Rene Magritte was born on November 21, 1898 in Belgium. Magritte's art had two major influences that happened in his childhood. The first was a painting he came across at a cemetery. He said, "I found, in the middle of some broken stone columns and heaped-up leaves, a painter who had come from the capital, and who seemed to me to be performing magic." The second influence was his mother's suicide when he was 14 years old. It was believed that he saw his mother's body being removed from the lake with her white dress covering her face. This image reflects many of his paintings.
Magritte is known for his idiosyncratic surreal paintings. To support himself, he was a commercial artist for many years. He created book designs and advertisements. During his time as an artist, Magritte wanted to avoid the stylistic approach to most modern paintings. French artists were experimenting with new techniques while Magritte settled on a deadpan technique. Magritte is also known for his repetition throughout his art. Magritte's images were very simplistic but provoked unsettling thoughts.
Magritte died in 1967 at 69 years old.
"Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see." - Magritte
The Son of Man, 1946 - Oil on canvas
The Lovers, 1928 - Oil on canvas
Golconda, 1953 - Oil on canvas
The Art of Living, 1967 - Oil on canvas
The False Mirror, 1928 - Oil on canvas
Activities For Kids
A great way to introduce Magritte as the surreal artist he is, is to read the book, Magritte's Marvelous Hat, written and illustrated by D.B. Johnson. The book shows the surrealism that Magritte uses in his artwork. It has a strange and quirky vibe to it to introduce the artist and how he painted.
There is also a video of the book on YouTube you could show to your students:
Another activity you could do with your class is to take inspiration from Magritte's painting, The Son of Man, and have the students make their own picture. They could create a self portrait and they can draw whatever image they would like over their face, much like the apple is covering the man's face in the painting. They could draw their favorite food, their favorite toy, or something they're interested in. Here's an example: