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René Magritte Museum

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Museum
Location type: Museum
Location address: 1090, Brussels, Esseghemstraat 135
Number of texts: 15 - Read more...
4 stars
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It’s here, in this garden, that Magritte and his friends threw their costume parties. They sometimes took pictures of their theatrical enactments.

These pictures sometimes include ideas which Magritte experimented with in his works. There is also a picture of Magritte painting La Clairvoyance in the yard, or a picture which was used as a model for the painting titled Le Thérapeute.

 

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Linked themes: Art

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This room also served as headquarters for the Brussels surrealists. The group was essentially made up of writers and poets like ELT Mesens, Paul Colinet, Paul Nougé, Camille Goemans and Louis Scutenaire.

They met in this room on Saturdays. A few French surrealists were also invited here by Magritte, like the poet Paul Eluard and his partner Nush.

 

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This place was used as a dining room and a workshop. In 1933, Magritte had a bigger and brighter workshop (Studio Dongo) built in the garden. But he still preferred to paint in his dining room. This room had the advantage of being heated in the winter.

Also, that way, the artist was not cut off from the life inside the apartment and enjoyed the company of his wife. On the wall facing you is a touched-up picture which the American artist Man Ray gave Magritte in the 1930s. It is the only work from another artist that Magritte hung in his house.

The black shelf (in the corner of the room on the left) was designed by Magritte and holds his favorite noir novels, including those of Edgard Allan Poe. During 24 years, Magritte created about 800 of his works in this room. He developed different styles like the Renoir period during WW2 and the cow period in 1948. Unsold works were put up in the attic, which you can visit on the third floor.

 

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This last room is dedicated to surrealist artists who knew and were influenced by Magritte.

Marcel Mariën and E.L.T. Mesens, who were both writers, belonged to the Brussels surrealist group. On top of the surrealist texts they published, they also created collages and assemblages. In 1937, Mesens became director of the ‘London Gallery. He gave it a definite surrealist slant. He showcased Magritte’s work, of course, but also other artists’, such as Calder, Moore…

 

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Magritte himself designed the red and black furniture of the bedroom at the beginning of the 1920s. The straight lines and bold colors strongly evoke the creations of modernist groups like De Stijl and Der Bauhaus. After his studies at the Academy, the young Magritte focused on a non-figurative representation of reality. He painted in cubist and futurist styles, before switching to surrealism.

On the bed sits the mounted dog Loulou, a Pomeranian dog, René and Georgette’s favorite breed. They never had children and were devoted to their dogs. That’s why they preferred ground floor apartments, with a garden.

 

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Magritte used the shed in his neighbors’ garden as a model to build this workshop in the back of his garden. It housed the activities of Studio Dongo, the advertising firm Magritte had founded with his brother Paul.

The advertising work was above all to make money. Magritte jokingly called them ‘imbecile works’. As they didn’t give him complete artistic freedom, he preferred to sign them under his pseudonym Emair and Dongo.

The drafting table, in the back in front of you, came from La Maison Berger, the small art supplies shop which belonged to Léontine Berger, Georgette’s sister. Magritte sometimes drew on it when he went to pick up his wife, who often worked at her sister’s.

 

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In 1954, Magritte moved to 207 Boulevard Lambermont in Schaerbeek, and shortly thereafter to number 404. Both apartments were on the ground floor.

His last address was 97 rue des Mimosas, still in Schaerbeek. He moved there in December 1957, in an individual house with a garden, that he would buy a few years later.

He died there on August 15th, 1957, from pancreatic cancer. He is buried in Schaerbeek graveyard. Through a short will, which one can read in the window, he left all he had to his wife. Georgette died close to 20 years later, on February 26th, 1986.

 

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Magritte often sought inspiration for his work in his apartment. He hated traveling and considered that his daily environment gave him enough ideas. You will recognize many elements from his apartment in his works:

- Les valeurs personnelles (blue living room with the ceiling moulding, wood floor and carpet)

- La condition humaine (window)

- La lecture défendue (stairs)

- La durée poignardée (furnace/locomotive)

- Le monde invisible (double doors)

- La bonne aventure (door handle)

- Le mal du pays and L’empire des lumières (light post)

- Le thérapeute (bird cage)

 

 

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This picture shows Magritte working in his workshop Rue Esseghem. Most of the time, he worked wearing a threadbare suit, and sometimes used a painter’s stick (top center).

It gave him the stability he needed to paint details. It leaned against the easel and the artist rested his hand on top of it. It sometimes had a rounded tip so that it could rest directly against the painting.

 

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The bright blue walls of the living room are striking. The artist painted each room a different color. The odd tones he chose form a sharp contrast with the classical furniture chosen by his wife.

In the back of the room, you can see the piano on which Georgette, Paul Magritte (a composer and René’s brother) and E.L.T. Mesens (a composer and an old friend of Magritte) used to play.

 

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