Magritte (1898-1967)

René Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist, born on November 21st, 1898 and who died on August 15th, 1967. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images that fall under the umbrella of surrealism. His paintings are known for challenging observers' preconditioned perceptions of reality : Magritte's work frequently displays a collection of ordinary objects in an unusual context, giving new meanings to familiar things.

The use of objects as other than what they seem is typified in his painting, La trahison des images, which shows a pipe that looks as though it is a model for a tobacco store advertisement. Magritte painted below the pipe "Ceci n'est pas une pipe", which seems a contradiction but is actually true : the painting is not a pipe, it is an image of a pipe. It does not "satisfy emotionally"—when Magritte was once asked about this image, he replied that of course it was not a pipe, just try to fill it with tobacco.

Magritte used the same approach in a painting of an apple: he painted the fruit and then used an internal caption or framing device to deny that the item was an apple. In these "Ceci n'est pas" works, Magritte points out that no matter how naturalistically we depict an object, we never do catch the item itself.

Magritte's style of surrealism is more representational than the automatic style of artists such as Joan Miro. Magritte's use of ordinary objects in unfamiliar spaces is joined to his desire to create poetic imagery. René Magritte described his paintings as "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."


Alechinsky's famous "Central Park"

Pierre Alechinsky, born October 19, 1927 in Schaerbeek (Brussels), is a painter and printmaker, who combines in his work expressionism and surrealism. He studied book illustration, typography, printing techniques and photography at the National School of Architecture and Visual Arts of La Cambre in Brussels and began painting in 1947, while he was still a student, as part of a group of young Belgian painters.

Pierre Alechinsky quickly became one of the major players in the Belgian art world. He founded with Michel Olyff and Olivier Strebelle the Ateliers du Marais in Brussels. In 1949, he joined the avant-garde artistic movement CoBrA, bringing together artists from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam advocating a return to a more challenging, bold and aggressive art.

After the dissolution of CoBrA, Pierre Alechinsky moved to Paris, perpetuating the spirit of the movement ("CoBrA is my school"), and spending most of his time with the Surrealists. He completed his training as a printmaker and learned new techniques at the Atelier 17. In 1954, he met the Chinese painter, Walasse Ting, who is a great influence on Alechinsky's work evolution.

His first major exhibition was organized in 1955 at the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels. In 1958, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London housed Alechinsky's ink paintings. In 1960, for the XXX Biennale de Venise, he exhibited at the Belgian Pavilion.

He gradually gave up on oil paint for faster and more flexible materials such as ink, which allowed him to paint in a fluid and sensitive style. Fascinated by oriental calligraphy and its spontaneity, he did several trips to the Far East. In the 1960s, he performed frequent trips to New York where he was initiated to acrylic paint by Walasse Ting. That same year Alechinsky created his famous painting Central Park.

From December 2007 to March 2008, for Alechinsky's eightieth birthday, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels organized a retrospective of the entire career of the artist.