Lot 213
  • 213

RENÉ MAGRITTE | Les Grâces naturelles

120,000 - 180,000 EUR
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  • René Magritte
  • Les Grâces naturelles
  • signed magritte (lower right); titled Les Grâces naturelles and signed magritte (on the reverse)
  • sanguine on paper
  • 47 x 36,6 cm; 18 1/2 x 14 3/8 in.


Raymonde Becquevort, Brussels (acquired directly from the artist in 1953)
Thence by descent to the present owner


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"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

"If we imagine young girls blossoming, we can also acknowledge a bird in bloom. The emergence of this bird is as delightful as the sunrise."
René Magritte

The bird-plant in this beautiful chalk drawing, Les Grâces naturelles, is an emblematic and recurring theme of Magritte's art. This particularly graceful model of metamorphosis was acquired from the Belgian artist in 1953 by Raymond Becquevort, founder of the La Sirène gallery in Brussels. Frequented by Ponge, Artaud and Michaud, it was a major hub for the surrealist intelligentsia; a place where words discovered images.

In a similar vein, there is considerable tension between the word and the image in this artwork. Its title carries an implicit irony: hindered and deprived of movement, the bird, who cannot use its wings and has taken root, has a "natural grace". The plant transforms into a bird, the bird becomes a leaf and the two entities merge as one. This unity is reinforced here, by the monochrome of the chalk.

Magritte began developing the theme of the bird-plant in 1942, when Belgium was under Nazi occupation. He adapted this theme into infinite variations moving from chalk to gouache, then onto canvas. So often symbols of hope, here birds are poetic and neurasthenic metaphors. The assimilation of the naturally-mobile bird with the plant that is rooted deep in the earth, contributes to a troubled state of mind. Magritte is thus torn between two emotions: fear and hope. From the end of the 1920s, Magritte became interested in the theme of transformation. He wrote in a letter to Nougé: "I think that I have made a remarkable discovery in painting. Until now I had always used composite objects, or rather, the position of an object was sometimes sufficient to make it mysterious. But, thanks to the experiences that I have had here, I have found a new potential in things - their capacity to gradually become something else, an object that blends into another object, that itself... I am therefore creating images in which the eye must "think" in a completely different way than it's used to..." (in David Sylvester, Magritte, New-York, 1992, p.128).

This process of transformation is comparable to the natural adaptations that occur in nature and the animal kingdom. Imitation as a means of protection that is a deterrent and camouflage technique of plants and animals, resonates with Les Grâces naturelles. Magritte uses this motif of the bird-plant in a full series of paintings that he named Treasure Island. Islands have very specific biological environments. Flora and fauna on islands present unusual characteristics due to their unique and enclosed ecosystems. With these composite creatures, Magritte was inspired by nature to disturb our visual habits and make the mysteries of the world visible. Magritte created an Eden, inhabited by a luxurious vegetation and abundant species of gentle animals that fuse together. Paul Nougé said of these legendary and fantastical animals: "It is not so difficult to comprehend that the Bird-leaves, the Scheherazade or the sentimental characters of Colloque belong to the famous family of mermaids, centaurs, sphynx and unicorns; and that they have inherited their lost value" (Paul Nougé, 1947).

The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by the Comité Magritte.