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Zoe's Story

An exploration of...

Cultural Fails

Story 1: Brussels and Magritte

As part of my involvement with Failing Forward I decided to look around me for examples of cultural figures who inspire hope for life after failing. As the Failing Forward project took place in Belgium, it wasn't long before I found Rene Magritte.- Belgium's most championed surrealist artist. There is a whole gallery dedicated to his life and works which takes pride of place in the capital.

But the professional life of this most loved artist was not always as celebrated as it is now, it is indeed a story of many failings, and for the story to end in such a respect for his work the only answer can be that Rene Magritte possessed something very valuable that the Failing Forward movement wishes to capture and share, fail resilience.

The following time-line list is a few examples of Magrittes apparent failings.

  • 1918 Art School drop-out

  • 1922 Began many years working artistic jobs that were very far away from his true passions in order to pay the bills.

  • 1927 His first one man exhibition in Brussels, completely abused by the critics. He tries his luck in Paris.

  • 1930 Closure of the gallery in France that did support his work means Magritte returns to Brussels where he creates Studio Dongo, for which he continues to do the advertising work that he famously loathes – He doesn't publicly produce any more of his own paintings for another four years.

  • German Occupation of Belgium He looses his friendship with Breton over a dispute involving a gold cross, then begins to earn money creating forgeries of famous works.

  • 1936 The breakdown of his marriage, not to be reconciled until 1940.

  • 1960's Knowledge and appreciation of his work in popular culture didn't really begin until this period, that's after around 40 years of hard work with no wider acknowledgement, Magritte dies just 7 years after his success as we know it began.

It is so easy with recorded history to edit out the unpolished, messy details of a figures life, or a groups mistakes, or a Nations errors. But it makes greatness seem so much more achievable for you in your own life when you look closely at these figures and find that their road to success was not smooth, that failing is essential and unavoidable on a journey towards an end goal. Magritte is an excellent example of someone who took risks, whose ambition and reality wrestled with each other most of the time, and who seemed unafraid to make a mess. It is integral that we endeavour to take away the social, and personal sting of negativity attached to failing, and replace it with a more inspiring and motivating reaction. It is on this matter that I draw a quote from Magritte himself,

Those who become entangled in these false ideas are prevented from perceiving the integral ones...

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