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

La chambre d'écoute

RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
La chambre d'écoute
signed 'Magritte' (lower left)
pen and India ink and inkwash on paper
7 x 9 3⁄8 in. (17.6 x 23.8 cm.)

(probably) Acquired from the artist through William and Noma Copley by the late owners, by 1960.
H. Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, New York, 1977, p. 97, no. 144 (illustrated).
Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts and Museum of Fine Arts of Houston, René Magritte in America, December 1960-February 1961, no. 79 (titled The Apple).
New York, Albert Landry Galleries, René Magritte in New York: Private Collections, October-November 1961, no. 33.
Miami, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sweet Dreams and Nightmares: Dada and Surrealism from the Rosalind and Melvin Jacobs Collection, March-May 2000, no. 11 (illustrated; dated 1957).
New York, Pace/MacGill Gallery, The Long Arm of Coincidence: Selections from the Rosalind and Melvin Jacobs Collection, April-May 2009 (illustrated in color; dated 1957).
Further details
The Comité Magritte has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Lot Essay

Executed in delicate lines of pen and India ink against soft passages of inkwash, La chambre d’écoute is a masterful drawing in which René Magritte returns to the theme of impossible magnification, a subject which occupied his imagination repeatedly through the final years of his career. Among the most familiar iterations of the artist’s musings on the topic, La chambre d’écoute follows a series of oil paintings of the same name and subject in which an oversized apple almost fills the entirety of a simple, ordinary room, its perfectly spherical form a monumental presence at the very center of the space. By playing with scale in this way, deliberately distorting the piece of fruit to dramatically enormous proportions, Magritte disrupts the viewer’s understanding of the scene, imbuing this very familiar, commonplace object with a strange, otherworldly quality.

According to the artist, the idea for La chambre d’écoute had initially emerged in response to his 1952 painting Les valeurs personnelles (Sylvester, no. 488; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) in which a familiar bedroom scene was infiltrated by a handful of quotidian objects, including a comb, a shaving brush, a wineglass and a matchstick, enlarged to unexpected proportions. Standing in sharp contrast to the rest of the items in the room, these typically hand-held objects suddenly appear larger than the human-sized pieces of furniture they stand alongside, generating a startling tension. As the artist explained, it was the everyday familiarity of such items that allowed him to conjure such a distinct sense of mystery in his work: “My paintings show objects deprived of the sense they usually have. They are shown in unusual contexts... Ordinary objects fascinate me. A door is a familiar object but at the same time it is a bizarre object, full of mystery...” (“The Enigmatic Visions of René Magritte,” Life, 22 April 1966, pp. 113-119; quoted in R. Magritte, Ecrits complets, Paris, 1992, pp. 609-611).

In La chambre d’écoute, Magritte simplifies the composition so that the apple is the only object in the room, increasing the impact of his playful magnification and causing it to appear even more strange and disconcerting in the process. In this drawing, unlike in his typical painted versions, he changes the position of the window, so that the light falls from the right as opposed to the left. Using an intricate cross-hatching technique to render the deep shadows on its curves, Magritte grants the apple a distinct sense of three-dimensionality, the comma-like strokes of the pen creating a dense web of overlapping and interweaving lines that follow the contours of the apple.

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