René Magritte (1898-1967)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more THE PROPERTY OF A LADY
René Magritte (1898-1967)

L'utopie (Utopia)

René Magritte (1898-1967)
L'utopie (Utopia)
signed 'Magritte' (lower right); titled and dated '1945' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
23 3/4 x 31 5/8 in. (60.4 x 80.3 cm.)
Painted in 1945
Achille Chavée, La Louvière, by whom acquired directly from the artist.
Justin Rakofsky, Brussels, by whom acquired from the above, circa 1954.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, London, 10 December 1969, lot 85.
Marlborough Fine Art, London, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Private collection, London, by whom acquired before 1993, and thence by descent; sale, Christie's 24 June 2008, lot 72.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

Letter from Magritte to Chavée, 6 June 1945.
Letter from Magritte to Chavée, 25 June 1945.
R. Magritte, Dix tableaux de Magritte précédés de descriptions, Brussels, 1946.
P. Waldberg, René Magritte, Brussels, 1965, p. 342 (illustrated p. 97, dated '1953').
D. Sylvester, René Magritte: catalogue raisonné, vol. II, Oil Paintings and Objects, 1931-1948, London, 1993, no. 586, p. 356 (illustrated).
La Louvière, Maison des Loisirs, René Magritte expose, March - April 1954, no. 19.
Brussels, Musée de Ixelles, Magritte, April - May 1959, no. 63.
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Magritte, October - November 1973, no. 50, p. 93 (illustrated).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Giovanna Bertazzoni
Giovanna Bertazzoni

Lot Essay

Painted in June 1945, Magritte himself described the scene in L'utopie in his publication, Dix tableaux de Magritte précédes de descriptions, published the following year. There, he explained that, 'The rose is alone on an island' (R. Magritte, quoted in D. Sylvester, René Magritte Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, London, 1993, p. 356). This sense of the solitude of the flower, already emphasised by the span of the distant horizon and the vastness of the ocean, is thus reinforced by Magritte's statement and his own declared intention. How did the rose reach this island? This strange and solitary bloom is a glimpse of the poetic and the mysterious, even the miraculous, and is all the more striking as an image of hope in the wake of the Occupation of Belgium, which had only recently ended.

The promontory and the rose in L'utopie appear to have been painted in the mock-Impressionist style that Magritte referred to as Surréalisme en plein soleil. Where his earlier works had deliberately avoided a sense of 'style' in the rendering of their strange and incongruous subjects, he now added an extra layer of the incongruous by emphasising the painting's status as a subjective representation of the world, while also taking advantage of the association between Impressionism and Realism. He thus introduced a tension between a style of painting associated with capturing a moment of fleeting 'reality' and his own surreal, poetic universe, while also providing a glimpse of sunlight during the dark days of the Second World War. At the same time, he revelled in shocking even his most ardent followers by deliberately and irreverently adopting a style that was then associated with bourgeois taste. Magritte's Surrealism was intended to jolt his viewers out of a complacent understanding of the world around them, but he was aware that his own admirers and followers had developed expectations of his works. L'utopie and its sister-works of sunlit Surrealism shocked his viewers out of their complacent understandings of his pictures and of the universe alike.

The first owner of L'utopie was Achille Chavée, a writer, friend of Magritte and leading member of the Hainaut group of Surrealists who owned several of the artist's pictures. During the period that L'utopie was painted, the pair collaborated extensively on a large exhibition of Belgian Surrealism that was held at the Galerie des Editions La Boétie in Brussels, an exhibition that was dominated by Magritte's own works, a fitting reflection of his importance to Surrealism in that nation.

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