Kathryn Hughes, Magritte: A Life by Alex Danchev review – virtuosic portrait of a star surrealist, The Guardian, 9 December 2021
Alex Danchev, Magritte: A Life – Profile, November 2021
Given the ubiquity of René Magritte’s images in our culture it is a shock to learn that no one was interested in the Belgian surrealist until it was almost too late. All those bowler-hatted men with occluded faces, the pipe that isn’t a pipe, the giant apples and the looming clouds were hard to like and difficult to sell until 1965, when a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York put him explosively on the map. Suddenly everyone from Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein to a young Ed Ruscha couldn’t get enough of Magritte’s visual teases, linguistic puzzles and deadpan affect, which made banal objects – combs, matchsticks, bird cages – at once uncanny and irresistible.
No surprise, then, that decades later post-structuralists including Derrida and Foucault couldn’t get enough of Magritte’s images, which on the surface pass as gags, but which actually comprised a profound meditation on the instability of meaning in the modern world.
With thanks to Stuart Elden at Progressive Geographies for this news