Book: This is Magritte

The bowler-hat wearing surrealist René Magritte is the subject of a new book from Laurence King

The latest addition to publisher Laurence King’s series of illustrated biographies, This is Magritte looks at the life and work of the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte.

Born in the southern province of Hainut, Margritte grew up to be a straight, bowler-hat wearing man who painted fantastical images in the flattest style possible. His works pushed the limits of the imagination in a way that was clear, simple, and appealing, so eventually became adopted by popular culture – appearing in business logos and marketing signage alike. ‘The Son of Man’, his painting of a man in a bowler hat with an apple in front of his face, is instantly recognisable.

While the French surrealists lived off shock and controversy, Magritte lived quietly in his Brussels suburb with his wife, who he had been with for 45 years, and his Pomeranian, which he walked at the same time everyday. Magritte’s ability to bring the peaceful banality of his life into the extraordinary scenarios of his paintings made him one of the greatest surrealists of all time.

A common misconception with surrealist art was that it should portray an abstract universe. In fact, the most striking works were always connected with reality – the challenge was to create a heightened form of it.

Before his death, Magritte said, “There exists a sense of mystery, the mystery of foreign countries, the depth of the sea – the mystery of the unfamiliar. Then there is also the mystery of the familiar...”