Magritte (1898–1967) is closely linked to the surrealist movement, which was founded in Paris by French writer André Breton in 1924. Surrealism was shaped by emerging theories of perception, including Sigmund Freud’s theories (though Magritte always denied any Freudian interpretations of his work), such as the psychoanalytic concept of the uncanny—a sense of disquietude provoked by particular objects and situations. The movement’s primary aim was to resolve the contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality—a super-reality—and to revolutionize human existence by freeing people from what the surrealists saw as false rationality and restrictive social customs. Initially influenced by Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico, Magritte was one of the founders of Belgian surrealism in 1926. His work from this period frequently places objects in unusual contexts or with unusual words or phrases, thus giving them new and surprising meanings. In 1929, Magritte moved to Paris in order to collaborate with Breton’s group. However, the idiosyncratic Magritte grew tired of their rigidity.In 1933, he broke from them by stating that the primary aim of his work from that point on would be to reveal the hidden and often personal affinities between objects, rather than juxtaposing unrelated objects. Nevertheless, he would remain associated with surrealism in general throughout his career. Magritte’s philosophical approach to images and language interested many postwar artists. In 1954, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg saw a groundbreaking exhibition of Magritte’s word-and-image paintings at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York, and later acquired examples of these works. Magritte’s interests also foreshadowed other postwar artistic pursuits: a generation before the artists involved in pop art began working with images from popular culture, Magritte himself turned to this source. And before his death in 1967, Magritte even lived to see the impact of his own works on advertisements, popular culture, and television at a time when a number of the artists in this exhibition were coming of age.
In 1954, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg saw a groundbreaking exhibition of Magritte’s word-and-image paintings at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York, and later acquired examples of these works.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art