Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale


René Magritte
1898 - 1967
signed Magritte (lower right)
gouache on paper
27 by 30.5cm., 10 3/4 by 12in.
Executed in 1943.
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Paul Nougé, Brussels (acquired directly from the artist)
Gilbert Sénécaut, Antwerp (acquired from the above, possibly in the 1950s)
Sale: Christie’s, New York, 13th November 1985, lot 171
Sale: Sotheby’s, New York, 17th May 1990, lot 188
Purchased at the above sale by the family of the present owner 


Letter from Magritte to Nougé, August 1942, in René Magritte, Nougé, no. 4 
Letter from Magritte to Mariën, May 1943, in René Magritte, Destination, no. 46, and editorial note, p. 52
Paul Nougé, ‘Traité du paysage’ in Histoire de ne pas rire, Brussels, 1956, p. 297
David Sylvester, Sarah Whitfield & Michael Raeburn (eds.), René Magritte, Catalogue raisonné, London1994, vol. IV, no. 1183, illustrated p. 55

Catalogue Note

'Such is the virtue of this image. Or rather, one of its virtues. There could be no stronger or more discreet attack on the substance of the visible world. No monsters or chimeras need appear in this peaceful countryside. All is in keeping with everyday orderliness, - while the charm operates with the primary certainty of a mirror, in the absence of the aerial perspective'

Paul Nougè describing the present work, quoted in David Sylvester, Sarah Whitfield & Michael Raeburn (eds.), op. cit., pp. 55-56

Le Traité du paysage plays with the viewer’s perception of distance and foreground to surreal effect, creating a curious sensation of displacement. Ghostly mauve-blue hues pervade the foreground, whilst warm greens seep into the background, the change in colour and the increasing detail contributing to the overall ethereal effect of the work. Executed in 1943, during the height of the Second World War, this work puts ‘the spectator into a strange situation: his unusual way of looking at things constrains him to be at one and the same time on the extreme edge and in the extreme depths of the scene, his mind is forced into a continuous oscillation between two positions which seem incompatible and which fuse together into the paradoxical and remarkable fruitful state in which he finds himself’ (David Sylvester, Sarah Whitfield & Michael Raeburn (eds.), op. cit., pp. 55-56). Echoes of this otherworldly gouache can be seen in another work by Magritte executed in the same year, which also draws on the remarkable idea of reversed perspective.

Imprinted with silence and mystery, this enigmatic work is devoid of any human figures and depicts a peaceful countryside scene, the central pathway leading the viewer into the vanishing far distance. Yet it is the eerie absence of aerial perspective that leads Paul Nougé, the Belgian theoretician of surrealism, to comment this: ‘there could be no stronger or more discreet attack on the substance of the visible world’ (quoted in ibid., pp. 55-56). Recorded in his correspondence with Nougé, the Belgian Surrealist poet, who was at the time one of Magritte’s closest friends, Le Traité du paysage was later given to Nougé, from whom it was subsequently acquired by Gilbert Sénécaut.

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale