Magritte’s images and films documented both personal experiences and artistic experiments. Irrespective of context, their significance is clear. “Even if he didn’t want to show [the images], he remained an auteur, and paid a lot of attention to what he was doing,” says Canonne, who authored the exhibition’s accompanying book René Magritte: The Revealing Image.
So celebrated was Magritte the painter that his photography was long overlooked. “For many years, museums and public institutions didn’t pay attention to the photos,” Canonne continues. “Some didn’t even know Magritte had a camera. These photos were seen as documents, not artworks.”
Magritte did not operate in a dichotomy – his paintings and photography revealed two sides of the same man. “Magritte’s paintings are a way of showing that there was something more,” explains Canonne. “It was the same with his photography – he was always trying to extend the possibilities of the universe. There was always something behind the appearance.”
The fragility and rareness of these artefacts cannot be overstated. Many negatives have been lost, rendering these the last remaining mementos of Magritte’s private life. These intimate photographs and films provide unprecedented insight and a living legacy – not only as documents of his creative process, but also to shed light on the man himself.
“You see his private life from when he was very young – we have testimonies that he was a runaway boy. You also see a man deeply in love with his wife,” says Canonne. The films and photographs also reveal contrasting elements of his persona – “the way he formed his own personality,” as Cannone says, comical and jovial at times, and stern at others in a black coat and bowler hat.
Themann has high hopes of the show’s run at the new ArtisTree. “This material is very rarely seen, mostly hidden in a few collections, from public view,” he says. “I am thrilled that [this show] will be in Hong Kong and I really want to see it travel to other places in the greater region; it inspires so many artists and art lovers.”
Things to ponder as you’re exploring René Magritte: The Revealing Image – Photos and Films at the new ArtisTree:
- How do insights into an artist’s life shape your understanding of their creations?
- How did film and photography influence Magritte’s public works and persona?
The new ArtisTree and Ludion, in collaboration with The Magritte Foundation Belgium, present René Magritte: The Revealing Image – Photos and Films.
19 January – 19 February 2018
See the programme page for more details.
Follow @artistreehk on Instagram for all the #Magritte_Artistree action
The Shadow and Its Shadow (L'ombre et son ombre), 1932. Georgette and René Magritte, Brussels
Collection: Private collection, Courtesy Brachot Gallery, Brussels