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René Magritte

Belgian, 1898-1967

René Magritte was born in Lessines, in the province of Hainaut, Belgium in 1898. He attended art school in Brussels, after which he worked in commercial advertising to support his experiments in painting. During his time in advertising, he developed the witty and thought-provoking style for which he became famous. By abstracting ordinary objects and giving them new meaning, his work challenges observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality.

In 1927 Magritte moved to Paris and fell in with renowned Surrealist artists such as Salvador Dali, Max Ernst and Joan Miro. It was in Paris in the mid 1920’s that he became particularly close with the founder of the movement, writer and artist Andre Breton, however the pair fell out in 1930 over a row at a dinner party. Magritte moved back to Brussels soon after, where Magritte became a leading figure in the visual Surrealist movement, with his work focusing on notions of the unconscious mind. Soon, his popularity increased allowing him pursue his art full time, and his works were celebrated in many international exhibitions. As a result, his imagery and aesthetic has influenced several artistic movements such as Minimalism, Conceptual Art, and Pop Art, most notably with Andy Warhol.

Magritte was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1963, yet despite his illness he endeavoured to explore other media aside from painting and produced both sculpture as well as film. It was during these last years of his life that the Museum of Modern Art in New York held a retrospective of his work, which opened in 1965.

He died aged 68 in Brussels, where in 2009 The Magritte Museum was opened.

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