Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale


René Magritte
1898 - 1967
signed Magritte (upper right); titled and dated 1937 on the reverse
oil on canvas
65.5 by 54cm.
25 3/4 by 21 1/4 in.
Painted in 1937.
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Roland Penrose, London (acquired in 1938)
Eugene Victor Thaw, New York (acquired from the above in 1973)
Sale: Christie's, London, 28th March 1988, lot 38
Purchased at the above sale by the late owner


Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, E.L.T. Mesens présente Trois Peintres Surréalistes: René Magritte, Man Ray, Yves Tanguy, 1937, no. 22
London, London Gallery, René Magritte: Surrealist Paintings and Objects, 1938, no. 35
London, Acoris, The Surrealist Art Centre, Surrealist Masters, 1974, no. 40, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Letter from Magritte to Edward James, 22nd September 1937
André Breton & Paul Eluard (ed.), Dictionnaire abrégé du surréalisme, Paris, 1938, illustrated p. 53
Marcel Mariën (ed.), La Terre n'est pas une vallée de larmes, Brussels, 1945, illustrated (n.p.)
David Sylvester (ed.), Sarah Whitfield & Michael Raeburn, René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1993, vol. II, no. 447, illustrated p. 253


In 1937 Magritte painted several oils on the theme of a rainy landscape, dominated by a vast sky. While in the other compositions the foreground is occupied by heavy, low clouds hovering just above ground (fig. 1), in the present work they are replaced by one of Magritte’s most iconic images: a canvas with holes in shapes of everyday objects. In a letter to Edward James dated 22nd September 1937 Magritte wrote about two problems he was trying to resolve in his work, one of which was the problem of the rain: ‘As for rain, against a misty, rainy landscape, two large raindrops, with a house in one and a tree in the other. But I fancy that the event occurring in this instance does not rise above the level of the physical world?’ (quoted in D. Sylvester (ed.), op. cit., p. 253). In the present work, Magritte has replaced the image of two large raindrops with two dark clouds, and the bells inside them can be seen as an accumulation of drops.


The picture within a picture – a canvas on a stretcher with holes in the shape of a glass, a pipe, a key and a bird – calls to mind Magritte’s experiments with the technique of papier collé. At the same time, it presents the dichotomy of the hidden and the revealed, of presence and absence, challenging the viewer’s perception of the visible world. The image of sleigh bells first appeared in a work of 1926, where they appear to be suspended in a narrow space. Sarah Whitfield wrote: ‘Like the best of Magritte’s invented objects, the cluster of metal bells is rich in allusion, to moons, planets and other celestial bodies, to the balloonists he said he saw as a child, to the children’s pastime of blowing soap bubbles, and not least to another painting, Max Ernst’s Monument to the birds of 1927, which was reproduced in the issue of La Révolution surréaliste of 15 March 1928’ (S. Whitfield in Magritte (exhibition catalogue), The Hayward Gallery, London (and travelling), 1992-93, n.p., note to no. 38).


In February and March 1937 Magritte stayed with the poet and Surrealist art collector Edward James in London, and it was through James that he was introduced to the artistic and literary circles in England. In February he gave a lecture at the London Gallery, during an exhibition of Belgian painting. In 1938 the London Gallery was taken over by E.L.T. Mesens and Roland Penrose, who soon afterwards organised an exhibition of Magritte’s work, and became instrumental in promoting Surrealism in England. Penrose, the main proponent of British Surrealism, acquired Le rendez-vous after the 1938 exhibition, and it remained in his collection for 35 years.



Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale