René François Ghislain Magritte, a Belgian surrealist artist, was born on November 21, 1898 in Lessines. He was the eldest son of Léopold and Régina Magritte. His mother Régina committed suicide on March 12, 1912 by drowning herself in the River Sambre. Supposedly, when his mother’s body was found her dress was covering her face, an image that has been suggested as the source of several of Magritte’s paintings in 1927-1928. The paintings depicted people with cloth obscuring their faces, including Les Amants.
René Magritte began drawing lessons in 1910. His earliest paintings were Impressionistic in style. He studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels from 1916 to 1918, under Constant Motald. However, Magritte found the instruction uninspiring. The paintings that he produced from 1916 to 1918 were influenced by Futurism and Cubism, mostly portraying female nudes. His inspiration during this time came from the Purists and Fernand Léger.
Magritte’s acquaintance with Giorgio de Chirico’s Pittura Metafisica (Metaphysical Painting) and Dadaistic poetry constituted an important artistic turning point in his career. In1925, together with E.L.T. Mesens, Jean Arp, Francis Picabia, Schwitters, Tzara and Man Ray, he co-operated in the magazines Aesophage and Marie, and became close with a group of Dadaists.
In 1926, René Magritte produced his first Surrealist painting, entitled The Lost Jockey. From 1927 to 1930, Magritte lived in Frace, establishing relationships with Surrealists, including Max Ernts, Dali, André Breton, and Paul Eluard. While living in Paris, Magritte formed a system of conceptual painting, which remained virtually unchanged until the end of his life. His painting manner was precise and clean, and he was able to depict trustworthy an unreal, unthinkable reality. He used symbols of mirrors, eyes, windows, stages, and curtains and pictures within pictures to demonstrate the problems of visual perception and illusionary of images.
In the 1940s Magritte attempted to change his painting style twice. From 1945 to 1947, during his “vie-heureuse” period, he painted in the style of Renoir. 1947 to 1948 was classified as the “époque vache” or the “Cow Period”. Neither styles proved to be effective; Magritte returned to his previous style.
During the 1950s, René Magritte painted The Enchanted Realm (1953) for a casino in Knokke-le-Zut, and The Ignorant Fairy (1957) for the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Charleroi. In the last year of his life, Magritte began to make sculptures of his painted images, developing the theme of correlation of mental and material realities.
René Magritte died of cancer on August 15, 1967 in Brussels. He was 69 years old.