Rene Magritte – Apples, Pipes and Bowler Hats

Rene Magritte - The Son of Man oil paintingJust over 100 years ago, Rene Magritte was born in Belgium. By 1922 at the age of 28, he sold his first painting. Even though the Magritte family were personally acquainted with Salvidor Dali and his family in Spain; it would be another four years until Rene begins to experiment with surrealism.

He contributes to the final issue of “Révolution Surréaliste” by painting the first version of his famous work “The treachery of Images”. One of his most famous is a painting of a pipe which in fact, looks like an advertisement. Below are the words “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (This is not a pipe).

By 1943, just as WW2 was coming to a close, Magritte began exploring his “Renoir” or “Solar” style which he continues until 1947. This is the style we have come to know Magritte by. In all of Magritte’s paintings, he forces the viewer to really look at what he is seeing. He takes everyday objects and turns the ordinary into the exra-ordinary.

The image of a man in a bowler hat is one of his most recognizable and represents the common man. The first version, “The Son of Man” was actually a self portrait, painted in 1964. It has remained a remarkably iconic image even to this day. When Rene was asked about the man’s obscured face, he commented that “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”.

Another of his images is the giant green apple, called “The Listening Room”, 1952. In this painting, we see a massive green apple out of context in a room with a glass window, wood flooring and white trim. In 1958, a second version was painted with near identical apples but in a room with gray brick flooring and an open-arched window. Juxtaposing size and context was one of Rene’s recurring ideas and is what makes his paintings so intellectually engaging.

About the Author

Amitai Sasson of is an art world traveler on a mission to seek out the beauty and passion of the art world. As an avid enthusiast of art and oil paintings, he contributes to as Chief editor and writer.