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Le monde visible
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Le monde visible
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About the item

Painted in 1962, Le Monde visible is a captivating example of one of the central themes of Magritte’s art, that of unexpectedly juxtaposed objects seen in a landscape. With an extraordinary simplicity of means and sharpness of execution that characterised his later work, Magritte created an image of mystery and ambiguity, enveloping everyday objects in an enigmatic atmosphere. The artist combined familiar images in such a way as to raise questions about our perception of the visible world, and to subvert the meanings we attach to commonplace occurrences. The sense of mystification is amplified by the subtlety and almost photographic precision with which the objects are depicted, triggering conflicting perceptions of the reality and impossibility of the scene we are witnessing.\nIn a neutral, nondescript landscape in which the ground, sea and sky merge into one another, a simple table covered with a tablecloth holds a rock that replaces the traditional imagery of still-life. The subtle amalgamation of the three elements of the background creates an impression of a theatrical backdrop, which is further enhanced by the perfectly centred crescent moon, which appears as if pasted onto the blue sky. The shadow of the table, however, suggests a different time of the day, in which the objects are lit by an invisible sun. The stillness of the setting and the solidity of the rock indicate a far away, metaphysical landscape unstirred by human presence. Writing about this sense of tranquillity in Magritte’s paintings, Roger Shattuck commented: ‘I know of no painting that conveys so totally the sense of a universe in suspense, a universe in which everything is waiting and nothing moves’ (R. Shattuck, ‘This is not René Magritte’, in Artforum, September 1966, p. 35).\nThis stillness, however, is disturbed by the table implying the everyday activity of people gathering for a meal. The image of a table is one that appears with relative rarity in Magritte’s visual universe, probably most famously in L’Aimable vérité (fig. 1), in which a table, similar to the one in Le Monde visible although painted onto a stone wall, presents a typical array of objects such as a loaf of bread, a bowl of fruit and a bottle. In the present work, Magritte subverts the traditional genre of still-life by replacing its attributes with a rock. In a letter to Paul Nougé of January 1948, Magritte wrote that the solid nature of a stone has an affinity with the mental and physical makeup of a human being. Putting this idea into practice, he executed paintings such as Le Monde invisible (fig. 2), in which a large rock replaces a figure seated in front of the window.\nIn another version of his rock paintings, Le Château des Pyrénées (fig. 3), an enormous rock, its top part carved into a castle, is suspended in the middle of the sky above the sea. This image of an object turned into stone culminated in a series of petrified landscapes and interiors such as Souvenir de voyage (fig. 4). Writing about the way in which Magritte combined the image of the stone with other elements, Sarah Whitfield commented: ‘In making these three elements, rock, sea and sky, as studiously neutral as the paint, Magritte distances himself from the two givens of the landscape painting – time and place – and risks an art of pure reflection and contemplation. It is as abstract in its conception as a work by Rothko, who was one of the first to remark upon the abstract qualities of Magritte’s art’ (S. Whitfield in Magritte (exhibition catalogue), The Hayward Gallery, London, 1992, n.p.).\nAlthough Magritte has inscribed the date 1947 on the reverse of the canvas, Le Monde visible was painted in 1962. According to the Catalogue Raisonné, ‘The date in the inscription is one of those inventions Magritte resorted to when selling a work behind Iolas’s back. In fact, the work appears in Magritte's List 1964 under 1962 as ‘Le Monde visible (pierre sur table et lune 100 x 80) Lachowsky-Cosyn’ / ‘The visible world (rock on table and moon 100 x 80) Lachowsky-Cosyn’/’ (op. cit., p. 369).\n\nFig. 1, René Magritte, L’Aimable vérité, 1966, oil on canvas, The Menil Collection, Houston\nFig. 2, René Magritte, Le Monde invisible, 1954, oil on canvas, The Menil Collection, Houston\nFig. 3, René Magritte, Le Château des Pyrénées, 1959, oil on canvas, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem\nFig. 4, René Magritte, Souvenir de voyage, 1955, oil on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, New York\nSigned Magritte (lower right); titled and dated 1947 on the reverse
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medium

Oil on canvas

creator

René Magritte

dimensions

100 by 81cm.

exhibition

Tokyo, National Museum of Modern Art and Kyoto, National Museum of Modern Art, Rétrospective René Magritte, 1971, no. 32, illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from 1947)

literature

Alain Robbe-Grillet and René Magritte, La Belle captive, Brussels, 1975, illustrated in colour p. 40 (as dating from 1947) David Sylvester (ed.), Sarah Whitfiled and Michael Raeburn, René Magritte,  Catalogue Raisonné, Oil Paintings, Objects and Bronzes 1949-1967, 1993, vol. III, no. 956, illustrated p. 369

provenance

Renée Lachowsky and Lou Cosyn, Brussels Harry Forster, Antwerp (Sale: Sotheby's, New York, 15th May 1984, lot 75a) Purchased at the above sale by the present owner

signedDate

Signed Magritte (lower right); titled and dated 1947 on the reverse

time_period

Painted in 1962.

creator_nationality_dates

1898 - 1967


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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