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Rene Magritte Background and Artworks Research Paper


Rene Magritte’s paintings are profound and breathtaking. In the paintings, emotional feelings come out in an explicit manner. On the same, there is the use of irony, wit, and intelligence to put points across. The artworks, together with their titles, bring out the intended message clearly.

Most of the artworks are ideas from the experiences that Magritte had during his life. The experiences include the death of Magritte’s mother, the World War I and II, and the post war period.

In addition, the marriage experiences with Georgette and the attachment with a surrealist influenced his paintings. This research paper consists of Magritte’s background, artworks, ideas behind the artwork, and the way they relate with people’s lives in contemporary times.

Rene Magritte Background

Rene Magritte was “born in Lessines, in the province of Hairnut, in Belgium, in 1898” (Calvocoressi, 1990, p.6). He was a surrealist artist, and well known for his provocative paintings. He began his practical lessons of drawing in 1910 (Calvocoressi, 1990, p. 117).

Later, on 12 March 1912, his mother committed suicide and her body was found along the river bank. The face of the corpse was covered with a cloth, and other parts were not clothed (Spitz, 1994, p. 29). This influenced Magritte’s works such that, most of his works were faces covered by clothes and female naked bodies lying on the ground.

His earlier oil paintings were impressionist, in style, and most of them were finished in the year 1915. Between 1916 and 1918, he joined Academic Royale dex Beaux-arts, in Brussels. He found the studies uninspiring and thus he quit.

The works “that he produced between the years 1918 and1924 were influenced by futurism and offshoot of cubism, which was practiced by Metzinger” (Sylvester, 1992, p. 235).

In 1922, Rene married “Geogretta Berger whom they met when he was a child” (West, 1996, p. 103). Between 1922 and1923, he worked as a draughtsman and a designer of posters and advertisements. Later, in the year 1926, he released his first surreal oil paintings, “the Lost Jockey” (West, 1996, p. 103).

After his first exhibition, in Brussels, people criticized him together with his works, and full of frustration, he moved to Paris where he joined a surrealist group.

Even after Germany invading Belgium, during the World War II, Magritte remained in Brussels. Consequently, he had a feeling of discrimination and alienation, which made him have colorful painterly style.

Later in the year 1946, “he renounced his early work of violence and pessimism, and joined other Belgian artist to sign the Surrealist manifesto” (Meuris, 1991, p. 27).

In the period between 1947 and1948, he did his paintings in provocative, crude, and Fauve style. During this period, Magritte earned his living by the production of fake Picassos and notes during the post war period.

His works were exhibited in the USA, in 1936, which was followed by other exhibition, in 1965 and 1992, which were in the Museum of Modern Art, and Metropolitan Museum of art, respectively (Sylvester, 1992, p.107).

Unfortunately, Rene Magritte suffered from pancreatic cancer and passed on, in august 1957. His body was entombed in Schaerbeek Cemetery, Brussels.

Rene Magritte Artwork

As aforementioned, Rene Magritte followed surrealist standards, which made his paintings have unrealistic objects that provoked the thoughts of the viewer to the extent of questioning them. The paintings had familiar physical appearance of real objects. On the same, they had other factors that are taken for granted, which include scale, gravity, and relationship of inside out.

In his earliest work of “La trahison des images” (The Treachery of Images), in of 1929, it is unique in the sense that, it meddles with other factors of the paintings like space and scale, but the painting remain normal. A pipe seems to be suspended on the space, yet it has features of a world object.

There is also some “shade on the pipe, which the viewer could intuitively question the source of its light” (Calvocoressi, 1990, p. 108). In addition, the pipe is extraordinarily large, and the viewer regards the image as both an object and subject of painting, with both art and reality (Levy, 1997, p. 20).

When the viewer sees the image, it occurs into the mind that, the painting is a pipe. As a result, the viewer falls into pitfalls of perception because; at the bottom, the painting is inscribed, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”, (this is not a pipe). Following this, the viewer is liberated to explore the imagination that brings the real and true interpretation of the image.

The other fascinating work that Magritte had is “the Lovers”. In this one, there are two people; a male and a female, whose faces are covered with a cloth and they seem to be kissing one another, through the veils (Roisin, 1998, p. 116). The two figures are in a room with a dark side and ceiling.

The sidewall is brick red, while the ceiling is white with a decorative trim along the border of the red wall. The male figure is in a white suit, with striking white tie, and embraces a woman in red sleeveless garment (Spitz, 1994, p. 118). The figure shows that, the two people are deeply in love and are expressing it by kissing.

The red color, for the woman clad, means passion or love, while the black suit, for the man, means death. The whitish or grayish color of the veil means that the love is fading away from the two lovers (West, 1996, p. 112). Therefore, it is particularly appealing to see how this basic picture is used to show different meanings and provoke thoughts and ideas that vary.

On the same breath, there is also a painting named “Son of Man”,” which was a self-portrait; the painting shows a man, in suit and bowler hat, standing in front of a small wall beyond which there are blues skies and a sea” (Sylvester, 1992, p. 12).

An apple blocks the man’s face, but his left eye is seen over the edge of the apple. Magritte commented on the painting by saying, “at least it hides the face partly” (West, 1996, p. 20).

There is always an interest of what is hidden than what is visible, and this understanding can take different forms of feelings such as love, passion, hatred, and curiosity, which can drive the concerned party to do all what it takes to reveal the concealed.

Another breath-taking image was the “Les Mal du Pay” (homesickness) painting. This painting displays a lion and a certain male with wings over it. The lion seems relaxed; conversely, the man is leaning on the wall looking over the wall and appears decidedly unsettled.

In addition, a bulb is positioned to the left of the man (Meuris, 1991, p. 35). This painting was done when Magritte had unsettled moments back at home because the Germans had invaded his home country, Belgium; moreover, he had marital issues.

“Madame Recamier de David” is another brilliant artwork from Rene. In this image, a coffin is shaped, in an absurd way, with a gown beneath it (Allmer, 2009, p. 43).

This painting is the first coffin painting that Rene did. Rene made numerous paintings by replacing the original objects with the coffins to depict the theme of death and fear, which stands conspicuously in this painting.

“The Seducer” is another perplexing painting by Rene. In this painting, a ship floats on sea, and it is covered Sylvester, 1992, p. 56). Thus, in daily lives, people should take lessons from the experiences that come over their way rather than just pass them blindly.

Magritte works also had the theme of dominion of the light. He once told a friend that, light and night coexist together. In the paintings, most of the lessons are not learnt by observing the objects that are visible, but are provoked by the thoughts after observing the painting.

Thus, in daily lives, people should take lessons from the experiences that come over their way rather than just pass them blindly.

Magritte works also had the theme of dominion of the light. He once told a friend that, light and night coexist together. In the paintings, most of the lessons are not learnt by observing the objects that are visible, but are provoked by the thoughts after observing the painting.

The evocation of night and light brings both delight and surprise (Spitz, 1994, p. 105). As a result, in day-to-day living, people are supposed to be expectant of surprises that accompany the night, and delightful moments that come with the daylight.

On the same, Magritte’s works also explored the theme of discrimination and alienation. In the painting titled “Homesickness”, Magritte is provoked to paint such an image, by German invasion on his hometown, and the upheavals that rocked his marriage (Roisin, 1998, p. 87).

People, regardless of their origin or location, face discrimination and alienation based on different elements. Moreover, people can be discriminated because of their age, gender, tribe, size, or religion.

In addition, Magritte’s artworks unravel the theme of passion, love, and desire. In “the Lovers” painting, where two people are kissing, the theme of love comes out explicitly. The two figures are expressing their feelings of love (Meuris, 1991, p. 110).

On the same, the grayish fading veil is an indication that their relationship is on the rocks. The painting “the Seducer” indicates a dream because Magritte did not have any experience of the ship or sea. On the same token, it indicates uncontrolled desires that probably lie deep in man’s heart. In this painting, the person seeking pleasures may be riding on the painted ship (Levy, 1997, p. 113).

On the same, a sense of uncertainty accompanies this painting because; the sailors, on the ship, may either get to their destination or capsize in the sea.

In people’s lives, love is a necessity if not an obligation. People, who feel unloved, live an empty life, and they can easily commit suicide. Every moment people are presented with an opportunity to love others. In addition, either positive or negative desires drive people towards achievement of a given goal (Kaplan & Gilbert, 1982, p. 21).

Uncontrolled desires may lead to destruction; therefore, people should keep their desires under check. Lastly, people face uncertainty in virtually everything they do in this life (Fragola & Roch, 1995, p. 123); for instance, those in business risk, by investing their savings in business ventures, without having the assurance that they will plow back the benefits. Moreover, people start a family without the assurance that the family will work out for them.

Finally, from Magritte’s artworks, the viewer learns that, people can use ordinary objects to create masterpieces (Allmer, 2009, p.200). In the paintings, there was no use of complex objects, or statements, to convey message (Calvocoressi, 1990, p. 157). This means that, people do not need sophisticated objects, to be creative or innovative. Innovation can be initiated from the familiar objects that people use in day-to-day lives.


Magritte artworks were collection chefs-d’oeuvres, in their own class. The paintings did not only capture the eye of the viewer, but also provoked the thoughts at deeper levels. Every painting has a hidden meaning, which can only be revealed by evocative thinking, by the viewer.

In addition, the bewilderment, in Magritte’s paintings, left both visual and mental influence, on the viewer. Moreover, when the viewer peers beyond Magritte’s works, it becomes a reality that, the paintings are symbols or parables that carry a deeper meaning.

In a recap, Magritte achieved significantly in the art world, and his masterpieces remain relevant in the contemporary times, due to the rich message they carry.


Allmer, P. (2009). René Magritte – Beyond Painting. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Calvocoressi, R. (1990). Magritte. New York: Watson-Guptill.

Fragola, A., & Roch C. (1995). The Erotic Dream Machine: Interviews with Alain Robbe-Grillet on His Films. New York: SIU Press.

Kaplan, W., & Gilbert E. (1982). The Graphic Work of René Magritte. New York: II Editions.

Levy, S. (1997). Surrealism: Surrealist Visuality. Edinburgh: Keele University Press.

Meuris, J. (1991). René Magritte. Cologne: Benedikt Taschen.

Roisin, J. (1998). Ceci n’est pas une biographie de Magritte. Brussels: Alice Editions.

Spitz, E. (1994). Museums of the Mind. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Sylvester, D. (1992). Magritte. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.

West, S. (1996). The Bullfinch Guide to Art. UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.

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