Discovering Magritte all over again

Anyone attempting to unlock the secrets of Rene Magritte’s paintings should pay attention to what the great surrealist artist once said: “The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meaning is unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.”
This was typical of the playful Belgian artist, for whom wit was part of life and thus an inescapable muse. Many of his works are injected with mischievousness, without compromising on artistic integrity. Their intrinsic nature is to be enigmatic.
A prolific painter, it was generally assumed that most of what he had produced had been documented, aside from, of course, the inevitable few that slip through, drifting like autumn leaves until their subsequent discovery.
What no-one expected was for there to be a wealth of genuine and quality works of art by Magritte still unaccounted for…unknown even. These paintings have since been verified, collated and published in a brilliant new book entitled Rene Magritte: Newly Discovered Works, Catalogue Raisonne Volume VI.
This tome owes its existence to the publication of David Sylvester’s epic five-volume monograph in the nineties. The late art critic and writer dedicated 25 years of his life to this project, producing the only comprehensive catalogue on Magritte.
It was an onerous task, which he partly regretted undertaking, famously commenting: “I still love the work, but the fact remains that I spent years of my life, like Swann, on someone who was not my type.”
Following the release of this book, copious Magritte’s began to emerge. While a number were invariably bogus, many were, after studious examination, concluded to be authentic, much to the excitement of everyone involved in the project.
“People think he’s an easy painter to copy,” the art historian Sarah Whitfield told Art News. “He’s really not. He’s not painterly the way a Renoir is painterly, but in a much more discreet fashion. That tends to get overlooked—because the image is so strong.”
Included in the collection are 130 colour illustrations of previously unheard of, never before seen or unpublished works and new scholarly insights and interpretations, adding to the legacy of Mr Sylvester’s grand effort.
Some of the most interesting works are the Transatlantic Passenger (1936), a sketch of a two-legged horse and a man with a Pinocchio-esque nose; Night in Pisa (1953), which sees a giant spoon propping up the famous Italian tower; and a number of sketches that show us his thinking behind a number of images that appeared in La Revolution Surrealiste in 1929.
The release of the book has excited the art world, an enthusiasm that is to be met with an exciting exhibition next year. The Museum of Modern Art is currently in the process of preparing a major show provisionally dubbed Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary 1926-1938, which is scheduled for September 2013.
This will mark the first time an establishment has focused exclusively on his early work, where, in his own words, he first began to “challenge the real world”.
“Displacement, transformation, metamorphosis, the ‘misnaming’ of objects, and the representation of visions seen in half-waking states are among Magritte’s innovative image-making tactics during these essential years,” the gallery has stated.
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