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.
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