April 30, 2010 / 2:15 PM / 9 years ago

Belgium's Magritte museum depicts a life in art

BRUSSELS (Reuters Life!) - Travel through Rene Magritte’s life and work at the Belgian museum dedicated to the surrealist artist.

Unveiled last June, the Magritte Museum (www.musee-magritte-museum.be) near the heart of Brussels is just a stone’s throw away from the Royal Palace of Brussels.

Situated over three floors, the Museum contains more than 200 works, including oils on canvas, gouaches, drawings, sculptures and painted objects, as well as advertising posters, musical scores, vintage photographs and films produced by Magritte himself.

The museum also bills itself as the world reference center for knowledge about the artist and has developed an online research center to provide online access to the archives in connection with the painter’s life and works.

The tour of the museum begins on the ground floor, where audioguides — which cost 4 euros ($5.33) — can be picked up.

An elevator then takes you to the third floor, after which you’re free to make your way down, while taking in roughly 20 years of Magritte’s life and work.

Walking through it provides a certain Alice in Wonderland-like feel of entering one of Magritte’s paintings, with its black-walled, dimly lit galleries and odd sculptures.

Small lobbies outside the exhibition rooms on each floor, decorated in minimalist fashion, allow museum-goers the chance to rest their feet and enjoy an attractive bird’s-eye view of Brussels.

An oversized glass door ushers visitors into each silent, cavernous chamber where everything from Magritte’s personal papers to his most famous pieces are displayed.

The galleries cleverly emulate Magritte’s affinity for placing text in his paintings by embossing the words of Magritte’s famous quotes on the walls in a handwritten style. Though the lines are shown only in French, a handy booklet helps viewers translate.

Magritte was a founding member of the Belgian surrealist family that included other painters, writers and even filmmakers. The movement took off in 1926 with the launch of poet Geo Norge’s theatrical work “Tam-Tam,” which caused a scandal followed by riots in Brussels.

Symbols of Magritte are everywhere and readily identifiable with so many works in one place.

The bowler hat Magritte sports in his 1964 self-portrait “The Son of Man” can be seen atop each head in the army of tiny men falling from the sky in his 1953 “Golconde.” The green apple that obscures the painter’s face in that self-portrait reappears in his 1952 “The Listening Room,” grotesquely enlarged and filling every corner of an empty alcove.

For tickets, visitors must head to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, just around the corner from the Magritte Museum’s entrance.

Those intrigued by the man behind the shocking, confusing and often purely aesthetic canvases can also pay a visit to Magritte’s residence in Brussels, a 15 minute drive or half-hour metro ride away from the museum.

In Jette, a suburb of Brussels, visitors will find the house in which Magritte lived and worked from 1930 to 1954. Here, the artist painted “The Dominion of Light,” his 1930s “Human Condition” series and his 1938 “Time Transfixed”

Editing by Paul Casciato

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