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René Magritte (1898-1967)
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René Magritte (1898-1967)

La pensée visible

René Magritte (1898-1967)
La pensée visible
signed 'magritte' (lower right); signed, dated and inscribed '"La Pensée visible" magritte 1961' (on the reverse)
watercolour, pencil and collage on paper
14¼ x 17 3/8 in. (36.2 x 44.1 cm.)
Executed in 1961
Iolas Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner before 1964.
D. Sylvester (ed.), René Magritte, Catalogue raisonné, vol. IV, Gouaches, Temperas, Watercolours and Papiers Collés, 1918-1967, Antwerp, 1994, no. 1641 (illustrated p. 314).
New York, Iolas Gallery, René Magritte: Paintings, Gouaches, Collages 1960-1961-1962, April - May 1962, no. 23.
Little Rock, Arkansas Art Centre, Magritte, May - June 1964.
Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, René Magritte, September 1983 - January 1984, no. 94; this exhibition later travelled to Høvikodden, Kunstsentret, Sonja Henie-Niels Onstad Stiftelser, January - March 1984, no. 78.
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Lot Essay

Imbued with a delicate lyricism and musicality, Magritte's La pensée visible, executed in 1961, is marked by a simple balance that belies the deep resonances of the artist's past in both the contents and the medium of the work. 1961 saw Magritte re-exploring the collage format that he had essentially not used since the 1920s, and yet with which he was incredibly versatile.

The objects have been hewn from sheet music, deftly coloured to articulate their shape and volume and thus linked by the very stuff from which they have been made, appear almost monumental and assertive. This feeling is increased by the mixture of theatricality and absurdity evoked by the lone, musical curtain at the side, which hints at the revelation that lies at the heart of Magritte's oeuvre. Here, we see three of the most favoured elements of Magritte's unique and wholly surreal iconography united in this landscape, and in the material from which they have been formed.

Sheet music featured in almost every collage that Magritte made. This serves many purposes: it provides a Surreal texture to the apple, curtain and bilboquet; it provides a visual link to the musical aspect of the picture; and it also refers to Magritte's own interest in music. Magritte's brother Paul was a recognized musician as well as being a poet well loved and well respected among the circle of Magritte's closest Belgian Surrealist friends and colleagues, and the inclusion of music in his painter brother's collages in the 1920s appears in part to be a tribute to him, but one whose success guaranteed its continued usage.


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