RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
1 More
RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
4 More
RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)

Le modèle rouge

RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
Le modèle rouge
signed 'Magritte' (upper left); signed again, dated and titled 'Magritte 1948 "Le modèle rouge"' (on the reverse)
pencil on paper
12 3⁄4 x 9 1⁄4 in. (32.4 x 23.7 cm.)
Drawn in 1948
Bodley Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist).
Acquired from the above by the late owners, April 1958.
H. Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, New York, 1977, p. 80, no. 110 (illustrated; dated circa 1935).
New York, Bodley Gallery, René Magritte: Contemporary Belgian Surrealist, April 1958.
New York, Paul Bianchini, 100 Years of Fantastic Drawings, March-April 1967.
Miami, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sweet Dreams and Nightmares: Dada and Surrealism from the Rosalind and Melvin Jacobs Collection, March-May 2000, no. 12 (illustrated).
New York, Pace/MacGill Gallery, The Long Arm of Coincidence: Selections from the Rosalind and Melvin Jacobs Collection, April-May 2009, p. 5 (illustrated in color and again on the cover; dated circa 1935).
Further details
The Comité Magritte has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Lot Essay

Le modèle rouge is an exquisite drawing in which René Magritte returned to one of his most renowned motifs, a leather boot morphing into a meticulously rendered foot. He first created this image in an oil painting of 1935 (Sylvester, no. 380; Moderna Museet, Stockholm). He painted another version a few months later, this time rendering the scene with more dramatic, shadowy lighting (Sylvester, no. 382; Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris) and a third one in 1937, commissioned by Edward James, in which he added a trompe loeil scrap of newspaper to the ground in the lower right, a cigarette butt and discarded matches (Sylvester, no. 428; Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam). The motif was supposedly suggested to Magritte by fellow Surrealist, Max Ernst, who had seen a similar image on a shoemaker’s sign.

As was the case for the house in Eloge de la dialectique, Magritte sought "solutions” to particular “problems” posed by different types of objects. In the present drawing, the same method enabled him to challenge and to reconfigure the most ubiquitous elements of daily life. These problems obsessed him until he was able to conceive of an image to solve them. He explained the conception of this philosophical method in a lecture he gave in Antwerp on 20 November 1938. He described a revelatory vision that he had encountered in 1932. Upon waking from a dream, he looked over at a birdcage that was in his room. In his semi-conscious state however, he saw not the bird that inhabited the cage, but instead an egg, a “splendid misapprehension,” that allowed him to grasp, in his own words, “a new and astonishing poetic secret, because the shock I experienced was caused precisely by the affinity between the two objects: the cage and the egg, whereas previously I had provoked shock by bringing together totally unrelated objects. Proceeding from this revelation, I tried to discover if objects other than the cage, thanks to the pinpointing of some element peculiar to them, and a strictly predestined part of them, could not display the same obvious poetic quality that the egg and the cage had achieved through being brought together” (quoted in G. Ollinger-Zinque and F. Leen, eds., “La ligne de vie,” Magritte Centenary Exhibition, exh. cat., Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1998, p. 47).

The discovery and subsequent depiction of these hidden “elective affinities” that existed between seemingly unrelated objects became the abiding purpose of Magritte’s art from this point onwards, serving to underpin some of his greatest motifs. The “problem of the bird” was solved by depicting an egg in a cage; the “problem of the door” resolved by painting a shapeless hole cut through it; the tree, with a “leaf-tree.”

The imagery of Le modèle rouge was conceived in the same way. “The problem of the shoes,” Magritte explained in his lecture, “demonstrates how far the most barbaric things can, through force of habit, come to be considered quite respectable. Thanks to ‘Modèle rouge,’ people can feel that the union of a human foot with a leather shoe is, in fact, a monstrous custom” (quoted in D. Sylvester, ed., René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné: Oil Paintings and Objects 1931-1948, London, 1993, vol. II, p. 205). Taking shoes, one of the most ubiquitous and quotidian objects of everyday life, and depicting them as if they are dissolving into ?esh, or vice versa, Magritte renders these essential human accessories wholly extraordinary, leading the viewer more fully to contemplate and to appreciate this part of everyday human existence.

In March 1937, when Magritte was staying in London with the Surrealist patron and collector, Edward James, Magritte met two psychoanalysts who questioned him about his art. They told Magritte that they believed Le modèle rouge to be a “case of castration” (quoted in S. Whitfield, Magritte, exh. cat., The Hayward Gallery, London, 1992, no. 71). Throughout his career, Magritte famously disavowed interpretations and analysis of his imagery, claiming instead that his art simply reflected the mystery inherent in the everyday world. He wrote to his friend, the poet, Louis Scutenaire of this interpretation of Le modèle rouge, “It’s terrifying to see what one is exposed to in making an innocent picture” (ibid.).

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