Rene Magritte/www.shutterstock.com

Everything we see hides another thing

All was not what it seemed in surrealist artist Rene Magritte’s great works – from bowler hats and obscured faces, to his famous painting of a pipe, titled “this is not a pipe.”

The Belgian-born son of a tailor, his childhood was marred by the suicide of his mother when he was thirteen. After attending art college, he worked in commercial advertising and used this seemingly conventional job as a launchpad for his own artistic career.

Magritte’s early paintings show the clear influence of the books and films he liked as well as that of the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. He soon developed his own style, becoming famous for his technique of placing familiar objects such as a bowler hat or a rock or a pipe in an unusual context. His most famous painting, The Son of Man featured a man in a suit and bowler hat, but with a hovering green apple obscuring his face.

A hugely original artist, Magritte once stated: “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.”

The Fifties and Sixties saw him becoming increasingly popular and successful. Magritte was a major influence among the conceptual and Pop Art movements and the work of Andy Warhol.

“The mind loves the unknown,” said the artist who was aged 68 when he died of cancer. “It loves images whose meaning are unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.”