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René Magritte (1898-1967)
René Magritte (1898-1967)
René Magritte (1898-1967)
René Magritte (1898-1967)
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The Collection of Drue Heinz
René Magritte (1898-1967)

Le Thérapeute

Details
René Magritte (1898-1967)
Le Thérapeute
signed and numbered 'Magritte 1/5' (on the right side of the cloak)
bronze with dark brown and green patina
Height: 58 5/8 in. (149 cm.)
Width: 50 in. (127 cm.)
Conceived in January 1967 and cast in November 1967

Provenance
Alexandre Iolas, Paris.
Gimpel & Hanover Galerie, Zürich.
Anon. sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc., New York, 2 May 1973, lot 134.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
Literature
P. Rouve, "Space Conquered" in Art and Artists, August 1968, vol. 3, no. 5, pp. 24-27.
R. Melville, "Changing the World" in The Architectural Review, September 1968, vol. CXLIV, no. 859, p. 210, no. 10 (another cast illustrated).
O. Hahn, "René Magritte fait entendre le silence" in L'Express, February 1969, p. 73.
S. Gablik, Magritte, London, 1970, p. 203, no. 154 (another cast illustrated, p. 181).
D. Sylvester, René Magritte: Catalogue Raisonné, Oil Paintings, Objects, and Bronzes, 1949-1967, London, 1993, vol. III, p. 463, no. 1091 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions).
Exhibited
London, Hanover Gallery, The 8 Sculptures of Magritte, June-August 1968 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions).
Paris, Alexandre Iolas, Magritte: The 8 Sculptures, February 1969 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions).
Zürich, Gimpel & Hanover Galerie, René Magritte: The Eight Sculptures, January-February 1972 (illustrated).
London, Tate Modern (on extended loan, January 1990-January 2019).
Sale Room Notice
Please note the amended provenance:
Alexandre Iolas, Paris.
Gimpel & Hanover Galerie, Zürich.
Anon. sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc., New York, 2 May 1973, lot 134.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.

Brought to you by

Jessica Fertig
Jessica Fertig Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Of the six recorded bronze casts of the present sculpture, two can be found in public institutions, including The Menil Collection, Houston and The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.

In 1967, Magritte conceived a series of eight large sculptures that represent three-dimensional realizations of painted motifs from his earlier oeuvre (Sylvester, nos. 1087-1094). The present, life-sized bronze is based on one of the most enigmatic figures from the artist’s dramatis personae: Le Thérapeute, a seated man whose cloak opens to reveal a birdcage where his head and torso should be. Faceless and rootless—a traveler, with satchel and walking stick in hand—he nevertheless displays to the viewer the unexpected contents of his soul. The distinctively deadpan, illusionistic style that Magritte employed in his paintings serves to challenge the viewer’s preconceived perceptions of reality and to lay bare the mystery that the artist believed was inherent in the everyday world. The translation of painting into sculpture radically heightens this effect, delivering Magritte’s magic-laden juxtapositions of imagery from the fictive realm of the canvas into the tangible and familiar human domain.
“Once again, Magritte has reshuffled the pack of our conceptual cards,” wrote the critic Pierre Rouve upon viewing the sculptures in 1968. “Born as paintings, Magritte’s sculptures suddenly surge among us in a miracle of transubstantiation: ghosts haunt us not because they have shed their too, too solid flesh but because they have conjured it. This change of identity cries out for our investigation: what happens to a painting that turns into a sculpture? Is it a mere physical translation or is it an occult metaphysical transmutation? With Magritte the halo of mystery and the flutter of ambiguity emerge unscathed from this uncommon leap” (op. cit., 1968, p. 25).
The inception of the sculptures may be traced to a conversation that Magritte had with his long-time dealer Alexandre Iolas in January 1967, just a few months before the artist’s death. “While leafing through the book about him that had just been published,” Iolas recounted, “I questioned him about surrealist objects such as painted bottles and asked him if he had ever thought of making sculptures. With total firmness, he answered ‘yes’, but that in sculpture he would not do anything different from his pictures; that he would never make a formal sculpture like a sculptor; that his sculpture would express his ideas. When we saw each other a few weeks later, he said that he could already see ‘which paintings would make Magritte sculptures’” (quoted in D. Sylvester, op. cit., 1993, vol. III, p. 139).
As a self-contained figure in space, and one that had long since achieved enduring fame, Le Thérapeute was a likely candidate for Magritte to reconceive in the round. Between 1936 and 1962, he had explored the motif in two oil paintings and seven gouaches; he also staged a photograph of a man in the guise of the mysterious traveler, with one of his own recent paintings occupying the cavity beneath the cape. For the bronze rendition, Magritte chose to expand upon his initial conception of Le Thérapeute, characterized by the birdcage-as-torso (Sylvester, nos. 427, 1122, 1162, 1332, and 1336); in subsequent painted variants, the head and chest instead take the form of a portal onto a cloud-filled sky (nos. 1419 and 1512) or a white sheet of paper with the shapes of four emblematic objects cut out from it (nos. 630 and 1199). “This picture frees us from a number of mental habits,” Magritte explained. “The tireless traveler makes us see the sky in such a way that we are more pleasantly moved by it” (quoted in ibid., vol. II, p. 388).
The realization of Magritte’s sculptural vision proceeded rapidly despite the magnitude of the project. As soon as he had selected the motifs from his back catalogue of paintings, he created working drawings with precise measurements for each three-dimensional transposition. “The success of the whole enterprise was due partly to Magritte’s sense of scale,” David Sylvester has noted, “and partly to the rightness of the choice of images” (Magritte, Brussels, 2009, p. 399). For Le Thérapeute, according to Iolas, Magritte further asked “for a very large man to be found and then for precise casts to be made from him as he was sitting; he had a cage constructed and had that cast” (quoted in D. Sylvester, op. cit., 1993, vol. III, p. 463). Iolas then contracted with the Gibiesse foundry in Verona to work up full-scale wax models of each sculpture, which were ready by mid-June. Magritte traveled to the foundry and made several modifications to the waxes before signing each model and giving the go-ahead for casting in bronze.
The first bronze casts left the foundry in November 1967. Each sculpture was issued in a numbered edition of five, plus an artist’s proof that was delivered to Magritte’s widow Georgette. In the summer of 1968, the Hanover Gallery in London, one of the most influential showcases of advanced art in Europe, mounted an exhibition entitled The Eight Sculptures of Magritte, which featured the present cast of Le Thérapeute. “The bronze creates a more imposing presence than the painting,” the critic Robert Melville wrote on this occasion, “and the space inside the birdcage, where the small bronze mate of the bird sitting outside glimmers far back in the darkness, strikes a particularly disquieting note” (op. cit., 1968, p. 210). Iolas exhibited the sculptures the next year at his Paris gallery, and Drue Heinz acquired the present bronze in 1973.

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