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“The Son of Man” ; Rene Magritte

“The Son of Man” is a 1946 painting by the Belgian surrealist painter Rene Magritte. What makes it special? Why is it one of Rene’s famous paintings? How was it able to capture the world’s imagination so intensely? Firstly, Magritte painted it as a self-portrait. The painting consists of a man in an overcoat and bowler hat. The man’s face is concealed with a large green apple. A few subtle hints can be witnessed this painting. Firstly, the man’s eyes can be seen peeking over the edge of the apple. Secondly, the man’s left arm appears to bend backwards at the elbow.

When commenting about the painting Magritte stated: “Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.”

Another Magritte painting that is similar to the “ Son of Man” is “The Great War on Facades”. Both feature similar imagery, which includes a person standing in front of a wall overlooking the sea. “The Great War on Façade” on the other hand, depicts a woman holding an umbrella, while a flower covers her face. Being a series of paintings “Man in the Bowler Hat” is another except; a passing bird obscures the face.

Some critics believe “The Son of Man” is a religious painting. Though the imagery of a modern man and a floating apple near the sea doesn’t immediately suggest religious iconography, the title Son of Man does. In the Christian faith, the phrase “Son of Man” refers to Jesus, so some analysts view Magritte’s painting as a surrealist depiction of Jesus’s transfiguration.

The “Son of Man” is used several times in pop culture. Famous examples of it being used are: in 1970, Norman Rockwell did a playful homage to it as a 330 by 440mm oil painting entitled Mr.Apple in which a man’s head is replaced, rather than hidden, by a red apple. The painting also appears briefly on the video for Michael and Janet Jackson’s song “scream”.

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