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

Souvenir de voyage

Details
René Magritte (1898-1967)
Souvenir de voyage
signed 'Magritte' (lower left); titled 'Souvenir de Voyage' (on the reverse)
gouache on paper
14 1/8 x 10 5/8 in. (35.9 x 27 cm.)
Executed circa 1961
Provenance
Margaret Krebs, Brussels.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1965.
Literature
D. Sylvester, René Magritte, Catalogue raisonné, vol. IV, Gouaches, Temperas, Watercolours and Papiers Collés 1918-1967, London, 1994, no. 1497, p. 236 (illustrated).
R. Hughes, ed., Magritte en poche, Antwerp, 2009, p. 429 (illustrated p. 361).
Musée Magritte, Magritte: son oeuvre, son musée, Brussels, 2009, p. 6 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, René Magritte, November 1987 - February 1988, no. 101 (illustrated).
Yamaguchi, Musée préfectural, René Magritte, May - July 1988, no. 126, p. 152 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Tokyo, Musée National d'Art Moderne, May - July 1988.
Oostende, Provinciaal Museum voor Moderne Kunst, René Magritte, June - August 1990, no. 29, pp. 138 & 272 (illustrated p. 139).
Knokke, Casino communal, Magritte, June - September 2001, no. 49, p. 127 (illustrated p. 69).
Brussels, Musée Magritte, on loan since 2009.
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
This work has been requested for an exhibition entitled ‘Arts and Foods’ curated by Germano Celant at La Triennale di Milano, 9th April – 31st October 2015, as the Art Pavilion of EXPO 2015

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Anna Povejsilova
Anna Povejsilova

Lot Essay

René Magritte’s Souvenir de voyage is an exquisitely-rendered gouache from around 1961 showing an apple wearing a carnival-style mask. This creates a mysterious anthropomorphism: the mask faces us, giving the impression that it is looking our way, as though in a portrait. At the same time, the eye holes in the mask show the green skin of the apple behind them: this is an eyeless entity. It is an apple, plain and simple, given a make-over or a disguise... And yet it has here been granted some inferred intelligence, a soupçon of personality. It is lent a certain dash by the mask: is this apple being depicted as the romantic and mysterious guest at the Venetian carnival or some other masked ball, or is it perhaps a renegade, like the highwaymen of the Eighteenth Century?

Either way, Magritte is playing with an entire iconography of disruption. In this exploration of the mystery of the everyday world around us, Magritte has created a motif that is entirely possible - after all, anyone could put a mask on an apple. But placed here, facing us, it becomes a character in its own right, the product of a carnivalesque realm in which rules have been jettisoned in favour of a discreet and elegant anarchy. In this sense, the masked apple of Souvenir de voyage is a fitting subject for Magritte, who himself waged his one-man war of iconoclasm, surprise and subversion while inscrutably dressed in his own deliberately bourgeois disguise - his suit and his bowler hat. The masked apple had entered Magritte’s mysterious pantheon of motifs and characters a decade and a half earlier. While this subject was shown a number of times in works under the titles Le prêtre marié and La valse hésitation, those pictures almost invariably showed two masked apples, whereas the single protagonist of Souvenir de voyage is far rarer. In fact, this solitary apple is truer to the original incarnation of the motif: it was in 1946 that Magritte created this subject for Charles-Henri Ford as a design for an edition of his publication View. This was all the more apt, as the edition in question, for December 1946, was to be largely dedicated to Surrealism in Belgium, Magritte’s own home country.

In his design for the cover of View, the masked apple was shown as a dynamic entity: undulating lines haloed the protagonist, which was caught in mid-air at a rakish angle, lending it a sense of energy and movement. By contrast, in Souvenir de voyage, the artist has deliberately used stillness as a part of his arsenal in order to create an image that is all the more ambiguous. Looking at the picture, the viewer is left to wonder if this is indeed some mysterious hybrid, or if it is quite simply an apple upon which someone has affixed a mask - in which case, why? This depiction results in the apple straddling the realms of objects and people in a manner that is deliberately unresolved. Essentially, in Souvenir de voyage, Magritte has created a picture that could equally belong within the realms of portraiture, still life or landscape painting, yet which shuns any simple resolution as either. In contrast to the more frequent depictions of paired apples, the bold frontality of Souvenir de voyage and its rendering of a lone subject are effects that both heighten the notion that this picture has infiltrated the realm of portraiture.

The notion of returning to the subject of the masked apple may have suggested itself to Magritte around 1961 as one of his related paintings, Le prêtre marié of 1950, was included in a prospectus published to promote a new review entitled Rhétorique, which was launched in May that year. In this promotional work, the painting of the masked apples had above it a quote ascribed to Magritte: ‘Mystery is not one of the possibilities of the real. Mystery is that which is necessary, absolutely, for there to be such a thing as the real’ (Magritte, quoted in D. Sylvester, René Magritte Catalogue raisonné, vol. III, London, 1993, p. 107). This sentiment had a clear affinity with the image of the masked apples on the beach above which it was emblazoned, and of course with Souvenir de voyage.

Many of the works depicting masked apples were given the titles La valse hésitation and Le prêtre marié; by contrast, Souvenir de voyage shares its name with a number of other works depicting a range of subjects. In particular, a number of these feature petrified apples, either as the main subject or as a detail. This hints at the idea that the transformation of the apple may itself have been the focus of this picture. The apple itself was a key motif in Magritte’s works, featuring in a range of guises, be it either petrified, made monumental, shown with the statement ‘Ceci n’est pas une pomme’ or, perhaps most famously, blocking a face in Le fils de l’homme.

In Souvenir de voyage, the title implies that the subject might be a character encountered in foreign climes, a snapshot of a very different dimension that has been briefly visited, a world of revelry, subversion and disruption in which even apples wear masks, turning the values that we ourselves take for granted upon their heads. That theme of travel was inverted in the mural sequence Le domaine enchanté, which Magritte designed for the casino at Knokke-le-Zoute. As part of its pictorial programme, Magritte included two masked apples; he himself corroborated their connection with travel, writing: ‘On the sea-shore are two visiting apples, which have come from far away. Foreign to the scene before them, they smile a muted smile’ (Magritte, quoted in ibid., p. 213).

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