“It is a union that suggests the essential mystery of the world. Art for me is not an end in itself, but a means of evoking that mystery.” – René Magritte on putting seemingly unrelated objects together in juxtaposition (Glueck, Grace, “A Bottle Is a Bottle“; The New York Times, December 19, 1965)
Since its opening in Brussels in June 2009, I’ve wanted to visit the René Magrite Museum, but it wasn’t until this family visit trip to Belgium that I got down to it. It’s surprisingly central, just a walk from the Brussel-Centraal train station.
On the way in, I passed through giant elegant halls, some including paintings by artists René Magritte learned from. This one in particular caught my attention, by Belgian painter/sculptor Constant Montald (1862-1944): DE BRON DER INSPIRATIE (1907):
Magritte’s earliest oil paintings, which date from about 1915, were Impressionistic in style. From 1916 to 1918 he studied at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, under Constant Montald, but found the instruction uninspiring. The oil paintings he produced during the years after World War I (1918-1924) were influenced by Futurism and by the offshoot of Cubism practiced by Jean Metzinger. Most of René’s works of this period are female nudes. Read more about his path through life at http://www.rene-magritte.org/
Unfortunately, photography is not allowed (whatsoever) inside the museum and strictly enforced, but the entrance, before the security entry gate, gives a snap shot of some of the 220 master works viewable inside:
On a side note, last year I used a Magritte painting to create this collage:
I imagined this “mural” upon the stricken Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear facility as part of a “fake news” post on April 19, 2011. It incorporates the(digitally altered) famous painting ‘The Big Family’ (1963), projected upon Building 4, which could STILL become an insane menace to humanity if a 7.0+ earthquake were to crack the spent fuel pool…
No to get distracted by the surreal nuclear realities facing humanity at this moment, the Magritte Museum was absolutely worthwhile.
A quick Google Search (Images) shows many of his famous paintings:
While small in some respects, when renting the audio guide (€ 4), there’s an enormous amount to learn about how he became who he became as a painter. Since I couldn’t photograph inside, you can find much of his work online (a small selection, above).
Wikipedia: “René François Ghislain Magritte (21 November 1898 – 15 August 1967) was a Belgian surrealist artist. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images that fell under the umbrella of surrealism. His work challenges observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality.“
René Magritte described his paintings as “visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, ‘What does that mean?’. It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.“
He therefor also rejected all psychoanalytical interpretations of his paintings, which was one of the many things I didn’t know about him and which has given me a renewed interest in his very open-minded un-grasping approach to life. He let his friends pick titles for most of his work.
One of his earliest surrealist works, “The Secret Player” (1927), a turning point from when he was only 29, about which he said he had finally ‘found his way’ can be enjoyed in all its glory close-up in Brussels:
Over the years he created some sort of unique personal “visual-poetic vocabulary” with which he communicated something of the non-verbal and mysterious. Many elements, including pipes, round hats, and apple, a dove, night and day, overcast and sunny, clouds, the moon and trees,… return in many of his works.
All very inspiring…
I’m curious how the impressions will show up in my own future paintings…
The location is also superb, just a walk from the Grand Place, which I shared a couple photos of here. Center of Brussels, as seen from the museum: