RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE BELGIAN COLLECTOR
RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)

Souvenir de voyage

RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
Souvenir de voyage
signed ‘Magritte’ (lower left); signed and inscribed ‘Magritte "Souvenir de Voyage"’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
16 1/4 x 13 1/8 in. (41.1 x 33.3 cm.)
Painted circa 1962-1963
René Gérain, Brussels, by whom acquired directly from the artist.
Private Collection, Europe, by whom acquired from the above; sale, Sotheby’s, London, 8 February 2012, lot 18.
Private Collection, United Kingdom, by whom acquired at the above sale; sale, Sotheby’s, London, 1 March 2017, lot 50.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
J. Meuris, René Magritte, Paris, 1988, no. 235, p. 160 (illustrated).
D. Sylvester, ed., René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. III, London, 1993, no. 962, p. 373 (illustrated).
Exh. cat., Retrospective Magritte, Museum of Art, Mitsukoshi, 1994, p. 27 (illustrated).
Paris, Grand Palais, Le Salon 1978: Hommage à René Magritte et au surréalisme Belge, April - May 1978, p. 109 (illustrated).
Brussels, Galerie Isy Brachot, Magritte, March - May 1979, no. 52, n.p. (illustrated n.p.).
Ferrara, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Palazzo dei Diamanti, René Magritte, June - October 1986, no. 27.
Lausanne, Fondation de L'Hermitage, René Magritte, June - October 1987, no. 110, p. 206 (illustrated pp. 206 & n.p.).
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, René Magritte, November 1987 - February 1988, no. 117, pp. n.p. & 280 (illustrated n.p.).
Yamaguchi, Musée Préfectural, René Magritte, April - May 1988, no. 25; this exhibition later travelled to Tokyo, Musée national d'art moderne, May - July 1988.
Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts, Magritte, June - October 1996, no. 106, p. 186 (illustrated).
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Lot Essay

The protagonist of René Magritte’s Souvenir de voyage (Remembrance of a Voyage) is one of the artist’s most iconic and memorable motifs – the apple – seen here standing alone and petrified on a beach, directly under the mysterious light of a crescent moon that shines over the sea in the middle of a daylit sky. Executed circa 1962-63, this painting marks an eloquent convocation of several of the most famous and enduring motifs in the artist’s oeuvre, elegantly united and resolved into one, deceptively simple image. Writing about this unexpected transformation of quotidian objects in his work, the artist explained the power these works could have: ‘M[agritte] reveals things by ruthlessly shaking off their utilitarian aspect: things then appear absolutely useless, unusable; they are enigmas defying scientific investigation. In [the] painting Le séducteur we really see water for the first time… In other paintings, stones reveal the perfection of their existence, they are called: La parole donnéeSouvenir de voyage and Le chant de la violette… The singular Knowledge we get from M’s painting is as genuine as it is absolutely useless for solving the tedious problems of everyday life’ (‘M’s Useless Painting,’ unpublished manuscript, in K. Rooney and E. Plattner, eds., René Magritte Selected Writings, London, 2016, pp. 145-6).

In its simultaneous combination of a scene of both day and night, the painting echoes the famous dichotomy established by Magritte’s celebrated L’empire de lumières paintings which the artist produced from the 1940s onwards and depicting a nocturnal street-lit scene under a daytime sky. At the same time, another dichotomy is invoked in Souvenir de voyage by the strange relationship that appears to exist between the illuminated, and apparently weightless light of the moon (itself a rock floating in space) and the dense, heavy, stone apple, here seen firmly set upon the Earth. Looking in some ways like a diagrammatic exaggeration of the principle of gravity – as established by Sir Isaac Newton and the apple-related story of its discovery – this solitary stone fruit, situated directly below the radiant crescent of the moon, also sports, unusually for Magritte, a leafless stalk. Sprouting vertically from the apple, like the wick of a candle, it also appears to establish a further mysterious relationship between the cold, grey, stone fruit and the illuminated moon directly above it. It is a relationship that Magritte regularly explored in other pictures, most notably, his numerous beachside depictions of candles seemingly lit by the moon flickering above them like a flame in the heavens. Indeed, this candle motif is also one that Magritte may have explored directly in conjunction with this painting in another oil that he made circa 1962, also entitled Souvenir de voyage and depicting a petrified candle standing on the beach under an open sky (Sylvester, no. 957; Private collection).

Magritte’s title of Souvenir de voyage is a favourite of the artist’s and one that he repeatedly bestowed upon several of his pictures. Believed to derive from the title of a trilogy of novels that he knew, written by Arthur de Gobineau in 1872, Magritte first gave this title to a painting of a strange picture-within-a-picture assemblage that he made in 1926 and which is now in the Musée d’art moderne et contemporain in Strasbourg. Magritte did not then use the title again until 1950 when, along with the titles La parole donnée (The Pledge), and Le chant de la violette (The Song of the Violet), he frequently began to give it to works that depicted a world that had mysteriously turned to stone.

As some writers have pointed out, this title, with its almost ironic sense of romanticism in the use of the word ‘souvenir’, has the effect of bestowing upon these scenes of petrification a strange sense of memory having been brought to a halt and of the static impossibility of travel or of a voyage. In their depiction of stone figures and stone still-lifes in particular, there is also an eery, Pompeian sense of the passage of time having been brought to a standstill in these weighty and static images of petrified life.
Souvenir de voyage of circa 1962-63 belongs to a long sequence of pictures of petrification that Magritte made predominantly in two periods. Firstly, around the year 1950 and then again, later, between 1959 and 1963. Including such well-known paintings as the Menil Collection’s La clef de verre of 1959 (Sylvester, no. 899; The Menil Collection, Houston) and Le château des Pyrénées (Sylvester, no. 902; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem), these ‘stone age’ pictures, as they have sometimes been called, collectively mark one of the artist’s most important group of works of the entire post-war period. In distinct contrast to Magritte’s earlier pictures of the 1930s, for example, these later portrayals of giant stones, petrified landscapes and stone still-lifes mark a significant new departure.

They are not paintings that represent pictorial ‘solutions’ to ‘the problem of the tree’ or ‘the problem of the door’ in the way that his earlier ‘leaf-tree’ paintings or depictions of clouds passing through doorways had. Instead, they are, for the most part, concerned with processes and with different conditions of being such as petrification, magnification and with what might be described as ‘a poetics of gravity.’ In addition, they also seem to have provided the artist with a welcome opportunity to work in grisaille, something he evidently relished, lovingly bestowing many of these paintings with an attention to detail often not hitherto seen in previous works. As David Sylvester, for example, has written, Magritte often painted these stone works ‘con amore, citing the Souvenir de voyage series as a particular example of this and commenting, ‘all the living beings which are petrified seem filled with [a]strange tenderness. And not only living beings but still life objects as in the small still life with bottles of 1950 also called Souvenir de voyage’ (Magritte, London, 2009, p. 369).

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