7 Quotes from René Magritte on his Birthday

He created visual poetics with paint.

As a pillar of Surrealism, René Magritte‘s art challenges viewers’ perceptions of reality. The environments he constructed on canvas are meant to intrigue and confound viewers.

The artist was born November 21, 1898 in Lessines, Belgium—a sleepy town 35 miles from Brussels. As a child, he was transfixed by his imagination, and the possibilities of the mind. Objects and their representations were often fodder for Magritte; he toyed with likeness and illusion, creating visual poetics with paint. As in science fiction, Magritte’s paintings portray a recognizable world, with familiarity skewed either slightly or seismically.

In 1967, artist Ed Ruscha met Magritte in a chance encounter in Venice. “His demeanor was that of a total gentleman, a kindly man, and that was really impressive to me, knowing this man’s work,” said Ruscha in an interview with Lynn Zelevansky for the catalogue Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images.

The Belgian artist would have celebrated his 117th birthday today. Below, we give seven Magritte quotes on his life and work.


René Magritte, The Red Model (1934).
 Image: Courtesy of Wikiart.

On Domesticity:
“I can stay at home as the world offers me ideas.”

“I still chase rainbows, despite 50 years of personal life. I live in the same apartment as twenty years ago. I’m a faithful tenant.”

René Magritte, The Human Condition (1933). Image: WikiArt.

René Magritte, The Human Condition (1933). Image: WikiArt.

On The Human Condition:
“When looking at the painting, you can wonder about what is imagined and what is real. Is it about the reality of appearances or the appearance of reality? What really is inside, and what is outside? What do we have here: reality, or a dream? If a dream is a revelation of waking life, waking life is also a revelation of a dream.”

René Magritte, The Lovers (1928). Courtesy MoMA.

René Magritte, The Lovers (1928). Image: Courtesy of MoMA.

On What’s Real:
“Real things are not the vulgar and easy things of our immediate surroundings. What’s genuinely real, there’s only a certain time when we get that feeling. And that’s what I try to express with my paintings.”

Visible things always hide other visible things.”

René Magritte, The False Mirror (1928). Image: WikiArt.

René Magritte, The False Mirror (1928). Image: WikiArt.

On Pop Art:
“The humour of Pop Art is rather ‘orthodox’, it is within the reach of any successful window-dresser; to paint large American flags with one star more or less does not require any particular freedom of mind and does not present any technical difficulty.”

On Appropriation:
“I’ve got nothing to express! I simply search for images and I invent, I invent…only the image counts, the inexplicable and mysterious image, because all is mystery in our life.”

René Magritte, Time Transfixed (1938). Image: WikiArt.

René Magritte, Time Transfixed (1938). Image: WikiArt.

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