Rene Magritte

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René François Ghislain Magritte (1898 - 1967), surrealist artist.

Magritte was born in Lessines in Belgium on November 21 1898. In 1912, Magritte's mother committed suicide by drowning herself in the river Sambre.

He studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. He studied there for two years, until 1918. During this period was he first met Georgette Berger, who he married in 1922.

He produced his first surrealist painting, "Le jockey perdu" in 1926, and held his first exhibition in Brussels in 1927.The exhibition was not a success: critics heaped abuse on it. Magritte was depressed by the failure of his show and he moved to Paris.

A consummate technician, his work frequently contains a juxtaposition of ordinary objects or an unusual context giving new meanings to familiar things. This representational use of objects as other than what they seem is typified by his This is Not a Pipe painting of a Pipe that looks as though it were a model for a tobacco store advertisement but seems to mean that a painting is not the object represented. We may compare this branch of surrealism - the representational one - with that of the more abstract "automatic" school as represented by, for example, Juan Miro. There is no mistaking one from the other but they are joined at the hip of surrealism.

In addition to these fantastic elements, his work is often witty and amusing, and he created a number of surrealist versions of other famous paintings.

Magritte's work was shown in the United States in New York in 1936 and again in that city in two retrospectives, one at the Museum of Modern Art in 1965, and the other at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1992.