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)

Eloge de la dialectique

RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
Eloge de la dialectique
signed 'Magritte' (lower left); titled and dated '"L'Eloge de la Dialectique" 1948' (on the reverse)
gouache on paper
14 x 17 7⁄8 in. (35.6 x 44.5 cm.)
Painted in 1948
Galerie Alexandre Iolas, Paris (acquired from the artist, November 1948).
William and Noma Copley, Longpont (acquired from the above).
Gift from the above to Rosalind Gersten as a birthday present, 1955.
Letter from R. Magritte to A. Iolas, 8 January 1948.
Letter from R. Magritte to A. Iolas, 24 January 1948.
Letter from R. Magritte to A. Iolas, 8 November 1948.
H. Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, New York, 1977, p. 133, no. 246 (illustrated).
D. Sylvester, ed., René Magritte: Catalogue Raisonné, Gouaches, Temperas, Watercolours and Papiers Collés, 1918-1967, New York, 1994, vol. IV, p. 116, no. 1285 (illustrated).
Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts and Museum of Fine Arts of Houston, René Magritte in America, December 1960-February 1961, no. 77 (titled L'Age du Dialectique).
New York, Albert Landry Galleries, René Magritte in New York Private Collections, October-November 1961, no. 31 (titled L'Age du Dialectique).
Little Rock, Arkansas Art Center, Magritte, May-June 1964.
Miami, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sweet Dreams and Nightmares: Dada and Surrealism from the Rosalind and Melvin Jacobs Collection, March-May 2000, no. 9 (illustrated in color).
Fukui Fine Arts Museum; Okazakai City Museum; Saitama Modern Art Museum; Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art and Tokushima Modern Art Museum, Man Ray: I Am an Enigma, June 2004-March 2005.
New York, Pace/MacGill Gallery, The Long Arm of Coincidence: Selections from the Rosalind and Melvin Jacobs Collection, April-May 2009, p. 3 (illustrated in color, pl. 9).

Lot Essay

René Magritte’s poetic gouache, Eloge de la dialectique, was the first work to enter Rosalind Gersten's collection. In 1954, she had met the Surrealist gallerist, patron and artist, William Copley, and his new wife, Noma, at a dinner in New York. A year later, Roz was invited to the Copleys’ country home, Longpont, just outside Paris, which had become a favorite meeting place for a coterie of artists in the post-war years, including Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, Roland Penrose and Lee Miller.

Surrounded by the Copleys’ famed surrealist collection, it was here that Roz fell in love with Eloge de la dialectique. The couple, knowing how much she loved it, gave to her as a birthday present. “It was just so beautiful,” Roz recollected. “I longed for it… It influenced everything we collected from then on. We only bought things that spoke to us, never thinking of their future value” (quoted in E. Ellis et al., At Home with Art: How Art Lovers Live with and Care for their Collections, New York, 1999, p. 52).

Wendy Grossman has described Eloge de la dialectique, as “literally and figuratively a window onto the eerie world between illusion, dream and nightmare that was the hallmark of Surrealism. Against the dark brooding sky and impenetrable foliage of the exterior landscape, the large open window of a nondescript building invites us into a brightly lit interior. What appears initially to be a safe refuge from an ominous outside world becomes a temporal and spatial twilight zone, comprising a frame within the frame in which the edifice is replicated in miniature in an austere and ambiguous space” (quoted in op. cit., 2009, p. 3).

The present gouache presents a poetic “solution” to what Magritte described as his pictorial “problems.” Beginning in the 1930s, the artist’s work was underpinned by this concept. Taking often quotidian imagery and objects from the everyday world and juxtaposing, metamorphosing, enlarging, shrinking, or transforming their material or elemental qualities in some way, Magritte successfully realized his desire to lay bare the mystery he believed was inherent in reality. He explained these concepts in a lecture he gave in 1938, titled, La ligne de vie. Magritte solved the “problem of the house,” in his words: “through an open window in the house-front I showed a room containing in its turn a house” (quoted in D. Sylvester, op. cit., p. 19).

Magritte first realized this motif in an earlier gouache executed in 1936 (Sylvester, no. 1120; Musee d’Ixelles, Brussels). At this time, Magritte also created a series of thirteen drawings, which he gave to his friends, writers and poets, Louis Scutenaire and his wife, Irène Hamoir. In these works, Magritte playfully explored the “problem of the house.” He reduced the image of a house to a miniature scale, so it appeared like a child’s doll’s house. He then pictured this motif in different settings: set in a tree, placed beside a dog kennel, on railways lines, on a table set for a meal and under a cheese dome (ibid., p. 19). He clearly decided the most effective composition was that of the present work: the façade of the house repeated in miniature through the window. Even the curtains that are just visible in the large-scale window are repeated in the replica house inside. A year later, Magritte painted this subject in oil (Sylvester, no. 426; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne). The present work offers a slightly different composition than these two predecessors: Magritte altered the color of the façade and included more of the surrounding exterior foliage.

In its depiction of a seemingly suburban house, flanked by a copse of trees, Eloge de la dialectique is reminiscent of Lempire des lumières. Just as in this series of works, Magritte renders a banal residential street mysterious through the disquieting and impossible combination of night and day. In the present work, he has similarly distorted a domestic scene, yet has done so by playing with scale. By featuring the same house in two different sizes, Magritte leaves the viewer, as with so much of his work, to ponder what is real and what is illusion, thereby literally creating an 'extension of the dialectic' (a literal translation of Eloge de la dialectique).

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