Lot 17
  • 17

RENÉ MAGRITTE Le Civilisateur

400,000 - 600,000 EUR
489,000 EUR
bidding is closed


  • René Magritte
  • Le Civilisateur
  • signed magritte (lower left); titled "Le Civilisateur” (II) signed Magritte and dated 1946 (on the reverse)
  • gouache on paper


Private collection, Brussels


Brussels, Galerie Dietrich, Magritte, 1946, no. 7
New York, Hugo Gallery, René Magritte, 1947, no. 36
Tokyo, Galerie des arts de Tokyo (travelling exhibition also shown at Toyama & Komamoto), René Magritte, 1982, no. 64
Paris, Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles, Hommage à Magritte, 1985-86, no. 47, listed in the catalogue


Magritte, Titres, 1946
S. R., 'Magritte', La Cité Nouvelle (Brussels), December 7, 1946, p. 2
Letter from Magritte to Salkin, January 2, 1947
Letter from Magritte to Andrieu, December 20, 1947
Paul Nougé, 'Pour illustrer Magritte', in Le fait accompli, no 34-35, April 1970, visible in an installation photograph of the exhibition in Brussels, Galerie Dietrich, 1946 
David Sylvester (ed.), René Magritte, Catalogue raisonné, vol. IV, Paris, 1994, no. 1208, illustrated p. 71
Harry Torczyner, René Magritte, signes et images, Paris, 1988, no. 9, illustrated p. 25
Michel Draguet, Magritte tout en papier, collages, dessins, gouaches, 2006, illustrated p. 141

Catalogue Note

The present gouache was made in 1946 and is the third work by René Magritte to depict Jackie, the Pomeranian-Spitz that he owned with Georgette his wife and which became one of the emblematic figures of Magrittian art under the name of Civilisateur. The first two versions of this subject were painted on canvas in 1944 (D. Sylvester, cat. nos. 561 and 574), the dog is portrayed against a different background (a Greek temple for the first version). Magritte returned to this subject in 1946 but used the gouache technique on paper this time, which allowed him to produce the most accomplished work in this series. In this third work, of greater technical perfection than the paintings, the Pomeranian-Spitz is represented against the background of a forest in the form of a castle. This stylistic figure is not new in Magritte's art, and had already been used in several paintings such as La Vie antérieure, 1944 (D. Sylvester, cat. No. 565) and Elseneur, 1944 (D. Sylvester, cat. No. 567).

A poetic work imbued with literary references (Magritte borrowed the image of a forest as a temple with "living pillars" from Baudelaire), the Civilisateur was conceived of as an ode to the beauty of nature. The choice of an animal portrait was moreover justified by Magritte in a preparatory drawing made for the first Civilisateur painted in 1944 : "It is strange, it seems to me, to see the worn out human figure, and then the objects, replaced by animals which seem to better present life (real life, different from that constructed by sticklike statesmen" (card drawn in June 1944).

The work was selected by Magritte as part of the exhibition organized at the Galerie Dietrich in Brussels from November 30 to December 11, 1946, an exhibition conceived of as a manifesto of "Poetry in broad sunlight". For Magritte, this technique created during the war in order to escape from the morose atmosphere of the Occupation, was also a way of repositioning his Surrealism, which earned him Breton's wrath. The Renoir period steeped in full Magrittian sunlight, was still subversive in its re-appropriation of aesthetic codes considered obsolete by his contemporaries, and which he returned to in light of a dying doctrinal surrealism. The iconography of the dog associated with the theme of the "civilisateur" is all the more ironic.

Paul Nougé summarised this new aesthetic position in solar and optimistic terms in his foreword to the exhibition catalogue: "For us, it is always about bringing light and charm back to this world, and, to be frank, its unpredictable combinatory possibilities". It is true that in Civilisateur, the treatment of wheat or the sky are emblematic of this new aesthetic focused on solar light. Moreover, this work already differs from the paintings of this period in its refined palette and facture and fully announces the technical perfection of the 1950s.