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Creator / René Magritte

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It's raining men, hallelujah!

René François Ghislain Magritte (21 November 1898 – 15 August 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 Son of Man" (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.
  • Author Appeal: The nude woman who's the subject of some of Magritte's most intimate paintings (Attempting the Impossible, The Eternal Evidence) is his wife, Georgette.
  • 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. There's also Titanic Days, which depicts a naked woman being attacked by a clothed man who appears to be part of her own body.
  • Children Are Innocent: Averted with Young Girl Eating A Bird (The Pleasure), which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: His paintings often looked like a madman made them.
    • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: To be precise, they look like a madman imagined them, and a sane man painted 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 Everyman: 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.
  • Implied Death Threat: L'Assassin Menacé shows a murderer, calmly listening to a gramophone, 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. Or sideways...
  • 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.
  • 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 solved this by painting a reverse mermaid in The Collective Invention, which was human female from the navel down, and a fish from the navel up.
  • Mind Screw: By combining ordinary everyday life images and putting them in absurd situations, or making images dissolve into their environment, or images that simply don't make sense.
  • The Muse: His wife, Georgette was a subject of several of his paintings.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The titles of his paintings usually have nothing to do with the actual content. Averted with the pipe painting, which is called "The Treachery of Images". See under Word Salad Title below.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: The Collective Invention depicts a "reverse mermaid", the front half of a fish joined to the pelvis and legs of a nude woman, stranded on a beach in the least dignified way possible. It also solves the Mermaid Problem in one fell swoop.
  • 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. The same idea is executed with multiple figures in his parody of Édouard Manet's Le Balcon. Magritte also used a flower-crowned female figure, Flora, standing in a floral-patterned dress scattering flowers from Sandro Botticelli's La Primavera on Le Bouquet Tout Fait (Ready-made bouquet) where she is walking past the back of one of Magritte's typical everyday men in bowler hat.
  • Pop-Cultural 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.
    • Paul Simon's Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War, which depicted him and his wife as "immigrants" who discovered a fondness for Christopher Street and the old doo-wop groups of The '50s and The '60s, such as The Penguins and The Five Satins.
  • Postmodernism: 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.
  • Rape as Drama: Invoked in the painting The Rape, which shows a woman's face with a naked female torso in place of the face, so the eyes are breasts, the nose is a navel and the mouth is the pubic area. Depicted, kind of, in the painting Titanic Days, which puts a naked woman and a clothed man into the same body.
  • 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.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The meaning of his art is open for all sorts of interpretations...
  • The Treachery of Images: Trope Maker.
  • 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.
  • Word Salad Title: Some of the painting titles border on this. Examples include The Difficult Crossing/The Birth of the Idol, The Empty Mask and The Telescope.