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The man in the bowler hat, Rene Magritte

The man in the bowler hat - Rene Magritte. Canvas, oil. 70 x 50 cm

"Man in a bowler hat" is the title of the picture painted by Rene Magritte back in 1964. It forms an integral part of a cycle of his works painted in the same year, on which the face-covered people are depicted. The subject cycle also includes the pictures titled the "Son of Man" and "The Great War".

The image of a bowler-wearing man runs through all works by Rene Magritte. For the first time it appeared in 1926 in Magritte’s painting "Reflections of a lonely passerby."


The canvas depicts a man wearing a formal suit, which consists of a white shirt, a beige tie, and a black coat. He has a bowler hat on his head. His face is not visible as it is covered by a white dove flying past, with its wings spread, hiding the man’s face almost entirely. As a result, the viewers can see only the man’s chin.

At the background of the painting the sea is shown, barely visible from behind the man’s shoulders, and the sky, occupying most of the area. Both the sky and the sea are written in the same tone and are not too detailed.

The similar approach was applied to the man's suit. The image of the dove is significantly standing out, enabling viewers to see every single father in its wings.

This is normally associated with avant-gardism, which not only implies the emergence of new cultural phenomena, but also a demonstrates the senility of the former. This is where the very idea of a portrait, intended to show the hero’s face and the special features of his appearance and clothing, is being disputed.

Magritte managed to reverse this situation: in his painting, the master does not show the face at all, but rather concentrated in depicting the dove in all details.

Interesting Facts

  • A man dressed in a formal suit, with the bowler hat on his head can often be met in the master's works. Magritte’s contemporaries used to assume that this is the image is Magritte himself, and the associated pictures are actually a self-portrait. The main reason for the subject is quite simple: even in the photos that survived until today, one can see that the artist preferred a formal suit and a bowler hat to any other clothes.

  • Magritte did not bother with explaining the meaning of his paintings and assures others that the pictures would better be explored rather than interpreted. The master also said that everything visible hides something else, and people are in need of seeing the hidden. That is why the interest in the hidden is always there, capable of developing into a conflict between the hidden and available visible.
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