Surrealism, the history of a great art movement

René Magritte a master of the surrealisme

René Magritte is the artist that one can qualify without questioning as master of the surrealism. Innovative artist, he has deeply marked the art world and continues to inspire artists of today.

René Magritte
Golconde artwork by artist René Magritte

A childhood marked by drama

René Magritte was born in Lessines, Belgium, in 1898. After the birth of his two brothers, the family moved to Châtelet where he took his first painting lessons .The family having financial difficulties, moved very often.

The life of Magritte changes when, in 1912, the mother commits suicide by drowning in the River Sambre. This drama will mark the work of René Magritte and he will often show elements of the event in his paintings. The father later hands the education of his sons over to governesses. At the age of fifteen, he meets Georgette at the fair in Charleroi. This girl will become the wife of René Magritte and will be his only model throughout his existence. The first paintings by Magritte are impressionist and date from 1915.

Origins of Magritte painting

From 1916 until 1918, René Magritte takes lessons at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels. It’s by working in a workshop in 1919, with Flouquet, with whom he will work at the journal Au volant, that he discovers Cubism and Futurism. The first paintings of Magritte are exhibited in 1920 at the Brussels Art Center. The following year, he was hired as a draftsman in a paper mill.


René Magritte - Fils de l'Homme

In 1924, he mixes with the Dada movement and will be deeply moved by a painting of De Chirico. Carried by this discovery, he plans to launch a new magazine Oesophage. Combined with other Belgian artists like Nougé, Goemans, André Souris or Lecomte, the Belgian surrealism takes shape. His first surrealist painting, The Lost Jockey, dates from 1926. In 1928, a first major exhibition to Magritte was organized, at L’époque Gallery, where the group will meet.

From 1927 to 1930, Magritte stays in France in Val-de-Marne. There, he meets the French surrealists and will make several collaborations and exhibitions with them despite the challenging affiliations. He then returns to Belgium and helps, for the sake of earning a living, in a small advertising agency.

In the following years, Magritte exhibits in New York and London and makes the cover of an André Breton’s book

René Magritte and dedication to his artt

From 1943 to 1945, Magritte uses the impressionist technique in his paintings, which he’ll qualify as "Renoir" period and the first books about his works are published. He executes during the fifties and early sixties commands like eight decorative panels of the Casino Knokke-Heist or The Mysterious Barricades for the Palace of the Congress of Brussels. Retrospectives of his work are organized in Belgium, the US and the Netherlands in 1954, 1965 and 1967. René Magritte, suffering from cancer, dies at the age of sixty-eight on August 15th, 1967, at his home in Brussels. He will be buried in the cemetery of Schaerbeek, alongside his wife.

Quote by René Magritte

“Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.”
See more quote by René Magritte

Travel Info

  • Magritte Museum
  • Address: Esseghem Street 135, 1090 Bruxelles, Belgium View map
  • Tél/Fax : 0032 (0) 2 428 26 26
  • Website:
  • Magritte Museum
  • Address: 1 Place Royale, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium View map
  • Tel. : +32 (0)2 508 32 11
  • Fax : +32 (0)2 508 32 32
  • Website:
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