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La Grande famille

also known as The Large Family

Artist: Rene Magritte
Created: 1963
Dimensions (cm): 81.0 x 100.0
Format: Oil on canvas
Location: Private collection

La Grande Famille

"To be a surrealist means barring from your mind all remembrance of what you have seen, and being always on the lookout for what has never been.” René Magritte on Surrealism.

In 1963, René Magritte painted ‘La Grande Famille’ or as it is more commonly known in English, ‘The Large Family’. At first glance, one immediately questions the appropriateness of the title for there is no image of a family, human or otherwise. However, that should not come as a surprise as Magritte was well-known to derive great pleasure in confusing his viewers.

The background of ‘La Grande Famille’ displays a dreary sky, either on the verge of a storm or, could the pink light on the horizon signify the end of one? The ominous clouds together with the rolling sea below evoke turbulent feelings, perhaps symbolizing the trials and tribulations that families often endure together.

On the other hand, a significant contrast is created between the gloomy surroundings and the frontal white bird, a common symbol of peace.  Window-like, this bird reveals within its silhouette a calm blue sky with white fluffy clouds that bring about feelings of warmth, much like those experienced on a beautiful summer day. The bird may well represent the unity and love within a family unit. In depicting harmony and discord, Magritte skillfully portrayed the concept of family in ‘La Grande Famille’ by evoking relevant and intense emotions through symbolic surrealism.

A Little about René Magritte

Born in Belgium in 1989, René Magritte was an exceptional Surrealist artist. He was said to be most moved whenever his art imparted mystery and baffled his viewers, proof of which is blatant in “La Grande Famille”. Many psychoanalysts have agreed that much of Magritte’s symbolic artwork stemmed from his mother’s suicide in 1912, with images of reality painted in an unrealistic way, insinuating that the artist vacillated between the fact that he wished his mother alive, and the truth that she no longer was.

‘La Grande Famille’ by René Magritte is currently in a private collection.


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