The Son of Man or “Le fils de l’homme” is a 1964 painting by the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte.
Magritte painted it as a self portrait. The painting consists of a man in an overcoat and a bowler hat standing in front of a low wall, beyond which is a sea or a river and a cloudy sky in the background. The man’s face is largely obscured by a green apple. However, the man’s eyes can be seen peeking over the edge of the apple. Another subtle feature is that the man’s left arm appears to bend backwards at the elbow.
Principles & elements of Design are present in the art piece, with the usage of lines, as well as the use of negative space seen in the background to draw attention to the man and the apple without any distractions. We can see a dominance of cool colours, such as grays and blues, creating a somewhat moody or depressing scene, we can see also the usage of red and green, apparent in the man’s tie and the apple, which cause them to stick out and become a center of attention.
The painting appears almost symmetrical at first glance, but when we look closely we notice some slight differences between the two halves making it asymmetrical, with the floating green apple acting as the focal point of the art piece creating contrast and emphasis. Other elements such as proportion and scale are present and creates balance.
Without the apple, the painting looks so ordinary and natural, but the artist used the fact that humans naturally instantly look towards a person’s face and placed a floating apple there creating an element of surprise for the viewers.
When asked about the meaning behind this painting, René Magritte himself said:
“At least it hides the face partly well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.“
‘Son of Man‘ is arresting because you can get whatever you want from an art piece, many people can look at the same thing and see completely different things. The artist hinted that the painting is about the conflict of what is visibly hidden and what is visibly present in that the apple obscuring the face of the man.
It is always difficult to decode the imagery of surrealist paintings but at the same time they are compelling.
My interpretation of this painting, is that each person has a hidden depths, while appearing perfectly ordinary on the surface, each one of us has stories, secrets and problems we don’t share as we go through our daily lives.
6 thoughts on “ART ANALYSIS & CRITIQUE – Son of Man””
Great summary of the painting’s key artistic features, and a simple, powerful interpretation of its meaning. Awsome!
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Thank you so much!
Very easily described and to the point.
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