A Life

Alex Danchev


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The first major biography of the pathbreaking, perpetually influential surrealist artist and iconoclast whose inspiration can be seen in everyone from Jasper Johns to Beyoncé—by the celebrated biographer of Cézanne and Braque

In this thought-provoking life of René Magritte (1898‒1967), Alex Danchev makes a compelling case for Magritte as the single most significant purveyor of images to the modern world. Magritte’s surreal sensibility, deadpan melodrama, and fine-tuned outrageousness have become an inescapable part of our visual landscape, through such legendary works as The Treachery of Images (Ceci n’est pas une pipe), and his celebrated iterations of Man in a Bowler Hat.
Danchev explores the path of this highly unconventional artist, from his middle-class Belgian beginnings to the years in which he led a small, brilliant band of surrealists (and famously clashed with André Breton) to his first major retrospective, which traveled to the United States in 1965 and gave rise to his international reputation.
Using thirty-two pages of color images and more than 160 black-and-white illustrations throughout the text, Danchev delves deeply into Magritte’s artistic development and the profound questions he raised in his work about the very nature of authenticity.


Alex Danchev:
ALEX DANCHEV is the author of the biographies Georges Braque: A Life and Cézanne: A Life, a new translation of The Letters of Paul Cézanne, and the essay collections On Art and War and Terror, On Good and Evil and the Grey Zone, and 100 Artists’ Manifestos: From the Futurists to the Stuckists. For three years before his death in 2016 (as he was finishing this biography), Danchev was a professor of international relations at the University of St Andrews, in Scotland.

SARAH WHITFIELD is an art historian. She is the coeditor of René Magritte: Catalogue Raisonné, and she serves on the René Magritte authentication committee.