Having lived in several different places, René Magritte spent most of his childhood and adolescence in the small city of Châtelet, Belgium. It was here where his mother committed suicide overnight by throwing herself into the River Sambre. Only 13 years of age at the time, Magritte’s presence when her dead body was retrieved from the water is often said to have had a strong, obscure influence in his surrealist work. Nevertheless, about the origin of his ideas and inspiration Magritte would argue “I can stay at home, as the world offers me ideas” and “Surrealism is the immediate knowledge of reality.” Such statements underline the role of his keen eye towards observation in his work.
Enticing his senses and memory by the proximity to the River Sambre and remote enough to allow for the mystery of nature to become subject of his observation while the small village nearby is still in range, this retreat aims to establish strong grounds on which his particular artistic production can strive the most.
In the words of his friend André Breton, “Among all surrealists, the work of Magritte is the most disarmingly simple. And maybe this is why it retains its power to disturb and excite us”. Magritte believed we are right where we should like to be when we found ourselves thrilled by encountering the unexpected. He explored his natural interest for the unknown, thrived for the mysterious in his work and intended it to cause a feeling of unease, not by the painting itself but by the effect it made on your mind. For him unfeasibility is associated with feelings of joy, and the strange juxtaposition of objects he identified in De Chirico’s work revealed the poetic possibilities of painting. In his work, objects are not only in unfamiliar conjunctions, they’re also in unfamiliar materials. What should be soft is hard, warm becomes cold and what is impermanent is fossilized for all time.
The archetypal image of a House seems to be hovering weightless and displaced away from its pavement in a disturbing and simple composition [Castle in the Pyrenees, 1959; The Postcard, 1960]. The structure that in fact supports the weight of the House appears darker in the shadow and dissolves as a pillar among the trees in the forest behind [The Voice of Blood, 1959]. By night the House keeps floating in the dark once the daytime background of trees becomes a bright presence of light from within the House that reveals its presence across the river [The Empire of Lights, 1954].
Even though Magritte’s work makes a strong statement that every visible object hides another one behind it, [The Human Condition, 1933] he also uses a lot of thought provoking imagery through the window as a connection to the world [Evening Falls, 1936]. In this house the window acquires this same role and further implies that of the door. A very thin gap in the opposite facing wall relates to this property of visibility and concealment of matter and objects [The False Mirror, 1935]. Workplaces are composed by wooden boards that can also be used to close the house, making a statement about weightlessness when they appear to bear the concrete above them, while the furniture becomes heavy itself [Legend of the centuries, 1950; Memory of a Journey, 1951]. Around the House revolves a water path that departs from the services and ends in a provoking and poetic image of a misplaced familiar door in and to the river [The Victory, 1939].