Lou Cosyn, Brussels (acquired by 1964)
Robert de Keyn, Brussels
Galerie Vockaert, Brussels (acquired from the above by 1971)
Alex Maguy (Galerie de l'Elysée), Paris
Niveau Gallery, New York (acquired from the above in 1972)
Fanny de Margoulies Rosenak, New York (sold from the Estate: Sotheby's, New York, November 13, 1997, lot 388)
Acquired at the above sale
Brussels, Galerie des Editions La Boétie, Surréalisme, 1945-46, no. 73
Verviers, Société Royal des Beaux-Arts de Verviers, René Magritte, 1947, no. 15
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts & Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Rétrospective Magritte, 1978-79, no. 131, illustrated in the catalogue
Letter from Magritte to Marcel Mariën, April 1944 (reproduced in René Magritte, La Destination: lettres à Marcel Mariën (1937-1962), Brussels, 1977, no. 83)
Letter from Magritte to Mariën, circa 1944, unpublished
Paul Nougé ("Charles Baudelaire-Nougé"), "L'amoureuse fidèle," La terre n'est pas une vallée de larmes, Brussels, 1945, illustrated p. 2
René Magritte, Marcel Mariën & Paul Nougé, Dix Tableaux de Magritte précédés de descriptions, Brussels, 1946, illustrated pl. 3
View: Surrealism in Belgium, New York, December 1946, illustrated p. 18
Wergifosse, "La Partie du Plaisir," Le Fait accompli, Brussels, October 1973, no. 99 (originally written in 1947)
Enrique Gómez-Correa, El Espectro de René Magritte, Santiago, 1948, illustrated p. 25
David Sylvester, Sarah Whitfield & Michael Raeburn, René Magritte, Catalogue raisonné, 1931-1948, vol. 2, London, 1993, no. 553, illustrated p. 331
Painted in 1944, the present work was completed after Magritte had already established himself as a successful member of the Surrealists in Paris. La Vie heureuse was painted during Magritte's self-proclaimed "sunlit period" which emerged in an effort to overcome the despair of the ongoing war. Inspired by Renoir's late paintings of voluptuous female nudes depicted in lush, idyllic landscapes, Magritte used a more luminous palette during this period, as evidenced by the present work. Magritte wrote in 1955:
"For the period I call 'Surrealism in full sunlight,' I am trying to join together two mutually exclusive things: 1) a feeling of levity, intoxication, happiness, which depends on a certain mood and on an atmosphere that certain Impressionists - or rather, Impressionism in general - have managed to render in painting. Without Impressionism, I do not believe we would know this feeling of real objects perceived through colors and nuances, and free of all classical reminiscences... and, 2) a feeling of the mysterious quality of objects..." (letter to G. Puel, as cited in Harry Torczyner, René Magritte, Ideas and Images, Paris, 1977, p. 186).
The artist described La Vie heureuse as follows: "La femme sommeille comme un fruit dans l'arbre ensoleillé" / "the woman is dozing like a fruit in the sunlit tree" (René Magritte, Marcel Mariën, and Paul Nougé, op. cit., Brussels, 1946, pl. 3 description). This work suggests an equivalence between the beauty of a peaceful, sleeping woman and the warmth of a sunlit piece of fruit ripening on a branch.
A variant of the image is mentioned in an undated letter to Marcel Mariën as "Belle découverte en peinture" \ "A fine discovery in painting," with an enclosed sketch depicting the same symbol of a woman in sphere-like shape, this time hovering as a celestial body in the sky. In a letter from 1944, Magritte describes to Mariën his plans for a book to be published with illustrations of three of his works corresponding to poetry by his friend Paul Nougé. In the collection of Surrealist writings, "La Terre n'est pas une vallée de larmes" (Marcel Mariën, ed., op. cit., Brussels, 1945, p. 2-3), the present work is illustrated alongside the second verse of Nougé's poem, one of his reworkings of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal. The other two works are of a female nude with a fish's tail sleeping on a couch (L'univers interdit) and a landscape with the intertwined forms of birds and leaves (La clairière). All three reference a sense of removal from reality into a tranquil, dream-like atmosphere.
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