Musée Magritte Museum Brussels

By alison - February 24, 2010 (Updated: November 24, 2014)

Empire des Lumieres (Empire of Lights) The first Magritte I saw in person in Brussels.

Empire des Lumieres (Empire of Lights) The first Magritte I saw in person in Brussels.

Almost a year since its grand opening, I finally managed to visit the Musée Magritte Museum in Brussels, this past weekend.

For those of you unfamiliar with René Magritte, he was a surrealist painter and probably the world’s most famous Belgian artist. His paintings depict everyday objects such as apples, men in bowler hats, umbrellas, stones and pipes in odd arrangements and juxtapositions.The Musée Magritte opened June 2nd 2009 to showcase the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium’s collection of over 200 of Magritte’s works under one roof.

I first saw a few of Magritte’s paintings at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts not long after I arrived in Belgium. I loved the clarity of his painting style and the odd juxtapositions of images, many of which require the viewer to take a second look to attempt to unravel the impossible perspectives.

I enjoyed my visit to the Musée Magritte immensely. The chronological layout gives a good overview of the artist’s life and allows the visitor to watch the progression of his work. The audio guide is also well done and includes recordings of the artist, his wife and his friends and colleagues.

The Treachery of Images

The Treachery of Images

What I found most interesting to learn was unlike other surrealist painters of his era (Picasso, Dali, Miro), Magritte lead a relatively un-surreal life. He remained married to the same woman, spent most of his life in his native Belgium and worked as, among other things, a graphic designer for a wallpaper factory.

Also interesting is although many critiques have attempted to find the ‘hidden meaning’ in Magritte’s work, the artist himself claimed there is no other meaning than what is depicted. He simply painted the images in his head.

The representational use of objects as other than what they seem is typified in his painting, The Treachery of Images (La trahison des images), which shows a pipe that looks as though it is a model for a tobacco store advertisement. Magritte painted below the pipe “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”), which seems a contradiction, but is actually true: the painting is not a pipe, it is an image of a pipe. It does not “satisfy emotionally”—when Magritte once was asked about this image, he replied that of course it was not a pipe, just try to fill it with tobacco. – Wiki René Magritte

After seeing such a large collection of Margritte’s works. I came away with a few new favourites:

Have you been to the Magritte Museum or seen any of his paintings in Brussels or elsewhere? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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  1. Comment by Dallas

    Dallas February 24, 2010 at 11:20

    I went to the Magritte Museum too earlier this year and enjoyed it, but was disappointed to learn that there really isn’t a hidden message in his paintings. I really liked his style photo-realistic and really well blended colors. One of my favorites was the house painting that you also posted.

    • Comment by Alison


      Alison February 24, 2010 at 13:36

      I actually thought it was kind of refreshing not to hear some over-blown explanation of his work. That said thought I still think there must be some sort of significance of the items he painted, or else why would he paint them repeatedly? It’s a mystery 🙂

  2. Comment by Lydia

    Lydia February 26, 2010 at 16:12

    I am embarrassed to admit that I still haven’t been to this museum. Hopefully when we have some visitors over they can encourage me to go and see his work for myself.

    • Comment by Alison


      Alison February 26, 2010 at 17:02

      Don’t be embarrassed! I wanted to go when it opened and it still took me almost a year. It is worth it though and if you have the time, get the audio guide. It really does give a lot of interesting background info.

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  4. Comment by Lee

    Lee March 24, 2010 at 18:37

    My husband and would love to get to Brussels and this museum! We went to an exhibit in Milan last year – our entire visit to Milan was planned around it. As you can guess, we love Magritte’s work. 😉 One of these days we will figure out the connections to Brussels from Bolzano… Thanks for the post about the museum!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison March 26, 2010 at 14:20

      If you love Magritte then this is definitely the place to be. There is also a museum in him former house and several more of his works scattered in some of the other art museums here.

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  6. Comment by Jennifer

    Jennifer February 3, 2011 at 13:41

    Just one thing about the Magritte Museum…we thought it met our expectations wonderfully but there was one problem. The museum does not allow for baby strollers/prams. We planned to visit while our infant slept. He was sleeping as planned but then had to be awoken and then carried through the entire museum. Needless to say we could not stop for 2 seconds to even look at the art. Not an easy way to promote art appreciation in young children! The staff was incredibly rude about the policy. I have since warned families not to go with their children, something that makes life with children prohibitive.

    • Comment by Alison


      Alison February 3, 2011 at 17:05

      That’s good to note! I’m a bit surprised because it seems that most places here are pretty kid friendly but perhaps not so accessible for strollers.

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