chirico's Chant d’Amour, that Magritte's concept of art changed—following de Chirico's example, he sought to create unforeseen associations of figures and objects. In 1925, with E.L.T. Mesens, he published the reviews CEsophage and Marie, which reflected the new ideas in surrealism. By 1926 he was able to devote himself entirely to painting, thanks to the backing of the Le Centaure gallery. He came to live in France from 1927 to 1930, settling at Le Perreux in the suburbs of Paris, and assiduously attended the surrealists' enthusiastic meetings. During this stay in Paris, he created many works, some in large format, participated in a surrealism group exhibition at the Galerie Goemans in 1928, and collaborated in the journal Révolution surréaliste. Troubled by his friends' attacks on de Chirico's evolution, he no longer took him as his model, seeking to explore his own style and thus finding his own way. Back in Brussels, Magritte became the soul of the Belgian surrealist group, which included, among others, the poets Marcel Lecomte and Louis Scutenaire, and the theorists Paul Nouge and Marcel Mariën. He methodically developed an analogical imagery based on a painstaking observation of reality and applied it to solving intellectual problems. For example, Le Mouvement perpétuel (1934, Grosvenor Gallery, London), where a carnival strongman is lifting a dumbbell, one ball of which is his own head: or Le Thérapeute (1937), a seated man whose body is a bird cage, belong to a series of exercises that tend to negate obviousness with its opposite. From 1940 to 1946 Magritte went through an impressionist period, with an optimistic bias arising from his desire to erase the dark years of the war. Magritte wanted to abolish from his painting any "sadness, boredom, threatening objects," keeping only "charm, pleasure, sun, objects of desire." Fortunately he escaped from this dead end to return to his usual interests, treating them with an increasing rigor. This was the beginning of the blossoming of his most disturbing paintings, for example, La Philosophic dans le boudoir (1947), or his series of anthropomorphic coffins, starting with Le Balcon de Manet (1950, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Ghent). Magritte created an important fresco for the casino of Knokke-het Zoute, Le Domaine enchanté (1951-53), and assembled the best of his oeuvre in a retrospective at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, in 1954. His reputation had grown to such an extent that his 1964 exhibition in Paris at Galerie bolas was a triumph. In the catalog essay he wrote, "One has to be oblivious to what I paint to associate it with a naïve or learned symbolism. On the other hand, what I paint does not imply a supremacy of the invisible over the visible: the latter is rich enough to form the poetic language, suggestive of the mystery of the invisible and the visible." Shortly before his death, he commissioned eight subjects from his paintings to be executed in bronze.

René Magritte

Born 1898 in Lessens, Belgium; died 1967 in Brussels

Collective Invention, Oil on Canvas, 1934