11/21/2012 08:45 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Happy Birthday, Rene Magritte: Surrealist Painter's Work And Sense Of Humor Endures (SLIDESHOW)

Today is the birthday of Belgian surrealist, Rene Magritte. Born on this day in 1898, the man with an amusing predilection for bowler hats would turn 114 years old if he were miraculously alive.

rene magritte

Los Angeles, UNITED STATES: Gallery security guard J. Dulay poses beside 'Decalcomania' ('La Decalcomanie') by Belgian surrealist artist Rene Magritte (1898-1967). AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECK/Getty Images.

Magritte began making art in 1916, creating paintings similar in style to Impressionist masters. The following year, he enrolled at Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, moving more in the direction of Futurist and Cubist artists like Jean Metzinger. It wasn't until 1926 that Magritte produced his first Surrealist work, "The Lost Jockey," launching his association with Andre Breton's circle in Paris.

The young artist threw himself full force into the manifesto-making sentiments of the Surrealists. With the exception of a brief painterly detour known as his "Renoir Period," Magritte became known for his provocative pieces incorporating ordinary objects into unusual spaces. One of his most famous works, "The Treachery of Images," plays on the tendency of works to deceive as it features a painting of a lone pipe with the caption, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" ("This is not a pipe").

rene magritte

'Le Beau Navire', a painting by artist Rene Magritte, was on display at Sotheby's during a preview, January 20, 2010, in New York. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images.

Though Magritte is now famous for his mystifying paintings, during his life the Brussels based artist allegedly supported himself at times through the production of fake works by Picasso and Braques. His clever art forgeries later turned into forged banknotes, featuring King Leopold of Belgium smoking a pipe, which highlights the smirky-worthy deceit present in nearly everything Magritte touched. The feisty artist painted well into his later life, exhibiting a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art shortly before his death in 1968. His work has since received widespread attention across the globe, inspiring artists from Jeff Beck to Jean-Luc Godard.

In honor of the artist's birthday, check out this slideshow of little-known sheet music covers designed by Magritte.

Rene Magritte

Images are courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries.