Rene Magritte (21 November 1898 – 15 August 1967) was a Belgian surrealist artist. Magritte is one of my favourite artists of all time. He is famous for creating a number of thought-provoking, incongruous images. Rene Magritte depicted ordinary objects in an extraordinary context, the premise of his work being the presentation of things that do not belong together. This unique ability is borne from Rene Magritte’s fecund imagination.
Considering Magritte’s visual flair and ability to catch the eye, it’s no surprise that Magritte’s influence was felt very strongly in rock music. In particular, Magritte’s work was very popular with album art designers. Here are some fine examples of the Magritte inspiration on rock album cover art.
PINK FLOYD – WISH YOU WERE HERE
One of Magritte’s most striking imagery involves the man in the bowler hat. It has been said that for Magritte the man in the bowler hat represented himself and the facelessness of the image was him selecting anonymity as the marker of himself. According to art designers Hipgnosis, the album art was designed to reflect the album’s theme of absence. Intended or not, there’s no mistaking the Magritte inspiration in this back cover illustration.
BIRTH CONTROL – PLASTIC PEOPLE
Magritte’s ‘man in a bowler hat’ is also a clear inspiration for the cover of German progressive band Birth Control’s 1975 album, Plastic People.
JEFF BECK – BECK-OLA
Now, there’s no mistaking where the artwork for Beck-Ola comes from – it’s virtually a straight lift of Magritte’s The Listening Room.
JACKSON BROWNE – LATE FOR THE SKY
Magritte’s Empire of Light provided context for Browne’s album as well as for a memorable scene in The Exorcist. See if you can figure which scene we are talking about!
FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND – CASUALLY DRESSED & DEEP IN CONVERSATION
This Welsh post-hardcore outfit looked to Magritte as well to make an impact on the cover of their debut album. The Lovers is a surreal painting of two persons kissing behind veils. Art history buffs will know that Magritte had the tragic experience of discovering the dead body of his mentally unstable mother as a young person and her face was shrouded by her nightgown. Hence these disturbing images.
STYX – THE GRAND ILLUSION
Magritte’s exploited the optical illusion painted on The Blank Signature to confuse the viewer’s mind. Styx borrowed this concept to fit the title of their classic breakthrough album.
MUSE – ABSOLUTION
More implied than a direct reflection of Magritte as this album cover art suggests the image of flying or floating men in Magritte’s Golconda.
THE SUGARPLASTIC – RESIN
Another direct homage as The Sugarplastic takes on Magritte’s The Travesty of Images for their Resin album cover.
SPHERE – FOUR IN ONE
A jazz album intended as a tribute to Thelonious Monk but also pays homage to Magritte with the use of The False Mirror.
ORANGE JUICE – THE VERY BEST OF
Last but not least, a compilation album of Scottish 80s outfit Orange Juice which features an image influenced by Magritte’s Collective Invention.
… still there’s more …