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Magritte: This is Not a Biography

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Intoxicated by the promise of a promotion, Charles Singular for once allows himself a small extravagance: he buys a bowler hat. But there’s a problem: this is no ordinary hat. This one once belonged to the surrealist painter René Magritte, and by donning it Charles has unwittingly stepped into the artist’s off-kilter world. What’s more, he can’t escape—at least, not until Intoxicated by the promise of a promotion, Charles Singular for once allows himself a small extravagance: he buys a bowler hat. But there’s a problem: this is no ordinary hat. This one once belonged to the surrealist painter René Magritte, and by donning it Charles has unwittingly stepped into the artist’s off-kilter world. What’s more, he can’t escape—at least, not until he has illuminated the secrets behind Magritte’s work. What follows is a hallucinatory journey through Magritte’s imaginative landscape, a place where facial features mutate, the crescent moon appears in unexpected places, and answers prove frustratingly elusive. In Magritte: This is not a Biography, Vincent Zabus and Thomas Campi have created a panoramic and revealing portrait of the great surrealist, employing a playfulness and wit reminiscent of Magritte himself.  


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Intoxicated by the promise of a promotion, Charles Singular for once allows himself a small extravagance: he buys a bowler hat. But there’s a problem: this is no ordinary hat. This one once belonged to the surrealist painter René Magritte, and by donning it Charles has unwittingly stepped into the artist’s off-kilter world. What’s more, he can’t escape—at least, not until Intoxicated by the promise of a promotion, Charles Singular for once allows himself a small extravagance: he buys a bowler hat. But there’s a problem: this is no ordinary hat. This one once belonged to the surrealist painter René Magritte, and by donning it Charles has unwittingly stepped into the artist’s off-kilter world. What’s more, he can’t escape—at least, not until he has illuminated the secrets behind Magritte’s work. What follows is a hallucinatory journey through Magritte’s imaginative landscape, a place where facial features mutate, the crescent moon appears in unexpected places, and answers prove frustratingly elusive. In Magritte: This is not a Biography, Vincent Zabus and Thomas Campi have created a panoramic and revealing portrait of the great surrealist, employing a playfulness and wit reminiscent of Magritte himself.  

30 review for Magritte: This is Not a Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    Belgian Rene Magritte was a surrealist painter. Images abound of his wearing a bowler, and bowlers are featured in several of his paintings. Here he is wearing it, and 368 of his most famous paintings. https://www.wikiart.org/en/rene-magritte D. B. Johnson focused on that hat in a children’s picture book biography of Magritte: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... To art scholars and those interested in epistemology, he is known for—among other things--this painting, which asserts an idea—“The Tr Belgian Rene Magritte was a surrealist painter. Images abound of his wearing a bowler, and bowlers are featured in several of his paintings. Here he is wearing it, and 368 of his most famous paintings. https://www.wikiart.org/en/rene-magritte D. B. Johnson focused on that hat in a children’s picture book biography of Magritte: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... To art scholars and those interested in epistemology, he is known for—among other things--this painting, which asserts an idea—“The Treachery of Images: This is Not a Pipe,” because it actually is a painting of a pipe, drawn in a kind of hyper-realist style: https://www.wikiart.org/en/rene-magri... Michel Foucault wrote a short book about it that you can read here: https://monoskop.org/images/9/99/Fouc... This comics/illustrated biography is part of the Self Made Hero Art Masters series that also includes Van Gogh, Munch, Gauguin, Dali and Picasso (as of this date) and they are not for kids, particularly; they are serious artistic engagements with great artists that have the courage/audacity to get in aesthetic conversation with the masters without deifying them. Magritte, as with many others above, seemed to have had, uh, “complicated” relationships with [sometimes several] women, so some details might not be appropriate for the kiddies, your call. In this volume that Magritte’s biographers claim is not a biography, the premise seems a little corny, initially, but then it really comes to work. The biographer within this non-biography (sorry, stay with me here) is Charles Singulier, who puts on a bowler and can’t take it off until he learns everything he can about Magritte, including meeting his muse, Georgette. Magritte later lived the life of a bourgeois, though a revolutionary thinker, though some people thought he sold out for commercial success later. The art style is more realist than Magritte’s most surrealistic works, but the story is surreal enough, jumping into scenes from his past jumping into paintings, and so on. And we read several analytical observations and some of his statements throughout, including: “Every object conceals another.” “The painter’s eye is a false image.” “Real life is always in a somewhere else that doesn’t exist.” “Painting must not act as a passive mirror of reality, but rather, to transform it.” This is a fun and thought-provoking book about Magritte, surrealism, and the provocations that art can sometimes enact.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    A man buys a bowler hat that magically transports him into the surrealist world of painter Rene Magritte, surrounded by the artist’s images and themes. Why a bowler hat? Because of Magritte’s most famous painting, The Son of Man (the businessman in a bowler hat whose face is obscured by a green apple). In Magritte: This is Not a Biography, writer Vincent Zabus takes the imaginative approach to tell a non-fiction biography in the form of a fictional narrative. Because of this style and the book’s A man buys a bowler hat that magically transports him into the surrealist world of painter Rene Magritte, surrounded by the artist’s images and themes. Why a bowler hat? Because of Magritte’s most famous painting, The Son of Man (the businessman in a bowler hat whose face is obscured by a green apple). In Magritte: This is Not a Biography, writer Vincent Zabus takes the imaginative approach to tell a non-fiction biography in the form of a fictional narrative. Because of this style and the book’s shortness, it’s not the most thorough overview but you get a general idea of Magritte’s life and the ideas behind his work. By far the most impressive aspect of the book is Thomas Campi’s painted art which adopts, replicates and incorporates Magritte’s style beautifully into the narrative. That said, I admired the book more than I enjoyed it. Neither the contrived story nor the subject’s life was that interesting or entertaining but I appreciated the remarkable talent that went into the visuals enormously and I did learn a fair bit too. Magritte: This is Not a Biography is worth a look for any comics fan after a quick taste of this painter’s life and art.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    A surrealistic biography of Magritte is fitting, I suppose, but it is also too clever by half. It’s funny how I can find a surrealistic image to be quite arresting, but more often than not a surrealistic story to be annoying.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    PDF - Extremely well done and beautifully drawn biography/tribute album, that echos Magritte's themes and works in effective and surprising ways. PDF - Extremely well done and beautifully drawn biography/tribute album, that echos Magritte's themes and works in effective and surprising ways.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mateen Mahboubi

    I can't help but compare this with the other books in the Art Masters series, some of which I've loved, others I've liked less. Unfortunately this falls in the latter category. I think that so far, they've all been visually stunning, borrowing from the artists' style and famous works, the books have all had a great style but I just wasn't able to connect with Campi on this journey. Maybe it was because of my lack of experience with and knowledge of Magritte's works but I would have hoped that th I can't help but compare this with the other books in the Art Masters series, some of which I've loved, others I've liked less. Unfortunately this falls in the latter category. I think that so far, they've all been visually stunning, borrowing from the artists' style and famous works, the books have all had a great style but I just wasn't able to connect with Campi on this journey. Maybe it was because of my lack of experience with and knowledge of Magritte's works but I would have hoped that this book would have been a bit more accessible.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dakota Morgan

    Thomas Campi's artwork is beautiful, Vincent Zabus's story is non-sensical and offers very little information about Magritte himself. The subtitle is apt: this is not a biography. I kinda wanted it to be one. If you stumble across this book in an art museum gift store, it's certainly worth a skim for the art. I'd recommend skipping the words though. Thomas Campi's artwork is beautiful, Vincent Zabus's story is non-sensical and offers very little information about Magritte himself. The subtitle is apt: this is not a biography. I kinda wanted it to be one. If you stumble across this book in an art museum gift store, it's certainly worth a skim for the art. I'd recommend skipping the words though.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Fatima

    I don't think I've ever read a book or graphic novel as interesting and unique as this one. This is such a great book to introduce kids to not only the artists and their work but also their concept, background, and way of thinking all within a fictional story inspired by truth. I don't think I've ever read a book or graphic novel as interesting and unique as this one. This is such a great book to introduce kids to not only the artists and their work but also their concept, background, and way of thinking all within a fictional story inspired by truth.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amina

    3.5 STARS - A quick read that delves you into Magritte's life, one of the most famous 20th-century surrealist painter. It's perfect for art amateurs such as myself who wants to learn a little about surrealism. The biography is concise; we don't get full details of the events of his life but it's enough to understand what kind of man he was. The art style is pretty, the color vibrant and the way Campi re-appropriated the paintings in his own way was aesthetically pleasing. Besides, the whole grap 3.5 STARS - A quick read that delves you into Magritte's life, one of the most famous 20th-century surrealist painter. It's perfect for art amateurs such as myself who wants to learn a little about surrealism. The biography is concise; we don't get full details of the events of his life but it's enough to understand what kind of man he was. The art style is pretty, the color vibrant and the way Campi re-appropriated the paintings in his own way was aesthetically pleasing. Besides, the whole graphic novel was overall visually beautiful. However, I found the story a bit lacking in pacing. It all goes too fast and escalated quickly. It becomes difficult to follow our main character getting stuck in Magritte's paintings. I turned a little dizzy at the end by all the hasty actions. But the ending was sweet and I enjoyed my reading.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christa Van

    A man buys a bowler hat unaware that it was once owned by surrealist painter Rene Magritte. When he dons the hat, he is transported into a surreal world where he is required to solve the mystery of Magritte before he will be allowed to remove the hat. Through various interactions with guides and biographers, he learns about Magritte and his wife, their lives and influences. In the end, he is confronted by Magritte himself who claims there are no answers before sending our protagonist back to rea A man buys a bowler hat unaware that it was once owned by surrealist painter Rene Magritte. When he dons the hat, he is transported into a surreal world where he is required to solve the mystery of Magritte before he will be allowed to remove the hat. Through various interactions with guides and biographers, he learns about Magritte and his wife, their lives and influences. In the end, he is confronted by Magritte himself who claims there are no answers before sending our protagonist back to reality. A lovely little book that mimics Magritte's style and tells a bit about the artist in an"unbiography" fashion.

  10. 5 out of 5

    RuthAnn

    On a whim, I snagged this off the New Graphic Novels section at my library because that title is just too good. I realized that I knew pretty much nothing about Magritte, other than his "This is not a hat" painting, so reading it was a nice primer. The story is pretty weird. I kept thinking, "This is really surreal," and then mentally facepalming because DUH, it's about a surrealist painter. The art in the panels is beautiful and made this graphic novel stand out to me. Fair warning for some pro On a whim, I snagged this off the New Graphic Novels section at my library because that title is just too good. I realized that I knew pretty much nothing about Magritte, other than his "This is not a hat" painting, so reading it was a nice primer. The story is pretty weird. I kept thinking, "This is really surreal," and then mentally facepalming because DUH, it's about a surrealist painter. The art in the panels is beautiful and made this graphic novel stand out to me. Fair warning for some profanity and partial nudity.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lynne

    A strange graphic novel about a man who gets sucked into learning about Rene Magritte...a surrealist journey fitting the artist's work. I found it a little hard to follow...but part of that is getting used to the graphic novel medium. Favorite part...Campi's oil paintings and watercolors of the central character and his signature bowler hat at the end. P.S. I had the English translation...would be fun to give the French a try! A strange graphic novel about a man who gets sucked into learning about Rene Magritte...a surrealist journey fitting the artist's work. I found it a little hard to follow...but part of that is getting used to the graphic novel medium. Favorite part...Campi's oil paintings and watercolors of the central character and his signature bowler hat at the end. P.S. I had the English translation...would be fun to give the French a try!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Katie Voss

    This is not a biography, but it has enough biographical content to satisfy my curiosity. Blending graphic novel-esque panelling with miniature reproductions of Magritte's art, the author/creator takes us on a wild and surreal journey through the artist's life. This was a phenomenal way to learn about an artist. Apparently there are a handful of other books like this in the 'Art Masters' series and I can't wait to read them as well. This is not a biography, but it has enough biographical content to satisfy my curiosity. Blending graphic novel-esque panelling with miniature reproductions of Magritte's art, the author/creator takes us on a wild and surreal journey through the artist's life. This was a phenomenal way to learn about an artist. Apparently there are a handful of other books like this in the 'Art Masters' series and I can't wait to read them as well.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Deb Holden

    This is a graphic novel in English here in the US. This is the second biographical graphic novel it have read and I just find it difficult to truly enjoy them. That said this one is of particular interest because it does give a visual context to the artist and his work. It also tries to further develop the works with what the artist was trying to convey. It is a very quick read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lily

    A cute and clever way to do a graphic biography: a haunted bowler hat forces a normal guy to explore surrealism and Magritte, the absent ghost guiding him through bizarre worlds and ideas behind his paintings and personal life.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Giana

    I loved this so much! The art is just spectacular and had me staring at a page for several minutes at a time. I was smiling the entire time I read this and when I was done went back and just spent more time looking at the illustrations! Can't wait to read the rest in the series. I loved this so much! The art is just spectacular and had me staring at a page for several minutes at a time. I was smiling the entire time I read this and when I was done went back and just spent more time looking at the illustrations! Can't wait to read the rest in the series.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sanjeev Kumar

    Amazing in every sense. The art is a delight. The subject matter intriguing and insightful. I wish this was printed on better quality paper and much bigger. It deserves the attention. I finished it hungry to explore Magritte and lose myself in his world. A delightful work.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I wanted to like this more than I did, but it was still decent. It's more of a tour of Magritte's art (themes, concepts) than of Magritte's life, and more of an arty adventure tale than anything else, so: well played, title-writer. Well played. I wanted to like this more than I did, but it was still decent. It's more of a tour of Magritte's art (themes, concepts) than of Magritte's life, and more of an arty adventure tale than anything else, so: well played, title-writer. Well played.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Wonderfully illustrated and narrated biography of Magritte; compels me to read others in the Art Masters series.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Six

    much better than the sartre one. older teens. good opening intro to surrealism

  20. 4 out of 5

    Katja (Life and Other Disasters)

    Magritte was always one of my favourite artists, so this was really cool and touched upon a lot of his life in a short number of pages! The art is formidable!!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alistair

    A graphic non-biography of surrealist artist Magritte told by and to a man who happens to buy his bowler hat and all that ensues? 4* very close to 5*

  22. 4 out of 5

    emma

    A man buys a bowler hat and is launched into a surrealist world modeled after painter Renee Magritte. My favorite part is the beautiful art of the comics.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Quirky, imaginative. Good adjunct to the recent retrospective of Magritte's work at the SFMOMA. Quirky, imaginative. Good adjunct to the recent retrospective of Magritte's work at the SFMOMA.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amber Graham

    This story seems to be emulating the style of the artist it's about. It wonderfully challenged thinking in a usual way, and I appreciated it greatly. This story seems to be emulating the style of the artist it's about. It wonderfully challenged thinking in a usual way, and I appreciated it greatly.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Macklem

    Take the title seriously! It's not a biography but a lovely meditation on Magritte. Lovely art. Take the title seriously! It's not a biography but a lovely meditation on Magritte. Lovely art.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Jonsson

    Incredible story of Renee Magritte, the surrealist master. Even though this is not a biography it offers many details of his life.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Edward Sanchez

    I loved the ending to this book!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Libby

    Sweet illustrations with clever uses of Magritte's paintings. Not super interesting/detailed on the actual biography side though. Sweet illustrations with clever uses of Magritte's paintings. Not super interesting/detailed on the actual biography side though.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    A sort of stealth biography in graphic novel form.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Henrichs

    Enjoyable and entertaining way to learn more about Magritte's life. Enjoyable and entertaining way to learn more about Magritte's life.

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