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)

Les vases communicants (Communicating vessels)

Details
René Magritte (1898-1967)
Les vases communicants (Communicating vessels)
signed 'Magritte' (lower right); signed 'Magritte René MAGRITTE', dated '1946' and titled (on the reverse)
gouache on paper
14 1/8 x 19 1/2 in. (35.8 x 49.6 cm.)
Executed in 1946
Provenance
Alex Salkin, Brussels.
Iolas Gallery, New York.
Sidney Janis, New York, by whom possibly acquired from the above.
Private collection, New York; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 27 May 1976, lot 266.
Nicholas Tooth, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Christian Fayt, Knokke-Heist, by whom acquired from the above.
Galerie Isy Brachot, Brussels, by whom acquired from the above.
Christian Fayt, Knokke-Heist, by whom acquired back from the above.
Sala Dalmau, Barcelona, by 1979.
Private collection, Barcelona, by whom acquired from the above;
sale, Christie's, London, 7 February 2005, lot 77.
Literature
Letter from Magritte to Alex Salkin, 2 January 1947.
P. Tyler, in Exh. cat., René Magritte, New York, 1947.
Letter from Magritte to Alexandre Iolas, 21 April 1947.
Letter from Alex Salkin to Alexandre Iolas, 3 May 1948.
Letter from Alex Salkin to Alexandre Iolas, 13 January 1949.
D. Sylvester (ed.), S. Whitfield & M. Raeburn, René Magritte, Catalogue raisonné, vol. IV, Gouaches, Temperas, Watercolours and Papiers Collés, 1918-1967, London, 1994, no. 1197, p. 64 (illustrated).
Exhibited
New York, Hugo Gallery, René Magritte, April 1947, no. 29.
Beverly Hills, Copley Galleries, Magritte, September 1948, no. 21.
Paris, Grand Palais, Foire internationale d'art contemporain, Galerie Isy Brachot, Magritte, October 1977, no. 10.
Knokke-Heist, Christian Fayt Art Gallery, June - July 1978, no. 34.
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.

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Giovanna Bertazzoni
Giovanna Bertazzoni

Lot Essay

Executed in 1946, Les vases communicants presents the viewer with four burning elements: the taper-like candle and the matches which are associated with fire, the key and bilboquet which are not. In a parody of the workings of the human mind, Magritte has presented these elements in a wooden cabinet, each categorized and arranged as though by some Surrealist collector according to hidden criteria that are beyond our grasp. An impossible and alien logic lies behind this wunderkammer of the impossible.

Taking its title from an essay on dreams written by André Breton, Les vases communicants explicitly appears to investigate the processes of thought and understanding inherent in our waking, and sleeping, comprehension of the world. 'A title,' stated Magritte, ''justifies' the image by completing it. Nietzsche also said 'there is no thought without language'. Could the painting that affects us be a language without thought?' (Magritte, 1943, quoted in H. Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, trans. Richard Miller, New York, 1977, p. 203). The disjointed, seemingly associated elements in Les vases communicants certainly bear all the hallmarks of being language without thought, echoing other works in which Magritte placed words and objects in strange compartments while pointing to the hollow limitations of words, and their inability to truly convey meaning or a true idea of the objects they describe. This was a subject that was of great interest to Magritte, and which he frequently tackled both in his painting and in his writing, not least in his famous illustrated essay Les mots et les choses. In Les vases communicants, Magritte takes elements both familiar and uncanny, places them in a deliberately banal context, and thereby stingingly attacks human communication, categorization, and the arbitrary composition of our thoughts.

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