Rene Magritte was
born in Lessines, Belgium, on 21 November.
Begins taking art classes in Chatelet, where he and his family
have just moved to.
Magritte's mother kills herself in the Sambre river.
Meets Georgette Berger for the first time.
Magritte quits high school and enrols at the Academy of
Fine Arts in Brussels where he attends classes in drawing,
decorative painting and ornamental composition. Undertakes
landscapes showing the Sambre river in which his mother had
killed herself. These pictures are among his first works.
Magritte's best friend is the young poet Pierre
Bourgeois, of whom he makes several portraits. They become
interested in modernity and the Italian Futurists
and invite Theo van Doesburg to give a lecture on the
Dutch movement The Style.
Magritte's exhibits his first Futurist-inspired
paintings along with works by the painter Pierre Flouquet.
Pure geometric abstraction seems too radical to Magritte
who begins to search for a different pictorial language, finding
it in Cubism and Futurism. Again meets
Marries Georgette Berger. Georgette becomes his
model and chief inspiration. He also becomes friendly with
Victor Servranckx, who had developed a very personal
geometric-abstract style. This style becomes the beginning of a
new direction for Magritte.
Creates his first really outstanding works which are
characterized by Cubo-Futurist reminiscences and the
presence of a very sensual representation in which women and
colors are the dominant elements. He realises that resorting to
abstraction has not enabled him to 'make reality manifest.' What
he wants to establish is a disturbing relationship between the
world and objects.
Magritte decides "only to paint objects with all their
visible details". By placing them in situations which are
unfamiliar to the spectator, he "challenges the real world".
Magritte abandons the plastic qualities of pictorial art in
favor of a more remote, colder style that portrays images from
which all aestheticism had to be banished. Nocturne
is one of the first works to reveal this change of emphasis.
The work contains elements from the iconography that Magritte
recognises for the first time and which he will use
throughout his life: the painting within a painting, the bird in
flight, and fire, adding to the stage curtain and to the wooden
Completes The Last Jockey which, according to
Magritte years later, was a critical milestone in his entry
into Surrealism. The piece has a mysterious feeling, an
anxiety without reason. This feeling of anxiety, which manifests
itself in dark tonalities, lugubrious shapes and mysterious
juxtaposition of objects, first appears in his work in the
Magritte and Georgette move to Paris to be closer
to where it all happens. He starts to take part in the
activities of the Surrealists and becomes friends with
Andre Breton, the self-appointed leader of the Surrealist
Magritte begins combining words and images in his
paintings. These word-pictures are not mere illustrations of an
object or a concept. On the contrary, his work is intended to
gently destabilize our mental habits of representation.
Magritte elaborates on a didactic classification of this
type of painting, the simplest which consists of denying an
images through words, or vice versa.
Magritte still waits to have a one-man exhibition. Paris
is in the midst of recession. The effect of the economic crisis
is all too apparent to the artist. His friend Goemans is
forced to close his Paris gallery and collectors and galleries
become bankrupt. Magritte no longer has a steady income
and his relationship with Breton has deteriorated as a
result of their different interpretaions of Surrealism
and what path if any it is taking. Discouraged, he returns to
Brussels and turns to commercial work.
A network of friends and sponsors support him and enable him to
sustain his daily life and to exhibit on several occasions at
the Palais des Beaux Arts. Magritte is able to pull
through these difficult years. At the same time he is earning a
reputation abroad and his work is being exhibited in one-man
shows or in group shows with other Surrealists in London,
New York and Paris. Magritte shares the Surrealist
concept of the power of desire and eroticism to 'change life'
and wants to translate this idea through his use of
unconventional images. He continues to involve metamorphosis in
his work. In Black Magic a naked woman leaning on
a rock gradually merges into the blue sky. The painter is,
nevertheless, distrustful of the obvious seduction of 'pretty
colors'. In The Rape he even pushes it to the
point of obsession with the features of a woman's face replaced
by sexual attributes: breasts, belly button and pubic hair. To
avoid a scandal this painting is hidden by a velvet curtain at
the Minotaure Exhibition in Brussels.
The 2nd World War is in full swing and the mighty German army
has swept into Belgium. Magritte goes through a crisis
resulting not just from from the German Occupation but his
precarious financial situation and a dissatisfaction with his
painting. He decides that a feeling of pleasure and an
atmosphere of happiness has to predominate over the sense of
anxiety and suffocation which had previously inhabited his work.
In order to show the 'bright side of life', Magritte
thinks about changing his iconography and begins to paint
Leaf-birds are used in two works, Treasure Island
and The Companions of Fear .
He is struck by a reproduction of
Pierre Auguste Renoir's
Bathers which leads to a decisive transformation in his
work. Enticed by the sensuality of the colors, he opts for a
more luminous palette. While continuing to draw objects and
figures with the meticulousness for which he has become known,
he adds to them a touch clearly inspired by Impressionism,
unleashing colour in new, warmer and more cheerful tonalities.
Magritte calls this period his Sunlit period.
Alexander Iolas, who became Magritte's principal
dealer in the United States, successfully exhibits the artist's
work in New York. Iolas then suggests that Magritte
forget Renoir and focus his output on images which
overwhelmingly appealed to the public, like Treasure
Island. Obligated to come to terms with the necessities
of life, Magritte creats new combinations out of old
Completes Megalomania which reveals similarities
with The Marches of Summer (1938-1939): a female
torso (now in three parts), weightless cubes, blue sky with
clouds and a parapet.
Completes The Domain of Arnheim, a work originally
painted in 1936. Magritte enjoys the game of juxtaposing
and manipulating motifs. An image could exercise such powers of
seduction that the painter felt compelled to reproduce it many
times. Rather than falling into repetitive indifference, he
excels in revisiting work in this way. Nowhere is this more
evident than in The Dominion of Light , an
evocation of the simultaneous presence of day and night, a
magnetization of the contradictions dear to the Surrealists.
There are sixteen versions of this work.
Among the works by Magritte which, beginning in the
1950's, definitively ensured his international recognition, one
becomes the subject of extraordinary interest. In Golconda
, Magritte brilliantly unites different motifs from his
repertory: small men in overcoats and bowler hats float
weightlessly in a blue sky in front of facades of houses.
Present since 1927, this bowler-hatted figure finally finds his
true dimension. He becomes Magritte's emblem par
excellence. He is present in many works after the 1950's.
Completes The intimate Friend with bowler-hatted
Completes The Great War with bowler-hatted figure.
Large retrospective of Magritte's work is held at the
Museum of Modern Art in New York, a clear manifestation of his
worldwide recognition. Magritte refers to his work of the
latest period (1958-1965) as his 'found children'. The
iconographic elements, between them, in a reverting manner,
finished by binding everything together in the last ten years of
On 15 August, Rene Magritte dies in Brussels. He is 68