Lot 3
  • 3

René Magritte

Estimate
800,000 - 1,200,000 GBP
Sold
1,925,000 GBP
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Description

  • René Magritte
  • La Voix du sang
  • signed Magritte (upper left); signed Magritte, titled and dated 1948 on the reverse
  • gouache on paper

Provenance

Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist in 1948)

William Copley, Beverly Hills (acquired from the above before September 1948)

Private Collection, California (sold: Sotheby's, New York, 10th May 1989, lot 200)

Galleria Marescalchi, Bologna

Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner in the 1990s

Exhibited

New York, Hugo Gallery, Magritte, 1948, no. 21

Beverly Hills, Copley Galleries, Magritte, 1948, no. 14

Rome, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Roma, Museo del Corso, Max Ernst e i suoi amici surrealisti, 2002, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Edinburgh, Dean Gallery, Another World: Dalí, Magritte, Miró and the Surrealists, 2010-11

Literature

Letter from Magritte to Alexander Iolas, 23rd February 1948, mentioned

Letter from Magritte to Alexander Iolas, 11th March 1948, mentioned

René Magritte, Titres, 1948, mentioned

Letter from Alexander Iolas to Magritte, 5th March 1950, mentioned

Jacques Wergifosse, 'L'Education sentimentale', in Le Vocatif, Brussels, no. 11, June 1973, mentioned

David Sylvester (ed.), Sarah Whitfield & Michael Raeburn, René Magritte, Catalogue raisonné, Antwerp, 1994, vol. IV, no. 1252, illustrated p. 98

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1948, La Voix du sang exemplifies Magritte’s use of beguiling and enigmatic imagery to create a vision of the world that challenged established conventions of representation. Following the Impressionist-influenced works of his ‘en plein-soleil’ period during the war, his paintings of the late 1940s show a return to the darker and more cryptic imagery that had characterised his pre-war œuvre. In La Voix du sang Magritte combines a number of the motifs that occur throughout his work, including the large tree dominating a moonlit landscape, a sphere and the lit house that is such an important element of the L’Empire des lumières series (fig. 2).

In the present work Magritte develops an idea that he had initially explored in his 1935 painting L’Arbre savant (D. Sylvester, op. cit., no. 384), making a number of significant changes from the original composition that showed a lifeless, rootless tree-cabinet in an interior. As David Sylvester writes: ‘the scene is now nocturnal, the tree in full leaf, and there are now three cupboards, as against four, in the trunk; the top one, as before, is ajar, the others contain a sphere and a house’ (D. Sylvester (ed.), op. cit., vol. II, p. 384). The division of the tree into three compartments is an elaboration of a device that Magritte had used as early as 1926 and returned to in some of the most important works of his œuvre. In these compositions he divided the pictorial space into a series of distinct pictures, often set within a freestanding frame, that provide a glimpse of another world (fig. 3). The unifying quality of these images – whether the façade of a house, a blue sky or a wall of fire – is that they all hint at the possibility of another world that remains concealed from the viewer. Conversely, in La Voix du sang the house and the sphere are presented like curiosities in a Kunstkammer placing the emphasis on their status as objects and allowing Magritte to playfully interrogate the relationship between tree, wood and furniture.

The idea of doorways leading into other worlds was another major theme in Magritte’s œuvre. Claude Spaak has suggested that the initial inspiration for this particular incarnation came from Lewis Carroll’s classic, Alice in Wonderland and David Sylvester has further suggested that the specific imagery Magritte employs was probably influenced by an illustration of the cork harvest found in the Petit Larousse (fig. 4). Magritte offered a further explanation in his 1948 Titres when he provided the following commentary on the title of the work: ‘The words dictated to us by the blood sometimes appear foreign to us. Here, the blood seems to command us to open up magic recesses in the trees’ (quoted in D. Sylvester (ed.), op. cit., vol. IV, p. 98).

The artist’s use of gouache facilitated his intricate style of representation but also introduced a brighter tone to his compositions. Siegfried Gohr, discussing the importance of the artist’s gouaches, wrote that ‘the coloured works on paper reveal the brilliant talent of Magritte the painter. Even though he repeatedly denied his ‘artistry’, belittling the traditional habitus of the virtuoso artist genius and emphasizing instead the artist’s intellectual work, his gouaches in particular reveal how masterfully he was able to apply his extraordinary gift of visualising his pictorial ideas’ (S. Gohr, Magritte: Attempting the Impossible, New York, 2009, pp. 77-78).

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