Belgian painter René Magritte’s was born Nov. 21, 1898, and went on to become a part of the surrealist movement along with André Breton, Salvador Dali and other artists and writers. He married his creative muse, Georgette Berger, in 1923 and reveled in the ire his art drew from the critics and conservative art crowd. But what no one could deny was his talent and skill at painting realistic objects and figures. What set him apart from the other surrealists was his technique of juxtaposing ordinary objects in an extraordinary way. For example, Dali would “melt” a watch, playing with the consistency of an object, while Magritte would play with the placement of the object in reality, leaving it intact but playing with logic—a technique that was called “Magic Realism.”
In 1983 Paul Simon released Hearts and Bones that included “René and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War,” a gem of a song that many fans will agree is one of the best Simon has ever written. In what Simon says is “a surrealistic song about a surrealistic painter,” he juxtaposes magical and touching images as he takes us on a fanciful outing with the couple as they wander down Christopher Street, dance in their hotel room and “dine with the power elite.” In a show of juxtaposition, it’s also a nod to the doo wop groups of the 50s that deeply influenced Simon as he reveals the Magrittes as secret admirers of The Penguins, The Moonglows, The Orioles and The Five Satings—”the deep forbidden music they’ve been longing for” that’s been “hidden away in the cabinet cold of their hearts.”
“Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War” is a showcase of the brilliance of Paul Simon and his ability to paint a picture of longing and laughter with words and melody that’s every bit as visually compelling as the artist who inspired it. Listen and picture every scene as clearly as if it were on canvas in front of you.
As an aside, this is the Lothar Wolleh photograph that was taken of the Magrittes with their dog and is the inspiration behind Paul Simon’s song—although it was taken in Brussels in 1967 shortly before René Magritte’s death that same year from pancreatic cancer.
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