René Magritte (1898-1967)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
René Magritte (1898-1967)

La traversée difficile (II)

René Magritte (1898-1967)
La traversée difficile (II)
signed 'Magritte' (upper right); signed, titled and dated 'La traversée difficile (II) 1946 Magritte', and signed again 'René MAGRITTE' (on the reverse)
gouache on paper
13 7/8 x 19½ in. (35.3 x 49.5 cm.)
Executed in 1946
Alex Salkin, Brussels, by whom acquired directly from the artist.
Galerie Niveau, New York.
Anonymous sale, Galerie Motte, Geneva, 7 June 1974, lot 144 (titled 'Intérieur à la lampe').
Anonymous sale, Galerie Motte, June 1975.
Anonymous sale, Christie's London, 27 June 1978, lot 137.
Anonymous sale, Christie's New York, 16 May 1979, lot 160.
Private collection, Switzerland; sale, Sotheby's New York, 17 May 1990, lot 186.
Private collection, Belgium, by whom acquired at the above sale, and thence by descent; sale, Sotheby's London, 8 February 2005, lot 88.
Private collection, by whom acquired at the above sale; sale, Christie's London, 6 February 2007, lot 131.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Letter from René Magritte to Alex Salkin, 2 January 1947.
Letter from René Magritte to Alexander Iolas, 21 April 1947.
D. Sylvester, ed., S. Whitfield & M. Raeburn, René Magritte. Catalogue Raisonné, vol. IV: Gouaches, Temperas, Watercolours and Papiers Collés, 1918-1967, Antwerp, 1994, no. 1198, p. 65 (illustrated).
New York, Hugo Gallery, René Magritte, April 1947, no. 27.
Beverly Hills, Copley Gallery, Magritte, September 1948, no. 17.
Lausanne, Fondation de l'Hermitage, René Magritte, June - November 1987, no. 103 (illustrated).
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, René Magritte, November 1987 - January 1988, no. 96 (illustrated; incorrectly dated '1960' and with incorrect measurements).
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.
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

Lot Essay

On a table by a gas lamp, a cigar is perched in a box, its ash end protruding, smoke lazily curling up, almost parallel to the lines of some untroubled curtain; meanwhile in the background, a storm rages, tossing a ship to and fro. Executed in 1946, La traversée difficile is a variation upon the central theme of one of the pictures dating from the formative period of René Magritte's unique Surrealism: with its depiction of a shipwreck in progress as a backdrop behind an image of stillness and incongruousness, this is clearly a gouache reprisal of one of Magritte's paintings of the same title from two decades earlier in 1926. However, there are numerous differences that allow La traversée difficile to infiltrate our world more easily: Magritte has jettisoned the clutter of Surreal objects that filled the original, for instance the mannequin's severed hand on a table and the bilboquet, instead using elements that we can recognise and that are not strange in themselves yet which, in combination, exert a strange and mysterious power.

When the oil painting entitled La traversée difficile was painted, Magritte had been experimenting with newly-discovered techniques of juxtaposition in order to create pictures that were filled with illogic, with enigma, and with impossibility to the extent that they would prompt a revelation in the viewer. In this 1946 revisitation of the theme. However, with the cigar and the lamp appearing as direct substitutes for the more surreal elements such as the bilboquet and the hand, and with the interior of the early work replaced with a balustrade that implies that this view is being seen from some balcony or veranda, Magritte has heightened the jarring difference between the atmosphere in the calm, still room and the stormy seascape beyond. In this way, La traversée difficile plunges the viewer deeper into a world of paradox and possibility.

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