One of the most fascinating aspects of René Magritte is the fact that he liked to talk a lot about his art and what he wanted to express. Something that for a pure surrealist is a real gift, because it allows to enter into the mental mechanisms that inspire his paintings, in a way that is precluded for many other symbolic artists.
His art always had a clear philosophical component. Magritte liked to think about reality, about the meanings of things, possibly offering perspectives that would challenge the consolidated perception of the world. He loved to represent everyday objects in completely new contexts, aiming to make us think about what we take for granted in the common life. They were not just optical effects: each approach wanted to trigger the observer, launching a message. Message that was sometimes hidden, as surrealism normally does, but it’s always there, providing a communicative dimension that is denied to us in many of the other surrealist artists, usually sticking to the psychology justification according to which the expression of the unconscious is a sufficient legitimacy by itself.
For this reason, with Magritte it’s more honest to look for the meanings of his art through his own words. Without deepening too much the opinions of art critics, researchers and psychologists about what the moon, the spheres, the rocks and all the recurring elements in his painting can represent. The ones you find below are a series of original quotes from the Belgian painter, alongside some of his most significant paintings. Often the words of Magritte were pronounced precisely in an attempt to explain the painting itself, in other cases the match comes natural knowing its production. These are his pure and simple words, without any additional comment: because in life, the pursue of truth includes the personal effort to walk into that direction and get there. Magritte explained by Magritte, along a path that allows us to get lost in his paintings and in his symbolism.
The Human Condition
“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.”
The Treachery of Images
“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.”
The Empire of Light
“We must not fear daylight just because it almost always illuminates a miserable world.”
The Birth of the Idol
“To be a surrealist means barring from your mind all remembrance of what you have seen, and being always on the lookout for what has never been.”
“My painting is visible images which conceal nothing… they evoke mystery and indeed when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question ‘What does that mean’? It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.”
“The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meaning is unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.”
“The present reeks of mediocrity and the atom bomb.”
The Son of Man
“Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.”
“Life obliges me to do something, so I paint”