René Magritte (1898-1967)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Property of a Distinguished European Collector
René Magritte (1898-1967)

La goutte d'eau

René Magritte (1898-1967)
La goutte d'eau
signed 'Magritte' (lower right); signed again and titled '"LA GOUTTE D'EAU" Magritte' (on the reverse)
gouache over pencil on paper
13 ¾ x 10 ½ in. (35 x 26.8 cm.)
Painted circa 1958
International Galleries, Chicago.
Mr. and Mrs. Robert B. Mayer, Chicago (acquired from the above, 11 October 1960); sale, Christie's, New York, 15 November 1989, lot 67.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
D. Sylvester, ed., René Magritte: Catalogue Raisonné, Gouaches, Temperas, Watercolours and Papiers Collés 1918-1967, London, 1994, vol. IV, p. 212, no. 1452 (illustrated).
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, In the Mind's Eye: Dada and Surrealism, December 1984-January 1985, p. 169 (illustrated; dated 1948).
New York, Fashion Institute of Technology Galleries, Fashion and Surrealism, October 1987-January 1988.
New York, The Pace Gallery, René Magritte: Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, May-June 1990, no. 8 (illustrated in color; dated 1948).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.
Sale room notice
Please note that the estimate for this lot is $1,000,000-$1,500,000.

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Max Carter
Max Carter

Lot Essay

Positioned in front of a stormy sea and sky, with a boat being engulfed by turbulent waves, a strange, bejeweled torso is placed upon a stage-like platform, flanked by an opulent, deep red Baroque-like curtain in René Magritte’s dramatic La goutte deau (‘The Drop of water’). The motif of the female torso had first entered Magritte’s art in the early 1930s, and became a perennial subject, featuring in a variety of ways in a range of diverse compositions. While this object was initially inspired by a cast of a model torso that the artist purchased, in the present work—the subject of which was first explored in an oil of the same name of 1948 (Sylvester, no. 669)—the female form appears to be composed not of the inert plaster of the cast but instead, of living flesh. Adding to the incongruity and impossibility of this composition, are the jeweled pieces that cover this female bust, appearing like stickers adhered to her skin. As a result, this fragmented form remains just beyond the realm of identification: is it a painted object, a carved sculpture or a fictional illusion? It is with these playful and poetic mysteries, oddities and impossibilities that Magritte plays with our fields of vision, disrupting pictorial conventions and breaking down the divisions of life and representation.  
The blurring between the real or artificial was a theme that Magritte had also explored in his earlier Magie noire series, in which a female figure is often featured in a state of metamorphosis, turning from flesh to sky, or stone to flesh. With works such as these and the present La goutte deau, Magritte created a new, Surrealist conception of the classical nude, subverting the ideals and conventions of beauty and form that are associated with this subject. Taking as his initial model his wife Georgette as well as the plaster cast, Magritte invented a female figure that, with her perfectly symmetrical facial features, and smooth flawless body, is reminiscent of the idealized sculptures of antiquity. Here, the link with the classical is heightened due to the truncated, fragmented portion of the female form that he has depicted. While it appears like a piece of ancient statuary from the past, it remains undeniably of the present thanks to the naturalism with which Magritte has depicted it. As a result, this scene is filled not only with the strange mystery that defines the artist’s work, but is also imbued with a poetic timelessness.
La goutte deau was formerly in the collection of Chicago couple, Robert B. Mayer and his wife, Beatrice ‘Buddy’ Cummings Mayer. Together they acquired a diverse range of art, first collecting the Impressionists and early modern artists, before turning in the 1960s to contemporary art. Robert Rauschenberg’s Buffalo II and Roy Lichtenstein, Kiss III both of which were sold, along with numerous other works at Christie’s in May 2019.

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