cover image Magritte: A Life

Magritte: A Life

Alex Danchev, with Sarah Whitfield. Pantheon, $45 (480p) ISBN 978-0-307-90819-3

In this monumental biography of the inimitable surrealist artist, the late British biographer Danchev (Cézanne) provides a fascinating study of a man whose “stunning imagination ha[s] revolutionized what we see and how we understand.” Following Danchev’s death in 2016, art historian and Magritte scholar Whitfield picked up where he left off, using his “impressive archive of material” to vividly capture the last two decades of the life of Belgian artist René Magritte (1898–1967). The combined efforts yield an exhaustive look at the painter’s unusual life, covering everything from the suicide of his mother when Magritte was 13 (which the artist didn’t speak of for nearly 30 years) to his predilection for pornography, his relationship with his wife and model Georgette Berger, and his interactions with contemporaries, notably French writer André Breton, the 1920s’ “Pope of Surrealism.” By the 1960s, the famously “conventional” Belgian’s subversive paintings—which, Danchev writes, were always imbued with “a pinch of eroticism” and “a sizzle of dread”—achieved worldwide fame. “Contemporary life is replete with Magritte and his sensibility,” Danchev writes, noting that even the Apple corporate logo draws upon Magritte’s 1964 painting The Son of Man. The result is sure to be the definitive account of the extraordinary artist’s life. (Nov.)