Salvador Dalí, the flamboyant Spanish master of melting watches and fiery visions, may be the most well known of all Surrealists. But it is the cool, disarmingly deadpan still lifes, portraits, landscapes, and interiors of René Magritte, born in Belgium in 1898 (six years before the birth of Dalí), that live and breathe in popular culture and the collective imagination.
Few artists have been as plagiarized as Magritte—who himself appropriated Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and Alice in Wonderland. Such classic logos as the Beatles’ Apple and the CBS Eye were lifted from Magritte. He inspired works by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and Robert Gober, and countless album and book covers—from Styx’s The Grand Illusion to Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The films of Jean-Luc Godard and Terry Gilliam, the movie poster for The Exorcist, and the dapper bowler-topped mob in the Pierce Brosnan remake of The Thomas Crown Affair all owe something to the understated Belgian Surrealist.