The Belgian surrealist artist, René Magritte became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images, which he described as “visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, ‘What does that mean?’. It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.” Psychoanalysts attributed this back and forth play with reality to the early death of his mother and his ‘mother is alive’ ‘mother is dead’ schools of thought.
Like Magritte, Bill Brandt–the photographer of this picture–would have preferred to hide behind his pictures, and be the original faceless creator. As a photographer, Bill Brandt was famous for his contrasted images of class society in The English at Home (1936), his Blitz picture, for his dark landscapes, for the disturbing distortions in hisPerspective of Nudes and for his secrecy. His photos of Peter Sellers, Magritte and Harold Pinter are famous.
The painting in the picture is not Magritte’s famed The Son of Man, but one of many bowler hat variations he painted over his life. The Great War. 1966.