34
34

PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN

René Magritte
LA RECHERCHE DE LA VÉRITÉ
Estimate
1,500,0002,000,000
JUMP TO LOT
34

PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN

René Magritte
LA RECHERCHE DE LA VÉRITÉ
Estimate
1,500,0002,000,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

|
New York

René Magritte
1898 - 1967
LA RECHERCHE DE LA VÉRITÉ
Signed Magritte (lower left); titled (on the verso)
Gouache on paper
10 5/8 by 13 3/4 in.
27 by 35 cm
Executed in 1962-63.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Margaret Krebs, Brussels

Mr. & Mrs. Elkiner, Brussels (acquired by 1994)

Private Collection (by descent from the above)

Acquired from the above

Exhibited

Hamburg, Kunstverein und Kunsthaus; Rome, Gallerie Nazionale dell’Arte Moderna & Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, René Magritte und der Surrealismus in Belgien, 1982, nos. 161, 170 & 189, illustrated in the catalogue 

Tokyo, National Museum of Modern Art, René Magritte, 1988, no. 143, illustrated in color in the catalogue & on the cover 

Paris, Fondation Dina Vierny & Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Magritte Tout en Papier, 2006, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Tokyo, The National Art Center & Kyoto, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, René Magritte, 2015, no. 115, illustrated in color in the catalogue 

Brussels, Museé Magritte, 2009-16 (on loan)

Literature

David Sylvester, Sarah Whitfield & Michael Raeburn, eds., René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné, Volume IV: Gouaches, Temperas, Watercolours and Papiers Collés 1918-1967, Antwerp, 1994, no. 1528, illustrated p. 253

Catalogue Note

 “R[ené] M[agritte] has changed the use of painting. Here it is no longer a question of mere vision, sensitivity or any other explanation usually used in the art world. You can more or less find these things in R.M.’s paintings. But a curious point of view deprives words of their power to explain. We long to know, but we try and satisfy this longing in a joyous atmosphere and the light in R.M.’s pictures lends an unexpected charm to our efforts.” A succinct summary of Magritte’s oeuvre, these words were written by the artist himself as inspiration for his friend’s introductory text on the artist’s upcoming exhibition at Galerie Dietreich. While the Surrealist poet Paul Nougé ultimately wrote the preface for the show, Magritte’s explication of his own oeuvre encapsulates the confounding principles of his artistry and philosophy, and proves nearly as abstruse as the works themselves.

Bearing a title likely derived from the philosopher Nicolas de Malebranche’s eponymous two-volume treatise, La Recherche de la verité presents a fantastical juxtaposition of exquisitely rendered forms. At right, a fish stands squarely on its fin as if hung by an imaginary hook. Though removed from its usual context, the image of the fish draws natural affinities with the seascape that lies just beyond the stony ledge. The creature’s scaled exterior resonates with the mottled camouflage pattern of the walls surrounding it. A similar work in oil in the collection of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium allows comparison between mediums and highlights the incandescent effect achieved in gouache in the present work (see fig. 1). A master draftsman, Magritte’s precise handling of the luminous medium builds depth within the composition, balancing the shimmering, almost metallic tones of white, warm gray and light blue against the dusky blues and grays of the stone and fish. Upon close inspection, the lofty clouds in the distance are crafted with dappled shapes similar to those of the stone, drawing further parallels between the two objects’ seemingly contrasting qualities of heft and levity.

When removed from their ordinary context, Magritte’s objects challenge the viewer’s notion of perception, language and reality in an eminently Postmodern fashion. Heavily influenced by the theories of Nietzsche, Magritte sought to remove an object from its signifier and draw attention to the fallacy of language, and by extension, the imagery represented in painting—resulting in some of his most renowned works like The Treachery of Images. Over the course of his career, Magritte also built up a sort of visual lexicon, reconfiguring his favored motifs to create new and inventive compositions. Arising from the artist’s mature oeuvre, the present work reprises a number of themes from his earlier career, including the stone ledge, crystalline sea, cloud-dotted sky and the errant fish. The aquatic creature first appeared in the artist’s work around 1935, taking the form of a sort of reverse mermaid with a fish for a head and female body from the waist down—the theme of which was later featured at the center of a rocky seascape in 1953 (see fig. 2).

Magritte purposefully selected incongruous titles for his works, inventing elegant non-sequiturs and adopting the suggestions of his contemporaries, and often scoffing at simple and popular interpretations of such opaque designations. While “the titles of paintings were chosen in such a way as to inspire in the spectator an appropriate mistrust of any mediocre tendency to facile self-assurance” (S. Gablik, Magritte, Greenwich, 1970, p. 183), the literary sources from which such titles were co-opted sheds light on the intellectual and philosophical proclivities of the artist. “That pictorial experience which puts the real world on trial, gives me a belief in the infinity of possibilities as yet unknown to life” (ibid., p. 185).

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

|
New York