Having a great influence on pop culture, minimalist and conceptual art, Rene Francois Magritte was born to humble beginnings, the eldest son of a tailor father and milliner mother. When he was just 14 years old, his mother committed suicide by throwing herself into the River Sambre near their Belgium home. Magritte witnessed rescuers pulling his mother from the river, the fabric of her dress covering her face. It is said that the vision haunted him, and was the inspiration behind a series of works he painted in the late 1920s, including his famous Les Amants.
Magrittes first surreal painting, The Lost Jockey, was painted in 1926 and featured at his first exhibition in Brussels in 1927. The exhibition was a critical failure, and the depressed Magritte moved with his wife Georgette Berger to Paris. It was there that he met AndrÃ© Breton and began his association with the surrealist community.
Magritte eventually returned to Brussels, and having been a poster and advertisement designer in the early 1920s, he formed an advertising agency with his brother. He remained in Brussels during the German occupation of Belgium during World War II, and this caused a falling out with Breton and some of the other surrealists, although Magritte continued to paint.
Magritte is best known for his juxtaposition of ordinary objects in unusual context and for giving familiar objects new translations. He also enjoyed painting objects, only to point out that the objects he painted were not actually the object. For example, both in his painting The Treachery of Images, a painting of a pipe; and another painting depicting an apple, Magritte indicates that the paintings are not the object he has painted. He wanted the observer of his work to realize that no matter how closely he captured the image of an apple, a pipe, or any other object, the painting could not actually BE that object.
Magrittes popularity grew, especially in the pop culture arena throughout the 1960s. His work was shown multiple times in New York City, including a large retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1965.
Rene Magritte died from pancreatic cancer on August 15, 1967. He is buried Schaarbeek Cemetery in his home of Brussels, Belgium.
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