Magritte was born in Lessines, in the province of Hainaut, in 1898, the eldest son of Léopold Magritte, a tailor, and Adeline, a milliner. He began drawing lessons in 1910. In 1912, his mother committed suicide by drowning herself in the River Sambre. Magritte was present when her body was retrieved from the water. The image of his mother floating, her dress obscuring her face, may have influenced a 1927-1928 series of paintings of people with cloth obscuring their faces, including Les Amants, but Magritte disliked this explanation. His art shows a more representational style of surrealism compared to the “automatic” style seen in works by artists like Joan Miró. In addition to fantastic elements, his work is often witty and amusing. He also created a number of surrealist versions of other famous paintings.
René Magritte described his paintings by saying,
- My painting is visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, ‘What does that mean?’. It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.