The Healer
Be the first to vote…

Arty Fact

More about The Healer

mbaa's picture


Magritte’s bowler hat-clad head was full of all these crazy ideas.

The Healer was one of those ideas that followed him around until he died. It started in 1937 when Magritte took a picture of himself. He wore his painting like Mr. Potato Head wears his face, topped with a blanket and a hat. He called it God, the eighth day. God, in this case, definitely happens to be a man. He has the authority of Abe Lincoln without the throne.

Soon after, Magritte completed a painting based on this photograph. He called it Le Therapitique, or The Healer. The painting had the Healer sitting on a mound of sand, overlooking the sea. This time his head-body was a painting of two birds in an open cage. If my therapist’s office looked like that, I’d pay him not  to talk to me.

This Healer,  that resides in the Menil Collection in Houston, is slightly different from the painting. It has an extra dimension to it - a third. This healer is cast in bronze, sitting on a rock, a body hollowed out to reveal the cage. In the years preceding his death, Rene chose eight paintings that were to be transformed into unique bronze sculptures. The Healer in Houston was one of them.

The Menils were good friends of the Belgian artist. They fled from Paris in 1941, and set up shop in Houston. They had been collecting art since the 1930s. Courtesy of their booming oil business, the couple was finally able to support the art scene in Europe. For Magritte, they built the largest repository of his works outside of Belgium. That’s fan level extreme. But the Menils were more than just fans, they were patrons. They even funded Magritte’s catalogue raisonné. It took him twenty years to complete this five-volume catalog and they were with him every step of the way.

The Healer required a lot of research before it was executed. Magritte required a “robust” man, according to Alexander Iolas, once a close associate of the Menil Collection. He fashioned a cage from the measurements of this gigantic man. He also made the plaster cast of the feet from a live model. Sadly, Magritte never got to see these bronzed beauties. The Healer was cast posthumously.



  1. Lipinski, Lisa. René Magritte and the Art of Thinking. New York, NY: Routledge, 2019.
  2. “The Therapist, 1937 by Rene Magritte.” Rene Magritte, n.d.
  3. Bordin, Giorgio, and Laura Polo DAmbrosio. Medicine in Art. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010.
  4. Karaim, Reed. “How the De Menils and Their Art Museum Changed Houston.”, n.d.
  5. Castaneda, Adam. “The Menil Offers the Mysteries of Magritte.” Houston Press. Houston Press, January 17, 2019.
  6. Ryzin, Jeanne Claire van. “'Double Vision' - A Dual Biography of Dominique and John De Menil.” Sightlines, March 25, 2018.
  7. “Magritte Rene, The Healer (Le Therapeute), 1967.” National Gallery, n.d.