Audio: Rene Magritte,  Les belles réalités
Rene Magritte (1898-1967)
1 More
Rene Magritte (1898-1967)

Les belles réalités

Rene Magritte (1898-1967)
Les belles réalités
signed 'Magritte' (lower right); titled '"LES BELLES REALITES"' (on the reverse)
gouache on paper
9 7/8 x 7½ in. (25 x 19 cm.)
Painted in 1962
Mr. and Mrs. Barnet and Eleanor Cramer Hodes, Chicago (acquired from the artist, 1962).
Private collection (by descent from the above); sale, Christie's, New York, 9 November 1998, lot 450.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Letter from Magritte to Barnet Hodes, 19 October 1962.
Letters from Barnet Hodes to Magritte, 17 and 26 December 1962.
D. Sylvester, S. Whitfield and M. Raeburn, René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1994, vol. IV, p. 250, no. 1523 (illustrated).
The Art Institute of Chicago, Magritte, March-May 1993, no. 150.

Brought to you by

David Kleiweg de Zwaan
David Kleiweg de Zwaan

Lot Essay

In a letter to Harry Torczyner of 3 October 1963, Magritte explained the imagery of the work as it related to the title: "Beautiful Realities is in keeping with this idea that the well-known 'sense of reality' does not have to be understood according to the stubborn prejudice that 'reality' is always ugly, exhausting, etc." (R. Magritte, Magritte/Torczyner, Letters Between Friends, New York, 1994, p. 90). This happy manifesto was perhaps a reflection of the increased prosperity that Magritte was enjoying in the early 1960s as his celebrity spread and his influence on a younger generation of artists was more widely acknowledged.

This spherical form, with its suggestions of the harmonious and the cosmic, the massive and the weightless, held an enduring appeal for Magritte. The sphere appears in various forms throughout his career, whether it is as an animal bell, a balloon, an egg, or a finial. The apple, however, with its own wider connotations of Newtonian physics and the Enlightenment, is perhaps the most recognized iteration of the shape in Magritte's art. Among the most celebrated versions is La chambre d'écoute (Sylvester, no. 799; fig. 1) where the fruit has grown to colossal proportions and is thus trapped within a domestic interior. By contrast, in the present painting the apple floats freely against a hazy sky, occupying the center of the picture field but with apparent room to grow. A suggestion of weightlessness, with the lack of any support for the apple, is reinforced by the positioning of a table on its top which seems to act as a downward, counterforce. The incongruity of the pairing is heightened further by the disparities of scale: either the apple is massive in its dimensions echoing the La chambre d'écoute and dwarfing the linen draped table, or conversely the table has been shrunken to a Lilliputian scale. Uncertainty reigns.

During Magritte's career, he became increasingly adept at converting his vision of the mysteries of the world into pictures that, through their iconic simplicity, conveyed their messages all the more strikingly. Where some of his earlier surreal pictures had a wealth of details and juxtapositions, from the 1930s onwards, he pared back the elements, imbuing each with far greater significance. It is in its simplicity that Les belles réalités gains its strange, distinctive, and uncanny impact. The inconsistency of scale between these disparate objects heightens the peculiar relationship between them as well as the sense of impossibility in Magritte's private world. Magritte's imaginative depiction of familiar, even mundane objects prompts us towards a more awe-filled appreciation of our world.

(fig. 1) René Magritte, La chambre d'écoute, 1952. The Menil Collection, Houston.

More from Impressionist and Modern Works on Paper

View All
View All