Things to do in Brussels – Tour the René Magritte Museum
“The real value of art is measured by its capacity for liberating revelation.”
Rene Magritte is one of Belgium’s most famous artists and several of his paintings, such as The Pilgrim and The Son of Man (two works featuring his trademark prop, a black bowler hat) are easily recognizable. Born in Lessines, Belgium, in 1898, Magritte moved to Brussels some 17 years later to attend the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts). After a short time living in Paris, he returned to Brussels where he rented the ground floor of a row house at Rue Esseghem 135, where he would live with his wife Georgette for over 20 years. Since 1994, the house has been opened to the public as the Musée René Magritte(René Magritte Museum).
Located in the Jette neighborhood, north of Brussels’ city center, the museum offers visitors a look into the life and art of this interesting surrealist painter.
Your tour of the museum takes you through four floors of displays and exhibits; a collection of about 400 archive documents, various objects, photos, and numerous original works.
On the ground floor (a guided tour of which is available upon request), you’ll see the Magritte’s residence, furnished with period pieces and the everyday items that greatly inspired Magritte’s work.
At the front of the house, you’ll get to look into the sitting room
and while standing near the stairway, which features prominently in several of Magritte’s paintings,
peek into the couple’s bedroom (notice the Pomeranian on the bed, similar to the beloved pet Magritte reportedly had preserved).
At the back of the house, you’ll see the dining room/in-house studio complete with art supplies, an original photograph taken by the artist’s friend Man Ray,
and in the hallway, a bowler hat, umbrella, and walking sticks similar to those that appear in several of Magritte’s paintings.
Stepping outside you’ll catch a glimpse through the windows of the kitchen
and indoor bathroom.
And, at the end of the garden, the freestanding building that was home to Studio Dongo, Magritte’s advertising agency.
The upper floors of the museum serve as a gallery for permanent and temporary exhibits. Here you can wander about at your leisure to study the various displays.
The permanent display, part of the museum’s ‘biographical exhibit’ contains an interesting collection of items, including personal correspondence, telegrams, drawings, watercolors, and art supplies, journals, manuscripts, photographs
and cameras, objects and curiosities such as a pipe, skull, and a mannequin (painted by Magritte to resemble fellow surrealist painter Salvador Dalí), and one of Magritte’s earliest paintings – a landscape with windmill, created when he was 11 years old.
At the time of our visit, the gallery’s temporary exhibition featured a collection of The Lost Magrittes. These canvases (30 in all) created by various artists with the help of archive records and personal recollections are recreations of Magritte paintings lost or destroyed.
A legend included with the display lists six ways in which the paintings were lost or destroyed; during the Blitz of London in 1940, by fire in various locations, painted over by the artist himself, during the process of kamagraphy (a method of making reproductions), lost at sea, or wall murals subsequently demolished.
During his time in residence here from 1930 to 1954, Magritte would create a large portion of his work (almost half of the paintings and gouaches), experimenting with color and form, the results of which would be some of his greatest surrealist masterpieces. Among them: