Creator: René Magritte

It's raining men, hallelujah!

René Magritte (1898-1967) was Belgium's most famous 20th century painter. One of the icons of the surrealistic movement, he painted countless paintings with absurd images, many which have become famous, such as "The Treachery of Images" ("This is not a pipe") and the man in a bowler hat who has a floating apple in front of his face.


This painter provides examples of:

  • Alien Geometries: Magritte's paintings have no sense of normal physics. Light and darkness can happen in the same frame, people and things can float in the air, windows open to black backgrounds,...
  • Alien Sky: ''The Empire Of Light'' depicts a daytime sky over a nighttime street scene.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Magritte was a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe. A copy of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket can be seen in his painting La Reproduction Interdite'. The title of the painting Le Domain d' Arnheim was inspired by the Poe short story of the same name.
  • Author Avatar: The men in bowler hats seen in many of his paintings are self-portraits.
  • The Blank: The men in bowler hats were frequently painted without faces.
  • Body Horror: Two paintings come into mind: a female face shaped like a female body and a pipe smoking man whose nose is stuck inside his pipe.
  • Children Are Innocent: Subverted with Young Girl Eating A Bird (The Pleasure), which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: His paintings often looked like a madman made them.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Magritte once woke up from a dream and saw a bird in cage in his room. Half awake he thought he saw an egg inside the cage. This inspired him to paint "Elective Affinities", in which an egg is seen inside a cage.
    • Another painting depicts a painter (probably a self-portrait) looking at an egg and painting a bird.
  • The Every Man: Ordinary men in bowler hats and black costumes are often depicted in his work, usually unfazed by all the surrounding madness around them. Magritte himself often dressed the same way, claiming that he had no desire to stand out from the crowd.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The painting The Treachery of Images depicts a pipe with the caption "Ceci n' est pas une pipe" ("This is not a pipe"). For those of you who find this strange: indeed it is not a pipe, but a PAINTING of a pipe.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Many objects, people or animals in Magritte's paintings are hidden. Sometimes by a cloak over their heads, sometimes because an object is floating in front of their face or sometimes because it is covered by a painting that supposedly shows what's behind itself. This was a part of his gimmick, attempting to make viewers more aware of the environment around them. He also made a few paintings where things that normally hidden are part of the object, like shoes with feet on them or a dress where the breasts and vagina are visible.
  • How Do You Like Them Apples?: Hard to tell, since they keep floating in front of everybody's face, appear with masks on or blown up to huge size in his work. Sometimes they even aren't apples at all!
  • Implied Death Threat: L' Assassin Menacé shows a murderer surrounded by five men, bound to grab him.
  • It's Raining Men: Taken quite literally with Golconda and the picture above. Although, Magritte being Magritte, they might just as easily be raining up.
  • Magic Mirror: A 1937 painting shows a mirror with an illogical reflection. It simply shows a man's back again instead of showing his face. [1]
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The raining men painting is named Golconda, which is a ruined city in the state of Telangana, India, near Hyderabad, which from the mid-14th century until the end of the 17th was the capital of two successive kingdoms; the fame it acquired through being the center of the region's legendary diamond industry was such that its name remains, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "a synonym for 'mine of wealth'."
    • Les Affinités Électives was named after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Elective Affinities.
  • Mermaid Problem: Magritte once painted a reverse mermaid, having the legs of a human and the torso of a fish.
  • Mind Screw: By combining ordinary every day life images and putting them in absurd situations, or making images dissolve into their environment, or images that simply don't make sense.
  • Nice Hat: The men in his work often wear bowler hats.
  • Nonindicative Name: The titles of his paintings usually have nothing to do with the actual content. Subverted with the pipe painting, which is called "The Treachery of Images".
  • The Parody: He made a parody of Jacques-Louis David's Portrait de Madame Récamier by reproducing the painting, only with the woman inside a coffin. Magritte also used a flower-crowned female figure, Flora, standing in a floral-patterned dress scattering flowers from Sandro Botticelli's La Primavera on La Bouquet Tout Fair where she is walking past the back of one of Magritte's typical everyday men in bowler hat.
  • Popcultural Osmosis: Magritte, being the most famous Belgian painter in the world, is often used as a metaphor for the surrealism of the bi-lingual community in the country.
  • Post Modernism: He made two famous paintings Ceci n' est pas une pipe ("This is not a pipe") and Ceci n'est pas une pomme ("This is not an apple"), which do however depict a pipe and an apple. The Fridge Brilliance here is that they are indeed not a pipe or an apple, just paintings of them.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Magritte never gave much explanation about the meanings of his work, thus art historians have to go Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory with his work.
  • Selective Gravity: Certain things float on air in his paintings, like apples, trains, pipes,... but without any general consistency.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The painting L' Empire des Lumières (The Empire Of Lights) inspired the poster of The Exorcist where Father merrin is standing in front of the Mac Neil family's house at night.
    • The Son Of Man is a stolen painting seen in The Thomas Crown Affair. The protagonist of the film uses numerous accomplices, all dressed like the subject of the painting, to confuse the police while he enters the museum to apparently return the painting he stole earlier in the film. The bowler-hatted men all carry identical briefcases full of copies of The Son of Man.
    • Yes' music video to Astral Traveller also features a man who walks away from the camera and is revealed to have a large picture of an apple floating in front of his face.
    • Roger Daltrey's album cover for One Of The Boys was inspired by Magritte's La Reproduction Interdite.
    • The Beatles' company Apple was also inspired by Magritte's work.
    • The image of Son Of Man appears in Michael Jackson's music video for Scream.
    • La Chambre d' 'Écoute was used as the album cover of Beck-Ola by Jeff Beck.
    • Homer is depicted as the Son Of Man painting in The Simpsons episode Treehouse Of Horror IV.
    • The Muppet Babies episode "The Weirdo Zone" has Gonzo appearing in various parodies of Magritte paintings.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The meaning of his art is open for all sorts of interpretations...
  • World of Symbolism: Though some of Magritte's paintings were surreal for the sake of being surreal some of them do have a deeper meaning. The image of a woman with a cloak around her head in many of his paintings refers to his mother, who committed suicide by drowning herself in a river. Supposedly her dress was covering her face, when they retrieved her from the water. Recent research has cast doubt over the story of her covered face, but it's still a fact that the image appears a lot in his paintings.


Alternative Title(s):

Rene Magritte