Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Magritte, René

(1898-1967) Belgian artist who became one of the best-known painters of Surrealism. His most famous images are created with painstaking, almost naive realism but show jarringly symbolic discrepancies and juxtapositions. Transformations are implied in such works as "Découverte" ["Discovery"] (1927), a woman whose skin is partially wood, and "Le chant de la violette" ["The Song of the Violet"] (1951), whose business-suited men are Statues. "Tentative de l'impossible" ["Attempting the Impossible"] (1928) shows RM himself creating a living woman in paint. Various Trompe-L'oeil landscapes are obscured yet not obscured by depicted paintings of the same scene, as in "La condition humaine" ["The Human Condition"] (1933). "La durée poignardée" ["Time Transfixed"] (1938) has a railway engine bursting from a fireplace to float in mid-air; "La chambre d'écouté" ["The Listening Room"] (1952) upsets Great and Small expectations with an apple that fills a room; French loaves levitate in "La Legende dorée" ["The Golden Legend"] (1958); another apple famously obscures the face of a bowler-hatted man – RM's trademark image – in "Le fils de l'homme" ["The Son of Man"] (1964). RM constantly teases viewers with reminders that his strange subjects are only paint on canvas: hence "La trahison des images" ["The Treachery of Images"] (1929), the celebrated picture of a pipe whose inscription "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" is not a paradox but simple truth. Michael Bishop's surreal homage "A Spy in the Domain of Arnheim" (in Pictures at an Exhibition 1981 ed Ian Watson) uses a variety of RM's props as scenery. [DRL]

further reading: Magritte (graph coll 1972) ed David Larkin assembles 40 paintings; Magritte (graph coll 1992) by Sarah Whitfield reproduces many major works with commentary and bibliography.

René -François-Ghislain Magritte


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.