Articles

Newly Discovered Magritte Works Show the Surrealist’s Process

by Kyle Chayka on October 9, 2012

René Magritte, “Transatlantic Passenger,” 1936 (ARTnews via Sotheby’s)

A trove of fresh drawings and paintings have been officially attributed to the Surrealist master René Magritte by the Magritte Foundation, and they display a restless mind and finely-tuned hand at work. A series of sketches by the artist give a glimpse into how he planned out his compositions.

After the foundation published Magritte’s catalogue raisonne 12 years ago, they received hundreds of new submissions of works possibly by the artist, ARTnews reports. The amazing part was that so many of them were actually real. Compare that to the Warhol Foundation’s problems with attribution, and you’ve got a happy success (though the foundation still found more fakes than true new Magrittes).

130 of the uncovered pieces are collected in a new book, René Magritte: Newly Discovered Works, Catalogue Raisonné VI. The works range from drawings (previously left out of the catalogue raisonne) like one depiction of a bodiless horse gazing at a man with a very phallic nose (at top) to a painting of a giant soup spoon delicately balanced against the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

RenéMagritte, “Hesitation Waltz” (1952) (ARTnews via Charly Herscovici)

The works put Magritte’s fine draughtsmanship on display, with the fine gouache brushstrokes of “The Hesitation Waltz” (1953) (above), depicting two masked fruits leaning against each other, taking center stage. But the most interesting find of the Magritte trove might be the sketches. “Transatlantic Passenger,” that depiction of a surreally shortened horse and a jaunty, giant-nosed man shows Magritte working out one of his strictly controlled compositions, keeping each element of the picture separate. A single ball rests on a small brick wall, which rests at the border of a cliff looking out over a blank horizon. It might be a work in progress or just a plan for a larger piece, but the drawing itself is remarkably crisp and consistent, logical even in its strangeness.

Another new discovery is a series of sketches for illustrations that appeared in the publication La Revolution Surrealiste in 1929. The drawings (seen below) lay out Magritte’s philosophical inquiry into meaning and language, with captions running on top of quick line drawings. “An object is not so attached to its name that one cannot find for it another one which is more suitable,” he writes next to a sketch of a leaf labeled “Le Canon” (the canon).

René Magritte, “Words and Images” (1928-29( (ARTnews via Ronny van de Velde)

This new set of additions to the Surrealist canon come just in time for Magritte’s upcoming Museum of Modern Art retrospective, “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary 1926-1938.” The show will be the first one to focus chiefly on the artist’s early period. It opens at the museum in September of 2013. See ARTnews’s article for more of the fresh work.

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