Far from underestimating Magritte, Danchev’s picture of him is pointillist and enormous in scope. It is full of shock, for the casual Magritte fan who knows little about his life ... There is not much discussion of women in political terms in Magritte: A Life, although they appear in Magritte’s life plenty. This is perhaps the book’s one significant flaw, especially since its best surprises often occur at the intersection of Magritte’s politics and his relationship with other artists ... Biographies usually attribute weight to moments or eras in a person’s life, building a narrative which will 'explain' the artworks, but this one attempts no such thing ... Magritte: A Life paints scenes, all taken from life, but not forced into the realist mode which can constrain works of this type.
As a whole, the book is accessible, factually reliable and, at 439 pages, free of the inflated heft of so many recent biographies ... Magritte declined to talk about his mother’s death, even privately, and dismissed psychology as a pseudoscience. Danchev does not say much about the subject ... Even so, it seems fair to say that his mother’s death and the years of depression that preceded it surely bear a connection to the all-around sense of apprehension pervading his work. Danchev is on firmer ground in describing Magritte’s career.
[A] diligent and insightful biography ... Danchev proved an indefatigable researcher, and Sarah Whitfield does full justice to his labours in completing this final chapter of Magritte’s life. Here as elsewhere, however, the artist seems to resist coming to full corporeal life on the page. Still, you can’t help feeling that the persistent sense of René being there and not being there might have been exactly as he would have wished it.