Signed Magritte (lower right)
E. L. T. Mesens, London (acquired from the artist circa 1932)
Marc Hendrickx, Brussels (acquired from the above late 1950s)
Hanover Gallery, London
Leonard and Ruth Horwich, Chicago (acquired from the above 1960)
Private Collection (acquired from the above 2007)
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Exposition René Magritte, 1933, no. 18
Paris, Parc des Expositions, Salon des Surindépendants, Sixième exposition, 1933
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Exposition Minotaure, 1934, no. 72
Knokke, Casino Communal, Ve festival belge d'été: Expositions René Magritte-Paul Delvaux, 1952, no. 11
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, René Magritte, 1954, no. 41
Venice, Giardini, XXVII Biennale di Venezia, Belgian Pavilion, 1954,
Chicago, Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, René Magritte, 1964, no. 4
Little Rock, Arkansas Art Center, Magritte, 1964
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Dada and Surrealism in Chicago Collections, 1984-85 (titled When the Bell Tolls)
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Marble, 2009
Marianne, Paris, November 8, 1933, installation photograph of Surindépendants exhibition p. 5
Herbert Read, Art and Society, London 1937, illustrated pl. 96
David Sylvester, Sarah Whitfield & Michael Raeburn, René Magritte Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, London, 1994, no. 347, illustrated p. 181
Quand l'heure sonnera dates from the height of the Surrealist movement in the early 1930s, when members of the avant-garde relished in depicting the absurd, the imaginary or the impossible as concrete subjects in their art; few among them had as lasting an impact at the Belgian painter, Magritte. This picture belongs to a series of works in which a plaster of a female torso, evocative of the Venus de Milo, serves as a central focal point and is justaposed with seemingly unrelated objects. As is the case for the present composition, the titles for Magritte's most intriguing paintings often had little to do with the subjects at hand and were usually derived from the creative suggestions of his friends. The artist's selection of this poetic title is an effective means of provoking our curiosity and enhancing the narrative possibilities of the picture.
Magritte's art is renowned for its use of "elective affinities," a term used by Goethe to describe the pairing of two distinct elements. In this picture, that pairing exists between the torso and the balloon, which invite a host of interpretive possibilities. Magritte's objective with this image is to challenge our basic understanding of the world vis-à-vis our reliance upon seeing connections or "links in a chain" among all objects.
In Magritte's most provocative Surrealist compositions, the female nude is always depicted either with her eyes closed, or with her head turned away from the viewer or, as in the present work, as an inanimate object, thus becoming the object of the spectator's gaze and erotic desire. "Magritte said, in fact, that an undercurrent of eroticism was one of the reasons a painting might have for existing. It asserted itself most intensely and explicitly in these stately classical nudes with their cool coloring. For the very reason that it aims at maximum resemblance, their academicism is upset by the provocation of mystery emanating from that identification, once the painting and the arrangement of the painting interfere with its course" (J. Meuris, René Magritte, London, 1988, p. 76).
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