Lot 1
  • 1

René Magritte

Estimate
500,000 - 700,000 USD
Sold
514,000 USD
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Description

  • René Magritte
  • La Folie almayer
  • Signed Magritte (upper right); titled LA FOLIE ALMAYER on the reverse
  • Gouache on paper

Provenance

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

Acquired from the above circa 1960-66

Exhibited

Paris, Cahiers d'Art, 1955, no. 5

Literature

Letters from Magritte to Iolas, December 16, 1955

David Sylvester, René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné, IV: Gouaches, Temperas, Watercolours and Papiers Collés 1918-1967, London, 1994, app. 171, p. 332

Sarah Whitfield, René Magritte, Newly Discovered Works, Catalogue Raisonné VI, Oil Paintings, Gouaches, Drawings, Houston, 2012, no. 30, illustrated in color p. 50

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1955, La Folie almayer is a brilliantly colored rendering of a rooted tower. Magritte discussed the discovery of this motif in a letter to his friend and fellow Surrealist artist Paul Colinet: “And moving from one thing to another, after choosing Theatre Root, House Root, I have chosen for the picture: Roots of feudal towers” (D. Sylvester, René Magritte, Catalogue raisonné, Oil Paintings, Objects and Bronzes, 1949-1967, vol. III, p. 181). The image of the feudal tower Magritte references here first appeared in a sketch from 1946 inspired by Paul Éluard’s poem Vieillir.

The invention of the rooted tower brought Magritte great relief from a creative block and inspired future compositions on the theme. Evidence of this subject’s impact is expressed in a postcard to his friend, the Belgian poet Louis Scutenaire, to whom Magritte writes: “Dear Supermales: My periodic creative crisis is now over, having just been resolved by finding the solution to the picture of the feudal tower root. I am telling you this because the extraordinary thing is that the solution was already to hand and all I had to do was think of it…by representing the root on a plain background, pleasure is achieved” (quoted in D. Sylvester op. cit., vol. III, p. 181). Magritte incorporated the motif of an ancient tower metamorphosing into roots of a tree in several compositions beginning in the early 1950s including celebrated paintings and a monumental mural, La Fée ignorante which resides in the permanent collection of the Musée Communal des Beaux-Arts, Charleroi.

In the catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work, Sara Whitfield notes that the present composition is one of ten gouaches Magritte painted for his 1955 exhibition at Christian Zervos’s gallery Cahiers d’Art. This exhibition was arranged by Magritte’s New York-based dealer Alexander Iolas, who purchased the present work following the exhibition and later sold it to a relative. It has remained in the Iolas family for the last fifty years.

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