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

Feuille et oiseaux

RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
Feuille et oiseaux
signed 'Magritte' (lower right)
gouache, watercolor and pen and black ink on paper
13 ¾ x 15 7⁄8 in. (35.1 x 40.8 cm.)
Executed in 1947
Mme Rosseels, Brussels (gift from the artist, circa 1947, then by descent); sale, Sotheby's, London, 21 June 2005, lot 160.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
S. Whitfield, ed., Magritte: Newly Discovered Works, Catalogue Raisonné, Oil Paintings, Gouaches, Drawings, Brussels, 2012, vol. VI, p. 33, no. 17 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Fondation Dina Vierny, Musée Maillol, Magritte tout en papier: Collages, dessins, gouaches, March-June 2006, p. 133 (illustrated in color).

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Lot Essay

"The finished picture is a surprise, and its creator is the first to be surprised. One always wants to achieve a more astonishing, more unexpected effect." -René Magritte
Executed in 1947, René Magritte's Feuille et Oiseaux is a delightful depiction of three delicate birds, each with its own colorful plumage, perched on the veins of a magnified leaf, as though they were the branches of a tree. Magritte has taken the qualities and characteristics that define leaves, trees and birds and reconfigured them to engaging new effect. The leaf functions as a tree, as both a physical support and a full ecosystem for the three animals. By distorting scale, perspectives, and proportions of the environment, Magritte seeks to challenge our expectations of reality.
The present work pre-dates a series of paintings, including Le rendez-vous and La troisième dimension, painted in 1948, as well as Le regard intérieur, painted in 1949, where Magritte similarly utilized an enlarged leaf populated by multi-colored birds as the dominant motif. In each composition, Magritte built upon and explored variations of birds in relation to differing distorted environments and habitats, with ever evolving complexity. The artist’s various titles clearly indicate that he not only supported but encouraged multiple readings of the conceptual puzzles he put forth.
Discussing his pictures and their function, Magritte explained that to portray the world around us as it appears to our eyes would teach us nothing at all. Art serves another purpose, of revelation rather than depiction: "To name the image of a tree 'Tree' is an error, a 'mistaken identity,' since the image of a tree is assuredly not a tree," he wrote. "The image is separate from what it shows. What we can see that delights us in a painted image becomes uninteresting if what we are shown through the image is encountered in reality; and the contrary, too: what pleases us in reality, we are indifferent to in the image of this pleasing reality if we don't confuse real and surreal, and surreal with subreal" (quoted in H. Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, trans., R. Miller, New York, 1977, p. 109).
Feuille et Oiseaux was created for Magritte’s neighbor Madame Rosseels, according to the catalogue raisonné of newly discovered works. The two are said to have had a close bond, even sharing keys to each other’s homes. Feuille et Oiseaux is believed to have been given to Madame Rosseels in 1947, making the work the first known version of Magritte’s tree-leaf motif (S. Whitfield, op.cit., 2012).

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