Art History 101

The Lasting Influence of René Magritte

Rene Magritte created his signature style within the Surrealist movement by placing ordinary, often mundane objects in unconventional locations. His artworks are both precise and highly realistic, elements that serve to heighten the fantastical, sometimes comical, nature of his subjects.

Repeated imagery or objects are prominently featured in many of Magritte’s most famous works – motifs like the green apple, the cloudy sky, and the bowler hat.

A photo posted by @applesingles on


Magritte’s iconic motifs have had a lasting impact on popular culture. The Beatles attributed the naming of their record label, Apple Records, to the influence of Magritte’s many green apple paintings. “The False Mirror,” a painting of an eye with an iris filled with clouds, was emulated in the logo of one of America’s largest television networks, CBS. “The Son of Man” has been referenced countless times in popular culture in other artworks, films, television, and music videos.

In celebration of Magritte’s birthday, read on to learn more about his most famous paintings that continue to inspire years after their creation.

The Son of Man, 1964

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The Son of Man (Image: WikiArt)

Arguably one of Magritte’s most recognizable works, the 1964 painting is a self-portrait of the artist. Although an eye partially peaks out, his face is largely obscured by a hovering green apple.

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Mr. Apple by Norman Rockwell (Image: Antique Trader)

The artwork inspired countless artists including Norman Rockwell, who paid homage to the work with Mr. Apple.

The Treachery of Images, 1928-29

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The Treachery of Images (Image: WikiArt)

An image of a pipe and text describing it not to be a pipe coincides with the paradoxical nature of many of Magritte’s works. Through this work, Magritte shows that representation and object are not the equivalent.

Numerous artistic and pop culture references have been made to the work, utilizing Magritte’s phrase, “This is not a…”. The television show the Simpsons used the phrase in the opening sequence of the 411th episode.

 

Conceptual artist John Baldessari also drew inspiration from Magritte in his Goya Series.

The Lovers II, 1928

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The Lovers II (Image: MOMA)

Repeating the motif of hidden faces, in The Lovers II, Magritte depicts a couple during an intimate interaction with their faces shrouded, unable to truly touch one another.

In the music video for Mine by Beyoncé, the artist references to the painting by showing a couple with cloths covering their faces with the words “YOURS” and “MINE”.

The False Mirror, 1928

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The False Mirror (Image: MOMA)

Titled by the surrealist writer Paul Nougé, the title refers to the eye as both selective and subjective. The viewer is both looking through the eye like a window, as well as being looked upon by it, therefore the interaction is both seeing and being seen.

 

In 1951, American television network CBS changed their logo to a single eye much like Magritte’s The False Mirror. The logo would go so far as to overlay the image with clouds, but upon threat of legal action CBS removed the cloud imagery.

Not to be Reproduced, 1937

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Not to Be Reproduced (Image: WikiArt)

Commissioned by poet Edward James, Magritte painted the patron’s portrait without depicting his face. James is shown looking in the mirror, but rather than see his face reflected, we are shown only the back of his head.

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The Living Mirror (Image: Saatchi Art)

Saatchi Artist Naomi White created a similar work The Living Mirror.

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