RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
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RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
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RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)

La race blanche

RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
La race blanche
signed and numbered 'Magritte 1⁄5' (underneath the lips)
bronze with golden brown patina
21 x 13 5⁄8 x 7 1⁄8 in. (53.3 x 34.5 x 18 cm.)
Conceived and cast in 1967 in an edition of five plus one artist's proof
Jackson-Iolas Gallery, New York
William N. Copley, New York, by whom acquired from the above, before 1979, and thence by descent; sale, Sotheby’s, London, 5 February 2002, lot 39.
Private collection, by whom acquired at the above sale; sale, Sotheby's, London, 26 February 2019, lot 35.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
P. Rouve, ‘Space conquered’, in Art and Artists, London, August 1968, pp. 24-27.
Exh. cat., Magritte, The 8 Sculptures, Paris, 1969 (illustrated).
S. Gablik, Magritte, London, 1970, no. 167 (another cast illustrated p. 178).
A. M. Hammacher, René Magritte, London, 1974, no. 59, p. 54 (another cast illustrated).
J. Meuris, René Magritte, Cologne, 1990, p. 211 (another cast illustrated).
S. Gablik, Magritte, London, 1991, no. 214, p. 180 (another cast illustrated).
D. Sylvester, ed., S. Whitfield & M. Raeburn, René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. III, Oil Paintings, Objects and Bronzes, 1949 - 1967, London, 1993, no. 1093, p. 465 (illustrated).
Exh. cat., Magritte, Montreal, 1996, no. 19, p. 108 (another cast illustrated).
Exh. cat., Magritte, son œuvre, son musée, Brussels, 2009, p. 245 (another cast illustrated).
Houston, Institute for the Arts, Rice University, Secret Affinities: Words and Images by René Magritte, October 1976 - January 1977.
Sale Room Notice
Please note the correct dimensions for this work are: 21 x 13 5/8 x 7 1/8 in. (53.3 x 34.5 x 18 cm.) and not as stated in the printed catalogue.

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Ottavia Marchitelli
Ottavia Marchitelli Senior Specialist, Head of The Art of The Surreal Sale

Lot Essay

In January 1967, just seven months before his death, René Magritte began to ruminate on the possibility of creating a series of three-dimensional sculptures, inspired by motifs from some of his most iconic and intriguing paintings. The inception of this sculptural project may be traced back to a conversation that Magritte had with his long-time dealer Alexandre Iolas: ‘While leafing through the book about him that had just been published,’ Iolas recounted, ‘I questioned [Magritte] 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, ed., René Magritte Catalogue Raisonné, vol. III, London, 1993, p. 139). Shortly thereafter, Magritte selected a group of eight motifs from various phases within his vast oeuvre, each of which he felt would prove a promising idea for translation into three-dimensions
The realisation of Magritte’s sculptural vision proceeded rapidly during the ensuing months, despite the magnitude of the project. As soon as he had picked the motifs from his back catalogue of paintings, he created working drawings with precise measurements for each three-dimensional transposition, enlarging or accentuating certain aspects of the subject in some cases, to achieve a certain effect when translated into bronze. ‘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). Iolas took on the practical arrangements for the project, contracting the Gibiesse foundry in Verona to work up full-scale wax models of each sculpture, which were ready by mid-June. Magritte travelled to the foundry and made several modifications to the waxes before signing each model and giving the go-ahead for casting in bronze. Sadly, the artist never saw the final realisation of the project, as he passed away unexpectedly that August, while the sculptures were still in progress.
In many instances, the translation of Magritte’s distinctively deadpan, illusionistic style of painting into sculpture radically heightened the effect of his motifs, delivering his magic-laden juxtapositions of imagery from the fictive realm of the canvas into the tangible and familiar human domain. For the present sculpture, the artist selected a theme he had explored in several oil paintings and gouaches from the late 1930s, all titled La race blanche (Sylvester, nos. 444, 445, 1131). In this trio of compositions, Magritte played with concepts of fragmentation and disintegration, as a series of easily recognisable body parts – namely an eye, an ear, lips and two noses – were isolated and reassembled in a carefully balanced configuration, stacked atop one another almost like a house of cards. The resulting sculpture, which is the only double-sided example among the bronzes Magritte conceived in 1967, retains the sense of playfulness and humour found in the artist’s original paintings on the theme, confounding the viewer as they attempt to piece the different elements together into a readable face. ‘[La race blanche] gave me the opportunity, in my turn, to ask questions of the public,’ he later explained of the motif. ‘I would ask visitors if they couldn’t tell me why I had given the figure two noses’ (quoted in D. Sylvester, ed., René Magritte Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, London, 1993, p. 252).
Each of the eight bronzes from Magritte's final sculptural project were issued in a numbered edition of five, plus an artist’s proof that was delivered to Magritte’s widow Georgette upon completion. The present cast of La race blanche was purchased from Iolas by the American painter, writer and one-time gallerist, William N. Copley, who enthusiastically embraced Surrealism in the 1940s, and became an important patron and supporter of artists such as Man Ray, Yves Tanguy and Max Ernst. He built a large collection of Surrealist art over the years, which included several works by Magritte.

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