Lot 31
  • 31

RENÉ MAGRITTE | L’Arc de Triomphe

500,000 - 700,000 GBP
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  • René Magritte
  • L’Arc de Triomphe
  • signed Magritte (lower right); titled on the reverse
  • gouache on paper
  • 26.3 by 34.6cm.
  • 10 3/8 by 13 5/8 in.
  • Executed in 1962.


Suzi Gablik, USA (a gift from the artist) Harry Torczyner, New York (acquired from the above in 1962)

Serge De Bloë, Brussels (acquired from the above in 1968)

Sale: Galerie La Motte, Geneva, 9th December 1970, lot 146

Galerie Isy Brachot, Brussels (purchased at the above sale)

Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner in 1988


Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, The Vision of René Magritte, 1962, no. 89 Milan, Alberto Schubert, Magritte, 1970

Knokke-Le Zoute, Galerie Isy Brachot, Magritte, 1971, no. 13

Bordeaux, Centre d'Arts Plastiques Contemporains de Bordeaux, Bibliothèque Municipale, Magritte, 1977 (with incorrect measurements)

Brussels, Galerie Isy Brachot, Magritte, 1979, no. 51, illustrated in the catalogue

Paris, Galerie Isy Brachot, Le Surréalisme en Belgique I: peintures, dessins, collages, objets, 1986, no. 19, illustrated in the catalogue

New York, Arnold Herstand & Co., René Magritte: Paintings, 1986, illustrated in the catalogue

Brussels, Galerie Isy Brachot, Rétrospective Magritte dans les collections privées, 1988, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


David Sylvester (ed.), Sarah Whitfield & Michael Raeburn, René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1994, vol. IV, no. 1498, illustrated p. 237

Catalogue Note

‘The inspired solution was this tree entirely surrounded by a halo of scattered leaves, a glorious image in green and blue which was to be given the only suitable title: The triumphal arch.’ Harry Torczyner

L’Arc de Triomphe belongs to a group of works Magritte created in the early 1960s, on the theme of an object seen against a background composed entirely of leaves. The central motif in these oils and gouaches varies between bird-leaf, a canvas on a painter’s easel (fig. 1) and a tree, as in the present work. In all of these compositions, the central image is closely related to the leafy background, suggesting that the artist was exploring the idea of how one object can be seen or depicted in multiple ways. In L’Arc de Triomphe Magritte appears to present the viewer both with the image of the tree in its entirety, and a close-up view with a meticulously painted leaves.

Magritte created both the present work and a large-scale oil of the same subject in the early months of 1962. In a letter dated 14th February, the artist wrote to his friend, the young poet and painter René Bosmans: ‘I hope soon to be able to begin on a picture showing a tree against a background of leaves. I have thought of a title “Tastes and Colours”’ (quoted in D. Sylvester (ed.), op. cit., vol. III, p. 357). The painting was exhibited with the title Les goûts et les couleurs in March of the same year, however several weeks later it was sold to Harry Torczyner with the title L’Arc de Triomphe. Magritte explained this change in a letter dated 10th April 1962: ‘As regards the title: “Tastes and colours” which I find excellent in itself, because of its easy, familiar ring […]. Suzi Gablik has thought of a better one: “The triumphal arch”. This title satisfies me completely and will replace “Tastes and colours”’ (quoted in ibid., p. 357).

Gablik was a young American artist and writer who was staying with Magritte and his wife Georgette at the time, researching the artist’s work for a monograph that was only published a decade later. According to the Catalogue Raisonné, ‘the title had been found at one of the weekly gatherings at Magritte’s house. Magritte […] had been so delighted by Suzi Gablik’s suggested title that he had rushed over to a desk, opened one of the drawers, taken out [the present gouache] and presented it to her on the spot’ (ibid., p. 357). The work was later part of the celebrated collection of Harry Torczyner, Magritte’s friend and patron based in New York. Over the last thirty years L’Arc de Triomphe has remained in a private collection and has not been seen publically. Further works by Magritte from this collection will be offered in the Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale, London, 1st March 2018.