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René Magritte (1898-1967)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
René Magritte (1898-1967)

Image à la maison verte (Image with a green house)

Details
René Magritte (1898-1967)
Image à la maison verte (Image with a green house)
signed 'Magritte' (lower right); dated '1944' and titled (on the reverse).
oil on canvas
23 5/8 x 31 7/8 in. (60 x 81 cm.)
Painted in 1944
Provenance
Pierre Andrieu, Paris, by whom acquired directly from the artist.
Galerie Isy Brachot, Brussels, by whom acquired from the above before 1977.
Literature
Letter from Magritte to Mariën, July 1944, in R. Magritte, La Destination: lettres à Marcel Mariën, 1937-1962, Brussels, 1977, no. 116.
Letter from Magritte to Mariën, 5 August 1944, in R. Magritte, La Destination: lettres à Marcel Mariën, 1937-1962, Brussels, 1977, no. 117.
Postcard from Magritte to Mariën, 22 August 1944, in R. Magritte, La Destination: lettres à Marcel Mariën, 1937-1962, Brussels, 1977, no. 126.
Letter from Magritte to Mariën, 22 August 1944, in R. Magritte, La Destination: lettres à Marcel Mariën, 1937-1962, Brussels, 1977, no. 127.
Postcard from Magritte to Mariën, 5 September 1944, in R. Magritte, La Destination: lettres à Marcel Mariën, 1937-1962, Brussels, 1977, no. 131.
"Jazz 47", in America: revue France-Amérique-latinité, no. 5, Paris, 1947 (illustrated p. 65).
Letter from Magritte to Andrieu, 7 July 1947.
Rhétorique, no. 3, Tilleur-lez-Liège, September 1961 (illustrated pl. 2).
H. Michaux, En rêvant à partir des peintures énigmatiques, Montpellier, 1972, pp. 37-38.
D. Sylvester & S. Whitfield, René Magritte. Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, Oil Paintings and Objetcs,1931-1948, London, 1993, no. 569, p. 345 (illustrated).
R. Hughes, The portable Magritte, New York, 2002, p. 430 (illustrated p. 229).
D. Sylvester & M. Draguet, Magritte, Brussels, 2009, p. 328 & 424.

Exhibited
Brussels, Galerie des Editions de la Boétie, Surréalisme, December - January 1945, no. 79.
Verviers, Société Royale des Beaux-Arts, René Magritte, August - September 1982, no. 23.
Paris, Grand Palais, Foire internationale d'art contemporain, Galerie Isy Brachot, Magritte, October 1977, no. 8.
Paris, Galerie Isy Branchot, Magritte 1898-1967, January - March 1979, no. 10 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Brussels, Galerie Isy Brachot, March - May 1979.
Tokyo, Galerie de Arts, Shibuya, René Magritte, August - September 1982, no, 25; this exhibition later travelled to Toyama, Musée d'Art de la Préfecture, October 1982, and Kumamoto, Musée d'Art de la Préfecture, October - December 1982.


Special Notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
Sale Room Notice
Please note the amended cataloguing for this lot:
signed 'Magritte' (lower left)

Please note the correct dimensions for this lot are 23¾ x 31 in. (60.5 x 78.8 cm.) and not as stated in the printed catalogue

Please note the amended provenance for this lot:
Pierre Andrieu, Toulouse and Paris, by whom acquired directly from the artist.
Galerie Isy Brachot, Brussels, by whom acquired from the above before 1977.
Private collection, France.

Please note that the correct date of the Verviers exhibition is 1947 and not as stated in the printed catalogue.

Brought to you by

Giovanna Bertazzoni
Giovanna Bertazzoni

Lot Essay

'For the period I call "Surrealism in full sunlight," I am trying to join together two mutually exclusive things:
'1) a feeling of levity, intoxication, happiness, which depends on a certain mood and on an atmosphere that certain Impressionists - or rather, Impressionism in general - have managed to render in painting. Without Impressionism, I do not believe we would know this feeling of real objects perceived through colour and nuances, and free of all classical reminiscences...
'and, 2) a feeling of the mysterious existence of objects (which should not depend upon classical or literary reminiscences), which is experienced only by means of a certain clairvoyance’ (Magritte, quoted in H. Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, trans. R. Miller, New York, 1977, p. 186).




Image à la maison verte was painted in 1944 and belongs to René Magritte's so-called 'Renoir Period', which he preferred to call 'Surrealism in full sunlight'. Looking at Image à la maison verte, it is clear why Magritte chose this name: he has painted the tall houses of a Belgian cityscape, with the additional string instrument crammed between them as though on a giant bookshelf, with a swirling whirlpool of dabs of bright colour, creating a foaming paint surface that is in vivid contrast to the flatter, almost style-less pictorial modus he usually employed. Using this new style, during the early 1940s Magritte often revisited themes and motifs that had existed earlier in his works, making variations, for instance by using musical instruments as is the case here, while also bringing a new inventive scrutiny to his Magrittean universe. In this picture, the musical instrument is an old friend, perhaps tangentially referring to the vocation of the artist's brother, Paul Magritte, or the scores that he used in some of his early collages. At the same time, it serves to introduce complex play of scales of this work, with the gargantuan violin thrust in between the houses, side-on, almost as though it were attempting to hide. Magritte aimed to promote a greater understanding of the mysteries surrounding us through twists to the expectations we have of the properties of our universe; at the same time, this subversive image is softened by its Impressionist palette and manner of execution: Image à la maison verte is thus made all the more insinuating through its very innocuousness. It is a mark of the striking nature of this concept that Image à la maison verte was featured in the book dedicated to musings on Magritte's works written by his fellow artist, Henri Michaux, En rêvant à partir de peintures énigmatiques, which was re-issued in a limited edition in 2012.

Magritte had developed his Impressionistic Surrealism during the previous year, in part as a response to the horrors of the Second World War. It was against the backdrop of the Occupation that Magritte had developed this style, which ran counter to the sense of doom and gloom that pervaded the works of so many of his contemporaries, and indeed the atmosphere prevalent at the time. For Magritte, turning to the light, colour and sensuality of Impressionism while retaining his own distinctive world view was a Gordian Knot solution that allowed him to move forwards. As he explained, 'The German occupation marked the turning point in my art. Before the war, my paintings expressed anxiety, but the experiences of war have taught me that what matters in art is to express charm. I live in a very disagreeable world, and my work is meant as a counter-offensive' (Magritte, quoted in S. Gablik, Magritte, London, 1992, p. 146).

Magritte had written to his friend Marcel Mariën at the end of July and beginning of August 1944 discussing his desire to find a solution to 'the problem of the town. A difficult problem, as always, at the beginning' (Magritte, quoted in D. Sylvester (ed.), S. Whitfield & M. Raeburn, René Magritte Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, London, 1993, p. 345). It was in Image à la maison verte that he found his solution - at the end of August, he was able to send Mariën a note showing an illustration of the composition that would emerge in Image à la maison verte, then confirming that he had completed the work: 'I have done the picture with the double-bass (violin) in the space between the two houses in the new form I mentioned to you (shading off the image towards the edges)' (Magritte, quoted ibid., p. 345). It was at the beginning of September that year that British forces would liberate Brussels; this means that Image à la maison verte was painted at the very end of the Occupation that had brought Magritte's 'Surrealism in full sunlight' into existence. However, Magritte would continue to explore this visual idiom over the coming years, and indeed promoted his works from the period with great fervour.

That Magritte needed to promote them was in part because some of his former collectors and comrades did not appreciate the attempt to mingle subversion with joy that he was exploring in these pictures. In 1946, after the end of the Second World War, Magritte wrote a string of letters to André Breton discussing the pictures, explaining his justification in terms that hinted at a critique of the movement that Breton himself had founded. Recalling that Surrealism had tried to prophesy and bring about chaos and a new world order in the years leading to the war, Magritte wrote:

'The disarray, the panic that Surrealism tried to create so as to call everything into question again, the Nazi cretins achieved that much better than we did, and there was no getting around it... In the face of widespread pessimism, I propose the search for joy, for pleasure. This joy and pleasure, which are so commonplace and yet so out of reach, seems to me to be up to us alone' (Magritte, 1946, quoted in H. Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, trans. R. Miller, New York, 1977, p. 187).

Magritte, in a subsequent letter, explained that he had sought out and found a new language that enabled him to combine aesthetic pleasure with subversive images revealing the chaos rife in the world: 'Provoking the "grave crisis of conscience" by means of charm (freshness, joy, the lights of sunlit poetry) leaves behind the "disturbing" illuminations that are so picturesque and pleasing to third-raters. Both charm and menace can be heightened by being united' (Magritte, quoted in ibid., p. 188). In a sense, then, this Renoir-esque means of representation allowed Magritte's ideas to infiltrate all the more widely. In Image à la maison verte, Magritte has used his 'Surrealism in full sunlight' to show an urban view that is at odds with its Impressionistic manner of painting, creating an additional playful level of disruption.

In Image à la maison verte and its fellow faux-Impressionist pictures, Magritte was revealing his desire to paint works which spread joy, revealing a very different understanding of the role of the artist during a time of privations and suffering. While Breton had gone into exile in the United States of America, Magritte lived through the Occupation and had decided that a part of his duty was to raise morale. He did this through the luminous palette of works such as Image à la maison verte, as well as his playful imagery. In this way, he was keeping the beacons of hope and humanity alive, rather than pointing to the horrors that abounded in the world at that time. For this reason, he exhibited some of the works as early as 1944, and showed more of them the following year in a momentous survey of Surrealism that he helped to organise at the Galerie des Editions La Boétie, where he showed alongside artists such as Hans Arp, Max Ernst, Oscar Domínguez and Victor Brauner, as well as compatriots including Paul Delvaux and Pol Bury, who took photographs including an installation shot in which Image à la maison verte can be seen.

While Breton found it hard to support Magritte's visions, others were impressed with their pictorial and conceptual power of his works from this time. Certainly, the poet Paul Nougé, himself one of the lynchpins of Belgian Surrealism alongside Magritte, appears to have endorsed them with his suggestion regarding the titles of the pictures, for which the artist often turned to the advice of his friends. As Magritte explained to Mariën, in a letter dated just after the Liberation of Brussels,

'Nougé thinks it is becoming difficult to find titles, because of the richer content of the recent pictures which are self-sufficient. So, as regards finding names, he proposes the following procedure as adequate: the violin in the little space where there is a green house would be called: Image with a Green House' (Magritte, quoted in Sylvester (ed.), op. cit., 1993, p. 345).

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