The first impulses of Surrealism started appearing one year before the end of WW I, and the new art tendency practically developed out of Dadaism. During the interwar period, it became a rather influential movement on a global scale with its followers actively exploring their dreams and the unconscious in their respective environments. There were several leading proponents of Surrealism, the Belgian artist René Magritte being one of them.
This exceptionally talented painter managed to construct impeccable and profoundly philosophical aesthetic that might seem both cathartic and puzzling. Embedded in humor and self-irony, Magritte’s paintings set the foundations of movements that arose later in the century, such as Pop art, Minimalism and Conceptual art.
The great artist was born on this day, 21 November, exactly one hundred and twenty-one years ago, and to honor him we are featuring ten of René Magritte's affordable prints, courtesy of Samhart Gallery that you can add to your collection now.
Featured image: Rene Magritte - La Trahison des Images. All images courtesy Samhart Gallery.
The first artwork on our top list is a color lithograph based on Magritte’s 1966 oil on canvas titled Decalcomanie. It depicts two of the painter’s most recurrent motifs, a bowler hat and clouds, juxtapozed in a visually challenging composition.
Decalcomania features the dry stamps of the Magritte Foundation & ADAGP, as well as a proof of edition on the back of the lithograph which is a part of the set of twenty color lithographs portfolio Magritte Lithographies IV.
La Durée poignardée or Time Transfixed was made by Magritte in 1938 and it belongs to a group of his works commissioned by the Surrealist patron Edward James. The Art Institute bought it from James in 1970 when he decided to raise funds required for the construction of his Surrealist sculpture garden Las Pozas.
The print features a locomotive coming out of a fireplace in an empty room. A tall mirror hanging above the fireplace reflects only the clock and one candlestick.
La Trahison des images or The Treachery of Images is probably Magritte’s most famous painting made in 1929; it is also known as This is Not a Pipe and The Wind and the Song, since it features an actual pipe followed by the sentence Ceci n'est pas une pipe, French for "This is not a pipe". The painting explores the relationship between words and images by stating the obvious. Various scholars cite The Treachery of Images as an example of meta-language and interpret the pipe not as a depiction of this object, but a drawing of the same.
This iconic work called Le Amants or The Lovers was painted by the artist in 1928 and is the first in a series of four variations of the same title. The affectionate gesture evokes a stereotypical cinematic close up of a kiss obscured and estranged by the faces covered with cloth. This fascination with masking is often present in the works of Surrealists; it this case the veil underlines the sacred moment of kissing while the overall impression evokes a feeling of both melancholy and tension.
La Maitre d'Ecole is a painting made by Magritte in 1955 and it can be considered as yet another self-portrait although it features a man in a blower hat with his back turned to the observer. Interestingly so, this is a nocturnal or perhaps dawn scene which is not usual for the painter.
In 1964 Magritte made the iconic painting Le Fils de l'Homme or The Son of Man which is often presented as a self-portrait. It features a figure of a man dressed in an overcoat and wearing, you guessed it, a bowler hat standing in front of a low wall with the sea and a cloudy sky beyond. The face of the man is covered by a green apple although his eyes peek over the edge of the fruit.
This 1948 work is based on Edgar Allan Poe's short story called The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade. This was not a coincidence since the painter was very fond of Poe’s storytelling. There are also a couple of other paintings that pay tribute to the master of American Gothic literature who inspired him to present the action of petrification (turning objects and people to stone).
Le Blanc Seing or The blank signature is a painting apparently driven by the domains of psychoanalysis, a discipline which influenced the development of Surrealism. It illustrates how the human mind constructs the impossibility by separating separate elements into a coherent whole, and therefore, the horse is dissected by the background grass. The final result is definitely an illusion reminiscent of the works of Henri Rousseau aimed to challenge the perception and question the reality.
The following artwork is Golconda painted in 1953; this composition features the raining men or raining male figures in trench coats and bowler hats, Magritte’s trademark, falling like raindrops or just hovering in the air, while the backdrop is apparently an urban area of red-roofed buildings and cloudy sky (yet another leitmotif). The painting is semi-autobiographical since the painter lived in a similar neighborhood and dressed similarly.
The last artwork on our top list is the 1939 color lithograph made after Magritte’s gouache on paper. It depicts an open door with a cloud lurking from it in a gradient kind of manner. With this non-figurative composition, the painter explored the thin line between reality and dream state where an image becomes easily obscured by increasing shifts in colors, shapes and unusual scenes.