The Son of Man, an Iconic Work by Rene Magritte

Painted in 1964 by Ren Magritte, is The Son of Man, the Belgian surrealist painting. Interestingly, the painting was initially meant to be a self-portrait. The painting features a man in an overcoat and a bowler hat sitting on his head. This man stands in front of a low wall with a sea and a cloudy sky forming his background. A green apple hovering before the man’s face largely obscures his face, creatively leaving the eyes which can be seen peeking over the apple’s edge. A keen look at the painting will reveal another clever tactic on the left arm by the painter. The left arm’s elbow appears to bends backward.

According to Magritte, the painting is an expression of humanity. He explains that whatever we see conceals another thing. We are always interested in seeing the hidden thing, which develops a zealous feeling which in turn leads to a certain conflict between the seen and the unseen. Remember everything in the painting is deliberately positioned wherever it is for a reason.

The Son of Man has a resemblance to The Great War on Facades, another painting by the same artist with the two pieces sharing the same imagery. The second painting also consists of a man wearing a bowler hat, plus a woman whose face is covered by a flower. The man in The Great War on Facades has his face obscured by a bird instead of an apple. This indicates Magritte’s fascination of the surrealist art.

Several scenes in the 1999 remake of the film The Thomas Crown Affair shows much dominance of the painting in it. The painting is seen in the main protagonist’s house. His love interest sees the painting as a stereotypical faceless businessman. This protagonist disguises himself and his accomplices by dressing like the man in The Son of Man to confuse the police. The particular scene is when he is returning to the museum a painting he had stolen earlier. As to show how much the painting prevails in the film, all of the protagonist accomplices wear bowler hats while carrying similar briefcases filled with The Son of Man copies.
Other films where the painting is featured include Stranger Than Fiction, Bronson, 500 Days of Summer as well as the 2007 Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.

In Pop Culture

Norman Rockwell painted Mr. Apple in 1970, which was a playful homage to the painting The Son of Man. Norman replaced the obscured head of the man in the painting with a red apple as compared to the original painting which features a green one.
A 1995 song video by Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson titled Scream briefly features the painting in the Gallery area.

The man in the bowler hat image influenced the society, as any piece of art would.

The Son of Man is Privately Owned. Recent reports talk about the painting being seen in L Hotels, hanging in its lounge. This hotel is in the historic area of Montreal. Chances of viewing the painting are rare since it is privately owned. However, reproductions of the original copy are available.