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Friday, August 31, 2012

René Magritte

René Magritte

René François Ghislain Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images that fell under the umbrella of surrealism. Wikipedia
BornNovember 21, 1898, Lessines
DiedAugust 15, 1967, Lessines
SpouseGeorgette Berger (m. 1922)
René Magritte (1898-1967)

Magritte was a key figure in the Belgian Surrealist movement, as well as a participant in the Paris group's activities during the late 1920s. His paintings often place ordinary objects in unusual and unexpected contexts, thus forcing the viewer to observe reality in a new way. Unlike many of the Paris Surrealist artists, Magritte made no attempts at automatism, instead exploring images that were consciously arrived upon, presented in a realistic manner. Equally witty and menacing, the artist's efforts to "put the real world on trial" left an indelible mark on Surrealism. Among his many masterpieces are The Threatened Assassin (1927), Discovery (1927),The Lovers (1928), Titanic Days (1928), The False Mirror (1928), The Treachery of Images (1928-29) and The Dominion of Lights (1954).

Magritte's earliest oil paintings, which date from about 1915, were Impressionistic in style. From 1916 to 1918 he studied at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, under Constant Montald, but found the instruction uninspiring. The oil paintings he produced during the years 1918-1924 were influenced by Futurism and by the offshoot of Cubism practiced by Metzinger. Most of his works of this period are female nudes.

In 1922 Magritte married Georgette Berger, whom he had met as a child in 1913. From December 1920 until September 1921, Magritte served in the Belgian infantry in the Flemish town of Beverlo near Leopoldsburg. In 1922-1923, he worked as a draughtsman in a wallpaper factory, and was a poster and advertisement designer until 1926, when a contract with Galerie la Centaure in Brussels made it possible for him to paint full-time. In 1926, Magritte produced his first surreal oil painting, The Lost Jockey (Le jockey perdu), and held his first exhibition in Brussels in 1927. Critics heaped abuse on the exhibition. Depressed by the failure, he moved to Paris where he became friends with Andre Breton, and became involved in the surrealist group.

Galerie la Centaure closed at the end of 1929, ending Magritte's contract income. Having made little impact in Paris, Magritte returned to Brussels in 1930 and resumed working in advertising. He and his brother, Paul, formed an agency which earned him a living wage. 

Surrealist patron Edward James allowed Magritte, in the early stages of his career, to stay rent free in his London home and paint. James is featured in two of Magritte's pieces, Le Principe du Plaisir (The Pleasure Principle) and La Reproduction Interdite, an oil painting also known as Not to be Reproduced.

During the German occupation of Belgium in World War II he remained in Brussels, which led to a break with Breton. He briefly adopted a colorful, painterly style in 1943-44, an interlude known as his "Renoir Period", as a reaction to his feelings of alienation and abandonment that came with living in German occupied Belgium. In 1946, renouncing the violence and pessimism of his earlier work, he joined several other Belgian artists in signing the manifesto Surrealism in Full Sunlight. During 1947-48-Magritte's "Vache Period"-he painted in a provocative and crude Fauve style. During this time, Magritte supported himself through the production of fake Picassos, Braques and Chiricos-a fraudulent repertoire he was later to expand into the printing of forged banknotes during the lean postwar period. This venture was undertaken alongside his brother Paul Magritte and fellow Surrealist and 'surrogate son' Marcel Marien, to whom had fallen the task of selling the forgeries. At the end of 1948, he returned to the style and themes of his prewar surrealistic art.

His work was exhibited in the United States in New York in 1936 and again in that city in two retrospective exhibitions, one at the Museum of Modern Art in 1965, and the other at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1992.

Magritte died of pancreatic cancer on 15 August 1967 in his own bed, and was interred in Schaerbeek Cemetery, Evere, Brussels.

Popular interest in Magritte's work rose considerably in the 1960s, and his imagery has influenced pop, minimalist and conceptual art. In 2005 he came 9th in the Walloon version of De Grootste Belg (The Greatest Belgian); in the Flemish version he was 18th.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp was a French artist whose work is most often associated with the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Wikipedia
BornJuly 28, 1887, Blainville-Crevon
DiedOctober 2, 1968, Neuilly-sur-Seine
EducationLycée Pierre-Corneille
SpouseAlexina Duchamp (m. 1954–1968), Lydie Sarazin-Lavassor (m. 1927–1928)

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

Duchamp was among the most significant figures in 20th Century art. Following a series of Impressionist landscapes and portraits, he contributed to, and greatly influenced, several artistic movements, including Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism and Surrealism. His Nude Descending a Staircase (1911; second version 1912) introduced motion to the painted image, inspiring the Italian Futurists. In 1915, Duchamp ventured to New York City, where he participated in Dada, along with Francis Picabia and Man Ray. His "readymades" transformed everyday objects into works of art by giving them new identities. Examples are Bicycle Wheel (1913; an "assisted readymade", featuring a bicycle wheel fastened to the top of a wooden stool), In Advance of Broken Arm (1915; a snow shovel),Fountain (1917; a men's urinal), Trap (1917; a coat rack, intended to be placed on the floor as a stumbling block) and L.H.O.O.Q. (1919; a reproduction of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, with the additions of a mustache and goatee). Between 1915 and 1923, Duchamp worked on The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Own Bachelors, Even, a major project on glass. Insisting it was incomplete for eight years, the artist finally declared the piece finished after it was accidentally dropped, thus creating a giant, spider web-like crack.

In 1923, Duchamp gave up painting in favor of his first love - playing chess. However, two years before his death, the artist unveiled a mixed media assemblage that had been created in secrecy over a period of twenty years. The Given: 1. The Waterfall 2. The Illuminating Gas (1946-66) features a large brick archway and wooden door. Through two small holes in the door, one can view the unsettling image of a nude female corpse, her legs spread open, lying ominously amongst leaves and brush. 

An honorary member of the Paris Surrealists, Duchamp contributed to the periodicals Littérature, Le Surréalisme au service de la révolutionand Minotaure, as well as participated in several group exhibitions during the 1930s. His impulsive nature, sense of humor, and automatic approach to object-making epitomized the spirit of Dada and Surrealism.