Lot 68
  • 68

René Magritte

Estimate
2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
Sold
2,165,000 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • René Magritte
  • Le Météore
  • Signed Magritte (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 21 1/2 by 18 in.
  • 54.5 by 46 cm

Provenance

Chaim Perelman, Brussels (acquired from the artist)

Private Collection (by descent from the above) 

Brook Street Gallery, London

Jan Krugier, Geneva (circa 1970)

Marci Collection Trust

Private Collection, Geneva (acquired from the above)

Alexander Iolas, Athens

Acquired by the present owner circa 1995 

Exhibited

New York, Lerner-Misrachi Gallery, Inner Spaces/Outer Limits: Myths and Myth Makers, 1971, illustrated on the cover 

Literature

Arts Magazine, New York, December 1971-January 1972, illustrated p. 66

David Sylvester, René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné, Oil Paintings, Objects and Bronzes 1949-1967, London, 1993,  vol. III, no. 995, illustrated p. 398 

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1964, Le météore combines several of Magritte’s best-known iconographical elements in a striking example of his anthropomorphism. Magritte first painted a version of this image in 1944, but it was a concept that he continued to return to and develop over the following decades. Whilst earlier examples often incorporate the feathery brushwork that is associated with the artist’s ‘impressionist’ period, the present work reflects the artist’s mature style. Magritte plays on ideas of portraiture, presenting a horse’s head with peculiarly human features. In the present work the anthropomorphic element is further emphasised by the two curtains that separate the horse from the forest behind. This has the dual effect of reinforcing the portrait-like nature of the composition and, particularly when combined with the elongated trees, lending the scene a theatrical air. Curtains were a reoccurring motif in Magritte’s work and one which had special significance as a gateway or barrier between worlds. As is often the case with his use of curtains, in Le météore they lead into a stylised ‘ideal’ backdrop that recedes into an implied infinite space. 

 

In the present work, Magritte combines the horse with a tower. This variation, first developed in his 1955 painting Le coeur du monde, confirms the allusion to chess pieces that is already implied in the stylized, cut-off representation of the horse’s head. The symbolic associations of chess pieces and the complexities and infinite possibilities of the game appealed to many of the Surrealists - Man Ray, Duchamp and Ernst were keen players as was Magritte – and here it serves to increase the range of meanings that could be associated with the horse. The horse had always been significant within Magritte’s œuvre. His 1926 painting Le jockey perdu, was acknowledged by the artist to be among his most important early works, and from the first Magritte was associated with the figure of the lost jockey. In this sense the horse is associated with ideas of escape, but also with the nightmarish suggestion of a point of no return. The horse continued to be a ‘problem’ that Magritte sought to reconcile in his work, addressing it in the present work through a direct assessment of the singular relationship between horse and man. David Sylvester characterizes this treatment of the horse motif specifically within the context of Magritte’s problem-solution theory, writing, “It seems a classic case of a Magritte ‘problem’, with the ‘problem’ as hair and the solution the affinity between human tresses and an animal’s mane. Such interchangeability of human with animal is part of the strong fairy-tale element in works of this year” (D. Sylvester, op. cit., p. 336).                                                                                                                                           The first paintings of animals in this style appeared in the 1940s, when the series included a Pomeranian dog and a pig. Sarah Whitfield explains the inspiration behind them: “In the course of his search for ‘a new poetic effectiveness which would bring us both charm and pleasure’, Magritte had the idea of painting animals with human characteristics… Writing to a friend about the painting of the horse Magritte told him that the impression it made was ‘fairy-like’, and fairy tales in which animals dress, talk and behave like humans were, of course, the inspiration for this brief interlude of painting ‘animal’ portraits. Magritte’s intentions were to show that the human qualities of animals were superior to those of man” (S. Whitfield, Magritte (exhibition catalogue), The South Bank Centre, London, 2002).

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