René François Ghislain Magritte, born 1898, was a Belgian surrealist artist. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images that fall under the umbrella of surrealism. His work is known for challenging observers' preconditioned perceptions of reality.
Little is known about Magritte's early life. In 1912, when he was just 13 years old, his mother committed suicide by drowning herself in the River Sambre. This was not her first attempt at taking her own life; she had made many over a number of years, driving her husband Léopold to lock her into her bedroom. One day she escaped, and was missing for days. Her body was later discovered a mile or so down the nearby river.
Supposedly, when his mother was found, her dress was covering her face, an image that has been suggested as the source of several of Magritte's paintings.
The paintings he produced during his early years were influenced by Futurism and by the figurative Cubism of Metzinger. It wasn't until 1926 that he made his first surreal painting, The Lost Jockey. He grew to be a close friend of André Breton, and became involved in the surrealist group of which he ended up being a leading member.
During the German occupation of Belgium in World War II he remained in Brussels, which led to a break with Breton. He briefly adopted a colorful, painterly style in 1943–44, an interlude known as his "Renoir Period", as a reaction to his feelings of alienation and abandonment that came with living in German-occupied Belgium.
In 1946, renouncing the violence and pessimism of his earlier work, he joined several other Belgian artists in signing the manifesto Surrealism in Full Sunlight. During 1947–48, Magritte's "Vache Period", he painted in a provocative and crude Fauve style. During this time, Magritte supported himself through the production of fake Picassos, Braques and Chiricos—a fraudulent repertoire he was later to expand into the printing of forged banknotes during the lean postwar period.
Popular interest in Magritte's work rose considerably in the 1960s, and his imagery has influenced pop, minimalist and conceptual art.
Magritte died of pancreatic cancer on 15 August 1967 in his own bed, aged 68, and was interred in Schaerbeek Cemetery, Evere, Brussels.
"If the dream is a translation of waking life, waking life is also a translation of the dream." -René Magritte