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René Magritte The Son of Man as the Artist

René Magritte The Son of Man is perhaps lesser known as a self-portrait of the artist. Magritte was a Belgian artist born in 1898 and died in 1967. One of the most famous surrealist artists of the 20th century, Magritte’s surrealist paintings are often quite complex, with hidden and double meanings. The Son of Man is no exception.

René Magritte The Son of Man

The famous painting depicts a man in an overcoat and bowler hat standing in front of a grey wall that blends nearly seamlessly into a cloudy sky and water background. A hovering green apple mostly obscures the man’s face.

In The Son of Man, he paints himself with a bowler hat and an oversized apple floating in front of his face obscuring his actual identity. The green apple is often interpreted as a symbol of temptation, possibly referring to the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It has also been suggested that the apple references the “forbidden fruit” of modernism, which Picasso had been exploring in his works of the early 1910s.

More interestingly, perhaps is the bowler hat itself. A sort of conflict exists within their ethos; Magritte’s bowler hats symbolized the middle class’s anonymity. 

Originally designed for the British middle class, it became Magritte’s iconographic signature. And the bowler hat paradoxically functioned as a way for this singular artist to present himself as an anonymous type in public.

Artistry and Style

Magritte was a highly-acclaimed surrealist painter who created many works from 1926 to 1967. He was known for using his unique techniques to challenge how people perceive art by placing everyday objects in his paintings that were unusual for their time period.

His subtle feature created an artistic story with oil on canvas. He was effectively blending the impressionist style with surrealism for his abstract approach to the artwork. These two elements combined help to create his distinctive surrealist style.

He used his unique take on the movements to further challenge how people perceive art by combining realist style with an intense feeling of visual conflict. This technique also helped him make the painting more open to interpretation because it created uncertainty with its mystery and ambiguity.