Saturday 21 November 2020

la chamber d’écoute

Born this day in 1898 (†1967) and pictured here posing with his painting The Pilgrim, René François Ghislain Magritte, son of a haberdasher and milliner, would go on to become an influential surrealist artist, informing pop, minimalist and conception art through a long and prolific career. Classically trained at the Académie Royale des Beaux Arts in Brussels, Magritte found instruction in traditional impressionism to be uninteresting and quickly thereafter discovered cubism and futurism as a point of departure, his signature style cemented once exposed to the metaphysical, juxtaposition of Le chant d’amour (1914) by artist Giorgio de Chirico.

After a failed first exhibition in the capital in the early 1920s, Magritte relocated to Paris where his work was better received and shown in galleries alongside Salvador Dalí (previously), Pablo Picasso, Yves Tanguy and Joan Miró (see also). During the war and living in Nazi-occupied Belgium, Magritte went through a painterly transition, called his “Renoir Period,” an interlude that expressed his feelings of abandonment and besiegement, though would later renounce that darker spell and committed with fellow artists to use surrealism to promote peace and reconciliation immediately after fighting ceased. Provisionally, Magritte supported himself and his family through forging Picassos and counterfeiting bank notes (he appeared on the genuine five-hundred-franc bill until it was replaced by the euro) until the arts sector was able to get back on its feet and by 1948 was returning to his pre-war style with Golconda (the raining men in bowler hats), The Lost Jockey, The Son of Man (a pop culture homage), The Balcony, The Empire of Light series, and The Listening Room (colossal green apple taking up a whole room).