Lot 44
  • 44

RENÉ MAGRITTE | La perspective amoureuse

800,000 - 1,200,000 GBP
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  • René Magritte
  • La perspective amoureuse
  • signed Magritte and dated 1936 (lower left); titled on the reverse
  • gouache on paper
  • 32.7 by 22.4cm.
  • 12 7/8 by 8 3/4 in.
  • Executed in 1936.


Private Collection (acquired from the artist. Sold: Sotheby's, London, 22nd April 1971, lot 72) Paul Stooshnoff (purchased at the above sale)

Galleria Gissi, Turin

Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1975


London, New Burlington Galleries, The International Surrealist Exhibition, 1936, no. 180 (with incorrect medium) London, Acoris The Surrealist Art Centre, Surrealist Masters, 1972, no. 34, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (with incorrect medium)

Turin, Galleria Gissi, Protagonisti del XX secolo, 1974-75, no. 44, illustrated in the catalogue

Turin, Fondazione Palazzo Bricherasio, Fernand Léger: L'oggetto e il suo contesto, 1920-1940, 1996, no. 61, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Bolaffi Arte, no. 86, February-March 1979, illustrated p. 48 (as dating from 1935) David Sylvester (ed.), Sarah Whitfield & Michael Raeburn, René Magritte. Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1994, vol. IV, no. 1115, illustrated p. 16

Catalogue Note

Dating from 1936, La perspective amoureuse is one of Magritte’s earliest variations on the theme of a closed door, broken by a hole that reveals a landscape behind it. This image was first used in La réponse imprévue of 1933 (fig. 1), and originated in the artist’s newly developed method: that of establishing a ‘problem’ and finding a ‘solution’ to it. ‘The problem of the door called for an opening one could pass through. In La réponse inprévue, I showed a closed door in a room; in the door an irregular-shaped opening revealed the night’ (R. Magritte, La Ligne de Vie, lecture of 20th November 1938). The present work shows an interior as well as an exterior, and the door has a dual role of hiding and exposing what is behind it. By confronting these contrasted elements, Magritte evokes the essential surrealist paradigm of questioning the significance and purpose we attribute to various objects, and creating new meanings by placing these objects in new and unexpected contexts. The enigmatic atmosphere of the present work is further emphasised by the notable absence of human beings. While the unpopulated room contains no elements that would indicate man’s presence, the hole in the door is suggestive of a human form. The sharp-edged shape of the opening can be traced back to the paper cut-outs that Magritte first developed in his early drawings and papiers collés of the 1920s. Opening onto a landscape populated by a house with a bell on its top and a tree-leaf, the hole presents a subtle suggestion of a standing figure or an embracing couple.

Another anthropomorphic element can be found in the tree-leaf in the centre of the composition. Writing about the leaf image in Magritte’s painting, Jacques Meuris observed: ‘Nature, as Magritte saw it, was an element with the same characteristics, mutatis mutandis, as those with which he invested every object, every thing. There was no “naturalist” tendency in his work, no ecological impulse, not even a poetic transformation of the natural. Nevertheless, trees and leaves, alone or in groups, clad or bare, occasionally nibbles by insects, may be regarded as “individuals”, invested with multifarious feelings, endowed with charms in the various senses of the word’ (J. Meuris, René Magritte, London, 1988, p. 154).

The iconography of a large leaf has its origin in Magritte’s hybrid tree-leaf which first appeared in the 1935 oil La géante and would recur in his painting over the next several decades (fig. 2). In a letter to André Breton of July 1934, Magritte commented: ‘I am trying at the moment to discover what it is in a tree that belongs to it specifically but which would run counter to our concept of a tree’ (quoted in D. Sylvester (ed.) & S. Whitfield, op. cit., vol. II, p. 194). He soon found the answer to this question in the image of the tree-leaf: ‘the tree, as the subject of a problem, became a large leaf the stem of which was a trunk directly planted in the ground’.

Magritte explained his choice of title La perspective amoureuse in a letter to his friend and fellow Surrealist Marcel Mariën: ‘It is love which opens up the greatest vistas. Here, the greatest feeling of depth has been suggested by removing part of the panelling of a door which concealed a landscape consisting of known objects (trees, sky) and of a mysterious object (the large metal bell lying on the terrace)’ (quoted in ibid., p. 209).

The present work was one of four gouaches Magritte showed at the International Surrealist Exhibition, which was held at New Burlington Galleries in London in June-July 1936. This pivotal event was organised by committees based in several countries including England, France and Belgium, and included paintings, works on paper and objects by all the key artists working in the Surrealist idiom. Officially opened by André Breton, the exhibition was hugely successful both with the public and the press, and was accompanied by a number of lectures including those by Breton, Herbert Read and Paul Eluard, as well as Salvador Dalí’s now legendary lecture delivered wearing a deep-sea diving suit.