René François Ghislain Magritte was born on 21 November 1898, in Lessines, Belgium. Between 1916 and 1918, he studied intermittently at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, though he found the teaching under Contant Montald uninspiring. Magritte first exhibited his work at the Centre d'Art in Brussels in 1920. After completing military service in 1921, he worked briefly as a designer in a wallpaper factory. In 1923 he participated with Lyonel Feininger, El Lissitzky, László Moholy-Nagy, and Paul Joostens in an exhibition at the Cercle Royal Artistique in Antwerp. The following year, he collaborated with E. L. T. Mesens on the review Oesophage. Between 1918 and 1924, Magritte was influenced by Futurism and the Cubism of Jean Metzinger.
Magritte designed posters and advertisements until 1926, when he sealed a contract with Galerie la Centaure in Brussels. In 1927, the gallery held his first solo exhibition. Later that year, the artist left Brussels to establish himself in Le Perreux-sur-Marne, near Paris, where he frequented the Surrealist circle and befriended André Breton. By this point, Magritte had already begun to develop the key motifs that would characterise much of his oeuvre – suited men in bowler hats, chess pieces, the female nude, fruit (the apple in particular) – and his disquieting style, which would displace and re-contextualise subjects in unusual juxtapositions that defied reality. In 1928, Magritte took part in the Exposition surréaliste at the Galerie Goemans in Paris. Having made little impact in Paris, he returned to Belgium in 1930, and three years later was given a solo show at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Magritte's first solo exhibition in the United States took place at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in 1936. He was also represented in the seminal exhibition in 1936, Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Throughout the 1940s Magritte showed frequently at the Galerie Dietrich in Brussels. He briefly adopted a colourful, painterly style between 1943 and 1944 (his “Renoir Period”) in reaction to the German occupation of Belgium, and then a provocative, crude Fauvist style between 1947 and 1948 (his “Vache Period”). By 1949, Magritte returned to the style and themes of his pre-war Surrealism. From 1953, he exhibited frequently at the galleries of Alexander Iolas in New York, Paris, and Geneva. Magritte retrospectives were held in 1954 at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and in 1960 at the Museum for Contemporary Arts, Dallas, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. On the occasion of his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1965, Magritte traveled to the United States for the first time, and the following year he visited Israel. Magritte died on 15 August 1967 in Brussels, shortly after the opening of a major exhibition of his work at the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen in Rotterdam.
Magritte’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: he Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Menil Collection, Houston; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); the Albertina, Vienna; Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (MUMOK), Vienna; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique, Brussels; the Tate Collection, London.
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