Richard's Blog

Friends of Magritte: Harry Torczyner 

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 3:08:01 PM

Friends of Magritte: Harry Torczyner


Harry Torczyner or Justice Has Been Done 1958

Harry Torczyner met Magritte around 1956 was Magritte's New York-based attorney, friend, and stateside promoter. Up until Magritte's unexpected death in 1967, Torczyner kept every letter that they exchanged (including replicas of his own responses) during their ten year correspondence. This book of letters with photographs, handwritten excerpts, and Magritte's working sketches are also interspersed throughout the anthology "Letters Between Friends." Accompanying each letter is a French translation -- the language in which they were originally written -- and exact dates of composition are meticulously recorded. The highlights, of course, are Magritte's letters themselves, with his candid descriptions of inspiration, roadblocks, the creative process, and revelations about his own art and that of his contemporaries

Biography and obituary: Harry Torczyner (1910-1998) New York

New York lawyer and poet
who befriended the painter René Magritte

Wolfgang Saxon, "Harry Torczyner, 87, Lawyer, Writer and Promoter of Artists" (obituary), New York Times (April 13, 1998):

Harry Torczyner, an international lawyer, art collector and writer who championed the causes of Israel and his native Belgium, died on March 26 at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan. He was 87.

Through museum and gallery exhibits Mr. Torczyner helped introduce a wider American public to the work of Beglian artists, especially the Surrealist painter Rene Magritte, to whom he was a friend and advisor. He wrote several books and articles ab out the artist, arranged for showings and donated some of Magritte's work to the Museum of Modern Art in New York ("L'Éternité" and "La Perspective") and to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

A Native of Antwerp, Mr. Torczyner received his higher education at the University of Heidelberg and Columbia University School of Law. He practiced law in Belgium before fleeig the Nazis and coming to the United States via France, Spain and Cuba. Besides English, he spoke French, Dutch, German and Spanish.

During World War II he workd for the Office of War Information. He set up his practice in New York in 1946, dealing with international and foreign law, copyright law and general practice.

He served as counsel to American diamond dealers like Harry Winston Inc., to the Diamond Trade and Precious Stone Association, and to the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, and was a director of the Belgian Chamber of Commerce in the United States. . . .

Mr. Torczyner is survived by his wife, Marcelle Siva Torczyner; two daughters, Evelyn Musher Schechter of Manhattan and Denise Wiseman of Caper, Wyo.; a brother, Jacque, of Manhattan; five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

The entry on Torczner in the Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature 812-813 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2nd ed., 1980)(Jea-Albert Bédé & William B. Edgerton eds.) notes that: "In the 1960s, with Lous Scutenaire, Marcel Lecomte, André Pieyre De Mandiargues, and René Magritte, among others, Torczyner contributed to the literary and artistic journal Rhétorique. Moreover, various poems of his have appeared in the periodical Le Moi and in Spanish in Comentario.

Poetry

Harry Torczyner, Miettes (New York: Egmont Press, 1952) (translated title: Crumbs)

_____________, Un Coin de désert ([France?]: Éditions Vynckier Courtrai, 1958)(Octave Landuyt illustrations)(translated title: A Corner of the Desert)

Letters/Correspondence

Richard Miller (trans.), Magritte | Torczyner: Letters Between Friends (New York: Henry N. Abrams, 1994) [Harry Torczyner, L'Ami Magritte, Correspondance et Souveniers (Antwerp: Fonds Mercator, 1992)]

Writings

Leo M. Drechsler & Harry Torczyner (eds.), Forgery in Art and the Law: A Symposium (New York: Federal Legal Publications, 1956)

Harry Torczyner, O. Landuyt (New York: Albert Landry Galleries, 1962)

____________, "The color of time," 30 aquarelles and 4 large brushdrawings by Alechinsky: ... [exhibition] March 9 to April 10, 1976 at the Lefebre Gallery" (New York: Lefebre Gallery, 1976) ["The color of time / by Harry Torczyner": p. [3]-[5]. / Chronology of Alechinsky's life: p. [6]-[12]]

_____________, Magritte, Ideas and Images ( New York : H.N. Abrams, 1977) [René Magritte, signes et images (Paris: Draeger, 1977)(Paris: Draeger/Vilo, 1982)

_____________, Magritte, the True Art of Painting (London: Thames and Hudson, 1979) (New York: Abradale Press/Abrams, 1985)(1979)(Richard Miller trans.) [Le véritable art de peindre (Paris: Draeger, 1978)]

_____________, The Castle of the Pyrennees i Jerusaleum (1990)
 

Magritte’s Graphic Works 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 6:30:05 PM

Magritte’s Graphic Works (info from two sources)

[The Kaplan-Baum catalogue raisonné of his prints numbers only 2 lithographs and 18 etchings, of which, according to the introduction to The Graphic Work of Rene Magritte (1982), only five were created "created as graphics by Magritte's own hand; the rest were initiated by Magritte in other media (pen and ink, crayon sketches, gouache) for the sole purpose of being rendered as graphic work. All of these works were "completed and initiated during the last eight years of the artist's life (1961-1968)." Recently Magritte's estate released 3 previously-unknown Magritte etchings, all signed in the plate, in an edition of 950 impressions on Rives paper printed by the Atelier Dutrou in Paris. One is dated 1952 in the plate; the others were dated 1928 and 1934 by Magritte's estate. To have found these three additional plates is an important discovery.

The etchings themselves are in mint condition. When an etching plate is steel-faced to harden the soft copper ( a process this is fairly standard these days for editions larger than 50 impressions), a much larger number of impressions can be printed without deterioration of the quality.  Magritte prints are selling for very high prices these days: In March 2008, a color lithograph after Magritte published in 1973 numbered 462/750 with a stamped signature sold at auction for $2600 plus 20% ($3120); a posthumously-published etching (175x143mm) published in 1969 in an edition of 150 with a stamped signature printed by Georges Visat after a drawing by Magritte sold at auction for $3200 (plus 20%) for a total price of $3840. Our three etchings, according to the estate stamp, are done from plates executed by Magritte himself.

Bibliography: General works: There is a multi-volume catalgoue raisonné in progress written by David Sylvester and Sarah Whitfield, René Magritte: Catalogue Raisonné (Antwerp: Mercatorfonds for Philip Wilson, London, 1993) Sylvester is also the the author of several studies of aspecs of Magritte's work including Magritte (London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1969) and Magritte (London: Thames & Hudson, 1992). The bibliography of works on Magritte is enormous; selected entries include Richard Calvocoressi, Magritte (London: Phaidon Press, 1994); James Thrall Soby, Magritte (New York: Doubleday, MOMA, 1965); Harry Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images (NY: Abrams, 1977); Sarah Whitfield, Magritte (Exhibition catalog, London: The South Bank Centre, 1992). Gilbert E. Kaplan and Timothy Baum prepared a catalogue raisonné of Magritte's prints (The Graphic Work of René Magritte) in 1982 which now needs to be updated.]

[Magritte’s graphic works can be divided into 3 distinct categories: The 1st category consists of graphic works conceived by Magritte, applied to the plate or lithographic stone by the artist’s own hand and executed during his lifetime, of which there are only 5 total.

The second category is comprised of a mere 15 graphic works drawn on the plate with the help of the master printmaker George Visat, from an original composition submitted by Magritte designated exclusively for this purpose. Most of the etchings in the 2nd category were published posthumously and stamped with a reproduction of the artist’s signature. While the images from the first 2 categories of prints contain similar themes to those portrayed in other media, all of these graphic works were in fact specifically created for these editions.

The 3rd category is lithographs after oil paintings, gouaches or murals by the artist. Prints from this final category were all executed posthumously by the printer Fernand Mourlot, and usually signed by him or the artist’s wife, Georgette Magritte. 8 of the 12 works from the portfolio “Les Enfants Trouvés” (The Found Children) created after the murals Magritte painted for the Municipal Casino at Knokke-le-Zoute, Belgium, are examples of this third category. However the first 4 prints from the portfolio “Les Enfants Trouvés” were created specifically for this project.

According to the catalogue raisonné of René Magritte’s graphic works, he initiated a total of 20 graphic works during the last 8 years of his life: 18 etchings and 2 lithographs. 15 of the 18 etchings were created to illustrate 4 volumes of Surrealist poetry. One of the lithographs was created as a poster for “Le Salon de Mai,” a Paris art exhibition, while the other lithograph was published by Vingtième Siècle, an international art magazine. One etching was included in Il Surrealismo tra le due guerre (Surrealism Between the Two Wars) a portfolio of works by 11 Surrealist artists including Hans Arp, Man Ray, Roberto Matta, and others. The final 2 etchings were published as small, independent editions.

Magritte’s graphic works, although small in number, are rendered with close attention to detail, a focus on enigmatic compositions, and are consistent with the Surrealist vision that permeates his artistic oeuvre.

Surreal Dream Team (Time Article) 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 11:02:31 AM

Surreal Dream Team (Time Article)
By JORDAN BONFANTE Tuesday, Sep. 10, 2002

The history of art has Pablo Picasso to thank for René Magritte. "You see, like many young painters in the 1920s I wanted to live in Paris," Magritte once told a pair of journalists visiting his picket-fence cottage in suburban Brussels. "And in Paris, there was this wild Catalan who was doing all there was to be done with technique. I could tell there wasn't going to be any technique left for the rest of us to invent. So that's when I decided I was going to paint ideas."

Both Magritte and Picasso, and their very different ideas, figure prominently in "Surrealism 1919-1944," the show that's breaking attendance records at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Dusseldorf. So do Dali, Miró, Ernst, Arp, Tanguy, Giacometti and a host of others belonging to the movement that curator Werner Spies is not afraid to call the most important of the 20th century — "because all the greatest artists of the century were connected with it." With 500 paintings and sculptures, the show documents the whole range of Surrealism's vast output in pursuit of surprise and mystery. It even exhibits an entire wall from the Paris studio of Surrealism's ideological father, André Breton, hung with 44 years' worth of his bizarre memorabilia and his own collection of Rousseau, Kandinsky and Miró.

The group portrait Max Ernst painted of his Surrealist mates in 1922, Rendezvous Among Friends, shows all l7 of them then — as well as Renaissance master Raphael in a cameo appearance — posing in suits and ties beneath some peaks of the Tyrolean Alps. Writer-artist Breton poses in the middle with his arm upraised to show who's boss. It was Breton who cracked the whip, writing in 1928: "Beauty will be convulsive, or it will not be."

The show gives due attention to Surrealism's initial period of automatism, which by means of rubbings, collages, and trance-like binges of "automatic writing" sought to capture pure, unconscious impulse. In 1923 Ernst took time off from automatism to paint his big surprising "lost mural," At The First Clear Word, on two adjoining bedroom walls of Surrealist poet Paul Eluard's house outside Paris. The show reunites the long-separated panels for the first time, to tantalize us with apparent riddles about the ménage à trois in which Ernst and Eluard were engaged with Eluard's beautiful wife Gala. One panel depicts a hand clutching a ball and extending through a window, its fingers twisted into what could be a woman's — Gala's? — torso. The other depicts a row of almost military-looking plants that might represent Ernst and Eluard. "Surrealism never gives you the answer," observes Spies, a former director of the Pompidou Centre in Paris. "The great Surrealist paintings are disturbing forever."

In the late 1920s came the movement's narrative period, in which Magritte and Salvador Dali excelled. Magritte's 1926 The Threatened Murderer could practically serve as a film storyboard. It depicts two menacing life-sized detectives — wearing Magritte bowler hats, to be sure — waiting in hiding to pounce on a respectable-looking murderer still hovering near the nude body of his female victim. The picture seems spookily sympathetic to the murderer. The Surrealists, in fact, sometimes admired criminals as creative rule breakers.

One of the paradoxes of Surrealism lay in the fact that a movement dedicated to liberation could be so doctrinaire. Not surprisingly, some of its most forceful personalities eventually clashed with Breton. Joan Miró's worship of "hallucination," for example, and his use of biomorphic forms like those in Figures with Stars, seemed right out of the Breton handbook. But in 1933 Miró declared: "I am always concerned with the composition of a painting, not just the associations — that is what [now] separates me from the Surrealists." Magritte himself ditched the Paris circle after Breton, at a gathering of the fraternity in his studio, asked Magritte's wife to remove the crucifix from around her neck.

Picasso was a special case. By the early 1930s he had grown particularly close to the Surrealists, as demonstrated by such works as The Kiss and the bulbous, dismembered forms in Woman Throwing a Stone, which is said to owe a lot to Miró. But after about 10 years he went his own way. Spies was a close friend of both Ernst and Picasso in the 1960s and recalls stark differences. "Ernst was utterly cultivated. I remember he was always reading — poetry, natural science, everything. Picasso? I felt he could have lifted a book to his eyes without opening it and absorbed it through its cover with instant X-ray vision."

By the time the movement's members had fled Nazi-occupied France for exile in the U.S. in the 1940s, they were reverting to their old automatism, darkening their works, and starting to disperse. Dali, who had married Gala Eluard, was conspicuously excluded from their last hurrah, a big far-out exposition in New York in 1942. Too much of a publicity hound, Breton and the others felt. Dali's earlier The Lugubrious Game, in fact, is so over the top with explicit carnality and scatology that even his fellow Surrealists were shocked by it.

"Surrealism 1919-1944," however, lets Dali more than redeem himself by spot-lighting his seldom exhibited knockout of a picture from 1944, Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate One Second Before Waking Up. It depicts a Venus-like Gala reclining nude above some rocks. Above her, two cinematic tigers leap out of a goldfish's mouth — and seemingly out of the canvas. It is so strikingly circus-like it seems almost to make sense.

In a not always rational time we've come to accept a lot of Surrealism's illogic. One visitor at the show was reminded of how with his children recently, he'd watched a Disney cartoon in which Mickey Mouse and his friends saunter across a field of Dali's melting watches. What else is new?
 

The Comedian & the Straight Man/Mystery Maker (Time articles) 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 9:42:12 AM

The Comedian & the Straight Man
Friday, Dec. 31, 1965

Back in the 1930s, surrealism was hot news, with its limp watches, ovarian vegetables and chance encounters between sewing machines and umbrellas on dissecting tables. Last week, in what amounted to an unexpected revival, two practitioners of that sleight of art were back on the boards in Manhat tan, looking for all the world like the ghost of Christmas Past.

Behind the Curtain. At Huntington Hartford's Gallery of Modern Art, the show was all Salvador Dali. To please his favorite contemporary artist, Hartford has filled his museum from top to bottom with 375 items of Dali's hitand-miss genius. But it was Dali himself who won best-of-show at a gala black-tie lecture attended by critics, socialites and an ocelot on a leash. Sporting his silver-handled cane, Dali held the audience in breathless amusement as he dashed off a sketch of a horseman to the tempo of world-renowned Guitarist Manitas de Plata and his flamen co-booted partner—while a museum aide scampered back and forth across the stage to keep Dali in drawing pens.

Not that Dali had skimped on art for the occasion. On view were his latest works, featuring a spatterdash Homage to Meissonier, which most certainly would not please Meissonier, a 19th century French academic who painted romances of gladiators and Napoleonic battles. Also from 1965's crop: Salvador Dali in the Act of Painting Gala in the Apotheosis of the Dollar in Which You Can See on the Left Marcel Duchamp Masquerading as Louis XIV Behind a Vermeerian Cur tain Which Actually Is the Invisible Face but Monumental of Hermes by Praxiteles. It covers quite a bit of art history in a style that describes Dali himself—a pastiche.

Illogical Logic. At the Museum of Modern Art, it was Old Line Surrealist René Magritte's turn, and the exhibition of 82 paintings proved that the Belgian-born artist has lost none of his wizardry. Loaves of bread fly in formation beyond a stone embrasure in The Golden Legend; an immense rock floats weightless in The Glass Key; in Blank Signature, a fine lady upon a chestnut horse rides mysteriously through an enchanted forest, passing before and beyond a landscape painted magically as if on a vertical Venetian blind.

Magritte, 67, who made his first visit to New York for the opening along with his wife Georgette and his dog Lou-Lou, succeeded as the perfect straight man of surrealism. "The thought expressed in my work is absolute," he said. "It can't be interpreted. In my painting, a bird is a bird. And a bottle is a bottle, not a symbol of a womb." All of which inspired critics to find his work an antecedent of pop art. The painting is so meticulous, the objects themselves so ordinary yet so extraordinarily juxtaposed that Magritte obviously means to convey an apparently clear vision in which the illogical becomes magically super-logical.

Magritte fails, not because it is difficult to follow his dream logic—it is quite conceivable that sometime it might start raining men in derby hats. Magritte's divorce from reality is sensuous enough to appeal to sensibility, but his carefully rendered iconography is so personal that it suggests only a visible world in which no one ever lived. These images are deliberately insoluble puzzles, meticulously worked-out scenarios of subtle shock calculated to spur the unconscious. But contemporary man finds enough anxiety in the very air that he breathes and more challenging puzzles in the streets that he walks —in the direct apprehension of reality.

Died. Rene Magritte, 68, the most appealing and least pretentious of surrealist painters; of cancer; in Brussels. A short, stocky Belgian, Magritte called himself a "secret agent," alluding to the disparity between appearance and reality in both his life and art. He painted as he dressed, mostly in banker's black and grey, composing his scenes with photographic accuracy. But what impish fantasies: cigar boxes puffing smoke, a leaden sky raining tiny, bowler-hatted figures, the leaning tower of Pisa buttressed by a feather, Botticelli's Primavera superimposed on the back of a businessman's overcoat. "People are always looking for symbolism in my work," he once said. "There is none. Mystery is the supreme thing."

Mystery Maker
Friday, Nov. 03, 1961

Object by object and figure by figure, the paintings and drawings now on show in Manhattan's Albert Landry Galleries are sharp and clear and natural, but taken as a whole they make sights that no one ever saw. One painting shows a huge rose filling an entire room. In another, loaves of French bread float by the window. In still another, a huge boulder, crowned by a castle, hovers over the sea: This sort of thing could be mere gimmickry, but in the hands of Belgium's Rene Magritte it rarely fails. "For me," he says, "art is the means of evoking mystery." His quiet mysteries are among the most durable and haunting in modern art.

A Magritte painting begins simply enough. The artist thinks of an object—a stone, for example, or a piano. Magritte then asks himself: "How can I paint a stone in such a way as to make it worth being shown?" He may make 100 to 200 sketches of the stone, but from the very first he may have the feeling that the stone should be attached to or become something else. In the case of the piano, he may instantly think of hands; the hands in turn suggest a ring and the ring a marriage. In the end the painting turns out to be a huge ring with a piano floating through it—and the whole thing is called The Happy Hand.

In the Landry show, the big rose is called The Tomb of the Fighters, but Magritte's titles always come after the picture is done. "When there is a rose, and one is sensitive to it, one makes it as big as I did so that the rose appears to fill the room," he explains. The title, which Magritte took from a book, slowly comes to seem appropriate: like the rose, the fighters are something "grandiose," filling the tomb with their struggles.

At 63 ("I'm getting older; I get toothaches and headaches, and there's nothing I can do about it"), Magritte lives in a comfortable unbohemian house near Brussels, quietly damning a good deal of what other artists are doing. He has little use for the "brutalists" like Jean Dubuffet. "I find many things beautiful, such as old walls with spots on them," he says. "But if you tell me a wall with its spots is a painting, I say you're wrong." Nor does he think much of action painting: "It's action, not painting." His own work is part fairy tale, part ghost story. It can provoke a smile, but its real achievement is that it can also be so disturbing—like a high-frequency sound one can feel but cannot hear. At one moment, the viewer feels he is in a familiar room surrounded by familiar things. The next moment he realizes that he does not recognize anything at all. "The mystery is the supreme thing," Magritte explains. "It's reassuring to know there's a mystery—to know there is more than what one knows."
 

 

 

The Psychic Roots of the Surreal (Time article- 1974) 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 3:32:52 AM

The Psychic Roots of the Surreal
Time by ROBERT HUGHES Monday, Mar. 04, 1974

The surrealists, the most determinedly shocking of the early modern artists, wanted to abolish tradition. They prided themselves on being revolution aries with no past, no precedents beyond the immortal, irrational desires of the human psyche. But one of the rules-of-thumb of art experience is that very little is wholly new. Witness, for example, the current exhibition at the New York Cultural Center entitled "Painters of the Mind's Eye: Belgian Symbolists and Surrealists." It offers, as well as 51 major works by Paul Delvaux and the late Rene Magritte, a tour of such virtually forgotten talents as Fernand Khnopff, William Degouve de Nuncques, Jean Delville and Xavier Mellery. Delvaux and Magritte are of course 20th century surrealists. The less-known artists were involved in the poetic and artistic movement known as symbolism, which flourished in France and flickered briefly in Belgium at the end of the 19th century. It had enough in common with surrealism, which it predated by 30 years, to be regarded as its precursor. For though the surrealists took Freud for their patron saint, whereas the symbolists resorted to the cabala and the mystical gobbledygook of the Rosicrucians, both wanted to make painting abandon what Magritte called "that dreary part people would have the real world play." Both were fascinated by dream and ambiguity, the duality of sex and death, perversity and contradiction and mystery. This show makes one realize that surrealism was no revolution but a final knotting-up of the 19th century romantic tradition, whose decadent or fin-de-siècle form was symbolism.

Fictive Avatars. The phrase fin-de-siècle has long stood for a filleted sort of consciousness: the epicine, misty, dandified transcendentalism and café demonolatry whose sturdier ancestors were men like Baudelaire and Poe. There is a certain truth to this, as evidenced by a work like Jean Delville's Orpheus. A member of the symbolist circle, Delville (1867-1953) was a devoted admirer of Joséphin Péladan, leader of the Rosicrucians in France. Yet it probably does not help us much now to know that the sickly greenish-blue radiance in which Orpheus swims was intended to represent the astral light. This illustration of the androgyne as supreme human type may not be the most sentimental piece of faggotry painted in the '90s, but it is a likely contender for the honor: a buttery and phosphorescent boy's head, all ringlets and swooning lips, served up on its jeweled lyre like a parody of John the Baptist's head on a plate. Nevertheless, the fact that the head is seen turning into, or materializing out of the lyre seems to predict the metamorphoses that Magritte would impose on the homelier physical world half a century later.
The romantic fascination with the image of woman as sphinx, Medusa, castrator or remote, implacable goddess —the belle dame sans merci in her numerous fictive avatars—also figures in symbolist painting, especially in the world of Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921), another member of Péladan's circle. Art or The Caresses conjoins a mysteriously smiling sphinx (looking not unlike a satisfied Rossetti redhead in a leopard coat that has grown onto her skin) with a puzzled-looking boy who has presumably come to answer her riddle. It is painted with a high, pale elegance that altogether removes it from the common run of romantic-symbolist cliche.

The main debt Belgian surrealism owed to the 19th century was, however, one of mood. Whether the artist was Degouve de Nuncques painting a strange, silent forest and a Magritte-like nocturnal house, or Khnopff giving a foretaste of the deserted townscapes of surrealism with his drawing of a city abandoned to the sea, or Leon Spilliaert producing a haunted self-portrait, the images constantly predict the sense of solitude and disquiet in which surrealism reveled.

There was also generally in the surrealists a theatrical state of mind, which in the case of Paul Delvaux became virtually a stock in trade. Originally an expressionist, Delvaux was a latecomer to surrealism, converted by an exhibition of works by Chirico, Magritte and Dali that he saw in Brussels in 1934 when he was 37. And though he is one of the more durable surrealist artists, his imagery—as the selection of his work here indicates—constantly hovers on the edge of cliche. The Delvaux "look" is unmistakable: an empty street of neoclassical façades, a 19th century railway station or a grove of columns, all lit by gas lamps or the moon. The inhabitants are nudes (generally blonde Walloon girls with an air of mild bovine derangement) who wander about, sleep, vaguely study themselves in hand mirrors, and are met by bourgeois gentlemen in dark suits and bowlers. Sometimes, as in The Encounter, the businessman has Delvaux's own face. Though Delvaux has turned out countless variations of somnambulists in empty piazzas, only a few of his works —like the enormous Spitzner Museum, 1943—echo in the mind for long.

Not so with René Magritte. The 34 Magrittes on display here (some of which, like The Human Condition, 1935, with its painted landscape on an easel in front of a window and continuous with the "real" painted landscape seen beyond, have virtually become surrealist icons) remain unpredictable despite their familiarity. That is because Magritte was such a virtuoso of the insoluble, the contradictory, the locked. Unlike Delvaux (or for that matter Dali, Masson or Ernst), Magritte had absolutely no interest in what seemed romantic, chancy, theatrically mysterious or exotic. He called his paintings "material tokens of the freedom of thought," and materiality is of their essence.

Equal Reality. Thus every detail of the moldings, mullions and floorboards in The Invisible World, 1954, is rendered with scrupulous, not to say stolid exactitude: it is a real room looking on a real sea in (one imagines) some provincial resort on the Belgian coast. But what is that boulder doing there with every pore and crack of its surface emulated in Magritte's slow, gray pigment to remind us of its equal reality? It is intolerable: no metaphor provides an exit, no rational explanation will do, while the very technique of Magritte's drawing and painting keeps denying the presence of fantasy.

A dealer visiting Magritte at his unremarkable suburban house in Brussels was met by the surrealist in his normal business-suit attire. At tea in the parlor, the visitor dropped something, bent down to pick it up, and experienced an agonizing kick in the backside. When he spun round, he saw Magritte imperturbably stirring his cup as though nothing whatever had happened. As in life, so in art.
 

SURREALISM WITH A SMILE (Time Articles) Be Charming  

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 3:24:57 AM

SURREALISM WITH A SMILE (Time Article)
Monday, Mar. 16, 1953

As a school, surrealism has all but died of its own painted agonies. Its liveliest remaining master is one of the few with a blithely bubbling sense of humor. In an exhibit opening at a Manhattan gallery next week, Rene Magritte proves once again that he has all the technical facility of the best surrealists and almost none of their nightmare overtones. "It is much easier," he says, "to terrorize than to charm." Magritte charms with jokes-in-oils like this properly bowlered, quietly defiant self-portrait (upper right), a wine bottle turning into a carrot (above), and a sunlit sky that casts no light on the earth below.

The artist is a moonfaced little man of 54 who putters about Brussels, cultivating the philosophy that sprouts under his bowler. "Most people," he explains, "act unconsciously, thinking they know their goal. As for me, I'm consciously searching for the unknown." Four mornings a week Magritte stays home in his stuffy little apartment to paint. His technique is straightforward and exquisite; his results are oblique, funny, and sometimes forceful. Like Roman candles fired into the dark, his paintings are meant not to illuminate but to enhance the mystery of life.

Be Charming (Time Article)
Monday, Apr. 21, 1947

Surrealist pictures sometimes leave gallery-goers with the uneasy suspicion that the joke is on them. Last week a surrealist one-man show in Manhattan gave onlookers the pleasure of being in on the laughs. The paintings, by a dour little Belgian named René Magritte, have Salvador Dali's technical perfection but none of Dali's tiresome bag of Freudian tricks. Sample Magritte subjects: a fountain—as cool and wet-looking as the real thing—which spouts crystal mirrors, crowns, hands and cornucopias; a cigar box puffing a cigar; a door, set up against the sky, opening to admit a cloud; a glassy-eyed nude crammed into a bottle, entitled "inspiration," a beach sprouting sorrowful, earthbound pigeons, whose dull green wings flap like leaves in the wind (see cut),

According to their maker, these painted imaginings symbolize nothing at all. "I hate symbols as much as I hate tradition," Magritte told TIME's Brussels correspondent. "Symbols are what you learn at school, but to be a surrealist, as I am, means barring from your mind all remembrance of what you have seen, and being always on the lookout for what has never been seen." Once, asked to give a lecture on his art, Magritte instead painted a picture of a pipe and captioned it This Is Not a Pipe. He explained: "Very easy. It is not a pipe because you could not smoke with it."

Magritte is 48, married, and has a pet Pomeranian, "Jacacki." He is a dapper dresser, paints on a time-clock daily schedule in a corner of his small, commonplace living room. Magritte considers Dali an excellent businessman ("he is rich") but has intense scorn for fellow Belgian surrealist Paul Delvaux, who paints luscious nudes picking roses in classic landscapes, with now & then a streetcar lurking about in the background (TIME, Dec. 30). Painter Delvaux, Magritte thinks, "has exploited surrealism as he would have exploited pork-butchery."

What makes Magritte unusual among surrealists is his dislike of nightmares. Before World War II he painted his share of horrors (one of which, a pair of boots growing human toes, was included in last week's show) but nowadays, when Magritte closes his eyes in search of "what has never been seen," he hopes to come upon something pleasant. "The German Occupation," Magritte explains, "marked a turning point in my art. Before the war, my paintings expressed anxiety, but the experiences of war have taught me that what matters in art is to express charm. It I is much easier to terrorize than to charm. ... I live in a very disagreeable world, and my work is meant as a counter-offensive."
 

Sleepworker (Time Magazine article 1948) 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 3:15:59 AM

Sleepworker (Time Magazine article 1948)
Monday, Jun. 21, 1948

Moon-faced Rene Magritte is convinced that he works mostly in his sleep. As soon as he wakes in the morning, he splashes his dreams on canvas before the memory fades. He is a gentle little man, "an animal lover, and I dislike terrorism, as I worship pleasure and charm."

Snatches of Magritte's dream world, shown in Paris last fortnight, proved as pleasing as ever. Magritte, a surrealist with a sense of humor, cares little for the Freudian froufrou that once made his colleagues seem different and daring. His paintings often mean just what their titles say: Sea Sickness—a green, checkered coat crumpled beneath the glare of a garish orange sun; The Last Meal—a macabre scene of a candlelit room, in which tears drop from nowhere and a woman brings a dying man an indigestible last supper of wine, a carrot and a hard-boiled egg.

Another Magritte shows a young woman emerging from a telescoped torso that stands against a sky of blocks and cottony clouds (see cut). It is called The Lesson of Things. What did it mean? Oh, said Magritte, that was just a dream about the present: each torso section represents a past generation. But at 49, Belgian Surrealist Magritte is not always so sure of his own symbols: "You will notice that the egg plays an important part in my pictures. I do not know why. You will also notice a rose. I don't know why. Perhaps I shall discover later. Sometimes I hate symbols . . ."
 

Enter the Stolid Enchanter (Time magazine article 1979) 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 3:12:27 AM

Enter the Stolid Enchanter (Time magazine article 1979)
ROBERT HUGHES Monday, Mar. 05, 1979
At Paris' Pompidou Center, a Renè Magritte retrospective

The show of more than 200 works by Renè Magritte—paintings, drawings and miscellaneous objets surrealistes —which opened last month at the Pompidou Center in Paris has been jammed with visitors ever since. It deserves its popularity. Magritte's strange paintings are still the best way into the territory of the free mind that surrealism called its own and named le merveilleux.

Magritte died in 1967, aged 68, but his work continues to serve its modern audience rather as the sultans of Victorian academic painting, the Friths and Poynters and Alma-Tademas, served theirs a century ago—as storytellers. Modern art was supplied with mythmakers, from Picasso to Barnett Newman. But it had few masters of the narrative impulse, and Magritte, a stocky, taciturn Belgian, was its chief fabulist. His images were stories first, paintings second, but the stories were not narratives in the Victorian manner, or slices of life or tableaux of history. They were snapshots of the impossible, rendered in the dullest and most literal way: vignettes of language and reality locked in mutual cancellation. As a master of puzzle painting, Magritte had no equal and, although his influence on the formation of images (and on how people decode them) has been wide, he has had no real successors.

The proper homage to his life and presence as well as his art was the double take. In the midst of a movement, surrealism, which specialized in attention-getting stunts, political embroilments, sexual scandals and fervid half-religious crises, Magritte—next to Max Ernst and Salvador Dali, the best surrealist painter —seemed to be all phlegm and stolidity. He lived in respectable Brussels; he stayed married to the same woman, Georgette Berger, for the rest of his life; by the standards of the Paris art world in the '30s, he might as well have been a grocer. Yet Magritte possessed one of the most remarkable imaginations of his century.

The curious thing was that he had so little natural talent as an artist; no fluency, little relish. Magritte's paintings from the early '20s are painfully bad, academic cubism—as awkward, in their way, as the cubist paintings of another great ideas man of our time, Marcel Duchamp. Magritte had a poor sense of color, and his drawing was mere tracing; the paint surface is as dead as an old fingernail.

The low point of his career was in the 1940s. He decided, in a mood of perversity, to paint "modern art" —pictures full of impressionist fuzz and expressionist slather. The Gorgon, 1943, a wretched parody of Monet applied to a surrealist syntax, may be the least inept of these. If anything, they showed how far Magritte's real gifts lay from the orthodox processes of modernism. Nor did his first essays in the surrealist manner, done in 1925-26, indicate much about the artist to come; they are, for the most part, grab bags of motifs from other painters, chiefly Ernst and Giorgio de Chirico.

A painting like The Magician's Accomplices, 1926, with its weak drawing and fumbled tones, is not the work of a "natural" talent. An idea is there, but the hand does not yet know what to do with it.

Magritte's turning point was 1927, when he went to live in Paris. There, immersed in the surrealist movement, he was no longer a provincial spectator. And he quickly realized where his contribution to it might lie: not in the exploitation of chance and random effects, like Masson or Ernst, still less in exoticism and neurosis, like Dali, but in hallucinatory ordinariness. One of the obsessions of surrealism was the way inexplicable events intruded into everyday life. With his dry, matter-of-fact technique, Magritte painted things so ordinary that they might have come from a phrase book: an apple, a comb, a derby hat, a cloud, a birdcage, a street of prim suburban houses, a businessman in a dark topcoat, a stolid nude. There was not much in this list that an average Belgian clerk, around 1935, might not have seen in the course of an average day. But Magritte's combinations were another thing. Magritte's poetry was inconceivable without the banality on, and through, which it worked.

The glass in The Heartstring is an ordinary glass, the cloud an ordinary cloud; it is their encounter, in that blue, patiently rendered limpidity, that is so arresting. Magritte's best images have more in common with reporting than with fantasy. Would The Human Condition I, one of his half-dozen most famous images—the painting shows an open window with an easel in front of it; the canvas on the easel bears a picture of the view through the window; and this picture exactly overlaps the view, so that the play between image and reality asserts that the real world is merely a construction of mind—be any more jarring if its locale were exotic? Of course not; such paradoxes depend on the context of real life.

At its first level, Magritte's art produced some of the most disturbing images of alienation and fear in the lexicon of modern art. There is no more chilling icon of the failures of sexual communication than The Lovers, 1928, with two anonymous (but inescapably similar) heads kissing through their gray cloth integuments. Nor are there many paintings that sum up the pathos of fetishism—the substitution of a symbolic part for the desired whole—more acutely than In Memoriam Mack Sennett, 1936, in which a woman's negligee, hanging on its own in a closet, has developed a forlornly luminous pair of breasts. And for sheer panic, one need go no further than Magritte's Hunters at the Night's Edge, 1928, with its two stocky, armed and booted he-men writhing in apprehension at the sight of an empty horizon. We see their fear but not what they are afraid of.

But if Magritte's art had been confined to the administration of shock, it would have been as short lived as any other surrealist ephemera. His concerns lay deeper. They were with language itself, the way that meanings are conveyed or frustrated by symbols. The manifesto of this was Magritte's painting of a pipe, inscribed Ceci n 'est pas une pipe (This is not a pipe). Precisely: it is a painting, a work of art, a sign that denotes an object and triggers memory. No painter had ever put this fundamental fact about art and its operations so clearly before. When Magritte, in The Use of the Word, 1928, labeled two virtually identical and amorphous blobs of paint "Mirror" and "Woman's Body," he was not making a joke about narcissism; he was showing the extreme tenuousness with which language may cling to what it describes. This sense of slippage between word and thing is, of course, one of the sources of modernist disquiet. In finding image after image for it, Magritte became one of the artists whose work is central to an understanding of modernist culture; and his visual booby traps go off, over and over again, precisely because their trigger is thought itself. — Robert Hughes
 

Bored Funnyman (Time Magazine article) 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 3:05:05 AM

Bored Funnyman (Time Magazine article)
Monday, Feb. 02, 1953

The red corduroy walls of Rome's smart Obelisco Gallery have seen some unusual exhibits lately—churches in flames, frolicking priests, transparent cats gorged on mice and flowers. But last week's show topped them all. Gallery Owner Gaspero del Corso had reached out to Belgium and brought back 28 paintings by an old surrealist funnyman, Brussels' dour little René Magritte (TIME. June 21, 1948). For Romans, it was a first good look at Magritte's sleepy fantasies. Del Corso's enthusiastic verdict: "They are scandalized."

Surrealist Magritte is still up to his old tricks. "I'm always looking for a feeling of luxury, of uselessness," he says, and his newest pictures are plainly froth: light, half-joking canvases whose titles are meant to titillate, not explain. He showed a slim grand piano encircled with a wedding ring, called it The Happy Hand. His Art of Conversation has two graceful swans paddling neck to neck about a blue lake. His Hesitation Waltz is a picture of two oranges decked out in masks, eying each other warily. One of the favorites: Night at Pisa, which shows the famed leaning tower considerately propped up by an outsize kitchen spoon.

Rome's gallerygoers turned out in force for the show, walked off with ten paintings (priced from $500 to $1,000) in the first few days. The critics enjoyed it, too, but they wondered about the artist behind the dry little jokes. Wrote one critic: "His works have the flavor of ashes. Magritte has no fear, no hate, no love, no regrets, no hope: he is a tranquil man, an illustrator of metaphor, an exegete of domesticated mysteries."

At 54, René Magritte is likely to agree, at least in part. He lives a simple workaday life in a three-room apartment, puts in four mornings a week transferring what he calls his "dreams" on to canvas, and spends the rest of his time listening to the radio or walking solemnly around Brussels. In five years he has taken only one trip: a short jaunt to Southern France. "There's nothing I want," he says. "If someone offered me $10 million, I'd take it, I suppose. But I don't want the money. I desire nothing known. Most of the time I'm just bored."
 

Magritte's Friends Associates: Hamoir & Scutenaire 

Saturday, March 28, 2009 6:46:30 PM

Magritte's Friends and Close Associates:
Translated by R. Matteson

Irene Hamoir (1906-1994), poetess and novelist, is the central female figure of the surrealist movement in Belgium. She married Louis Scutenaire, and appears under the name of “Lorrie” in her inscriptions. She was featured in the drawings and a portrait painting by Rene Magritte.


Biography
Irene Hamoir was born the July 25th 1906 in Saint-Gilles (Brussels). Her father Léopold Hamoir was a hatter. Her paternal grandmother, unmarried, had two children with Léopold Noiset, racing cyclist, manufacturer of motorcycles, and driver for the Swift-club of Brussels. Around 1890 the children and Leopold teamed up to form a motorcyle and car act named “Nice Noazetts.”  Later when the children were older they became “The Noisets,” international sensations. They specialized in spectacular motorcycles and cars acts called “The Infernal Tank," “The Table of the Devil,” and “The Leap of Death.” Irene Hamoir memorialized the antics of her uncles in her collection of stories, "The Infernal Tank" written between 1932 and 1939, then in an article published in 1949 in the illustrated magazine, Evening.

After attending busines school in 1922 Irene Hamoir became the secretary of a tannery-dyeing company. Militant socialist, she took part  in many socialist meetings around 1924. When she approached Camille Huysmans in 1925 with her first poem, she met the painter Marc Eemans, who became her first serious relationship. After collaborating in the review, Distances, which brought together the surrealist group of Brussels, in 1928 Irene Hamoir met Louis Scutenaire at Marcel Lecomte's house. In 1929 she became secretary for the Economic and Financial Agency of Brussels, while Scutenaire continued writing poetic letters to her daily. She married him in 1930 and, after a voyage to Paris and in Spain, they settled at Alfalfa Street where he lived with his mother.

In 1931 Irene Hamoir began her career as a civil servant at the International Court of justice, travelling between Geneva and the Hague where Scutenaire sometimes came  to join her. Soon she became a civil servant for the court in Brussels. Irene and Louis attended the meetings of the surrealist group in Brussels, with Paul Nougé, the brothers Magritte, the musician Andre Souris, Marcel Lecomte, E.L.T. Mesens, Paul Colinet, Marcel Mariën. They also were part of the Paris surreaist group.

Irene Hamoir atended the 1935 International exhibition of surrealism in Louvière. The next year Rene Magritte painted her portrait. "The beauty broke its odd sheath, gave pinks to the fountains" wrote  Hamoir. In August 1937 Scutenaire remained in Céreste (Provence) at Rene Char while she found work in the Hague until November and the realtionship with “Scut” became strained. In 1939 Irene Hamoir left her post of civil servant, contributing two numbers to the review, The Collective Invention (with a photograph of Raoul Ubac).

Irene Hamoir and Scutenaire left Brussels in May 1940 with Magritte, Agui and Raoul Ubac. Being separated in Paris, they are finally reached Carcassonne where they meet Joe Bousquet, Jean Paulhan, André Gide, Gaston Gallimard. After a stop in Nice, they returned to Brussels in October where Hamoir found work in 1941 at the National Bank of Belgium. From 1942 to 1945 she was the director of the sales for the Belgian Chemical Union. Her collection of writings, The Infernal Tank, appeared in 1944 and she began drafting of the newspaper, the Evening.  Irene Hamoir contributed in 1945 to the magazine reviews "Public Safety," "The Blue Sky" and "The Earth is Not a Vale of Tears" featuring Marcel Mariën's photos. She published poems in 1946 in the Two Sisters that Christian Dotremont published, the second poem, an “exquisite corpse” was signed by her, Rene Char, Paul Éluard and Scutenaire. She also contributed to "To know To Live" by Magritte.

Under the name of “Irene” she published in 1949 a collection of sound poems. Irene Hamoir collaborated in the following years with several other reviews, particularly the 1953 "Mixed Temps," created by André Blavier and Jane Graverol. The same year she published her novel "Boulevard Jacqmain," in which the members of the Belgian surrealist group appear under nicknames, Nouguier for Paul Nougé, Gritto for Rene Magritte, Maître Bridge for Scutenaire, Edouard Massens for E.L.T. Mesens, Bergère for Georgette Magritte, Marquis for Paul Magritte, Sourire for Andre Souris, Mr. Marcel for Lecomte, Evrard for Geert Van Bruane, and Crépue for her. In 1955 Irene Hamoir started to write features for the Petite Gazette. She wrote for the last issues of Evening, tributed to Gerald Van Bruane in 1964, and Marcel Lecomte in 1966, before retiring.

Irene Hamoir published several plates of poems in 1971, 1972 and 1975. In the same decade she and Louis Scutenaire wrote about their experiences with their painter friends Roland Delcol, Tom Gutt, Yves Bossut, Claudine Jamagne, Rachel Bases, Robert Willems, and Roger Van de Wouwer.  About 1976 she contributed regularly to the review, the Vocative, published by Tom Gutt and contributed to Isy Brachot her poetic works Corne of Brown. In 1982 Irene Hamoir and Scutenaire wrote “Her and Him,” a foreword for the retrospective Rene Magritte and surrealism in Belgium. After the death of Scutenaire in 1987, some of their correspondences with Andre Bosmans, Paul Nougé, and Marcel Mariën, are published in the review, the Naked Lips. In 1992 she wrote for Croquis, which gathered her chronicles for the review, Evening. She died in Brussels the May 17th, 1994.

In the retrospective “Irene Scutenaire-Hamoir” organized by Tom Gutt executor with the Royal Museum of Modern Art in Brussels (Royal Musées of the Art schools of Belgium) appeared many works of the painter Magritte (more than one score of paintings, a score of gouaches, forty drawings, etc) which were hanging on the walls of their house on Alfalfa street including: Portrait of Nougé (1927); the Robber (1927); Discovered (1927); Man Meditating On Madness (1928); Portrait of Irene Hamoir (1936); Defense of Reading (1936); Belle Canto (1938); The Great Hopes (1940); The Fifth Season (1943); The Smile (1943); The Harvest (1943); Good Omens (1945); Natural Meetings (1945); Thousand and One Nights (1946); the Intelligence (1946); Lyricism (1947); Lola de Valence  (1948). The paintings are now located at Royal Museums of the Art School of Belgium.

Louis Scutenaire (Ollignies, the June 29th 1905 - Brussels, the August 15th 1987) was a writer and surrealist Belgian poet. 


Biography
Louis Scutenaire (Jean Emile Louis Scutenaire) was born in Belgium (Hainaut), with Ollignies, close to Lessines, the June 29th 1905. Since 1916 he writes his first poems. From 1918 he attends various schools from which he is regularly made exclude. In 1919 a pleurisy immobilizes it lengthily. It engages in 1924 in studies of right.
In 1926 Scutenaire meets Paul Nougé to which it forwarded its poems, then Camille Goemans, Rene Magritte, E.L.T. Mesens, and starts to collaborate in the companies of the surrealist Belgians. It meets in 1928 Irene Hamoir (Irine) which it marries in 1930. Having obtained its diploma for the occupation of doctor in right it carries out training courses, pleading especially with penal and being interested especially in the lunatics, nomads and “bad lots”. Scutenaire and Irene Hamoir go then regularly to Paris where they frequently meet André Breton, Paul Éluard, Benjamin Péret, Rene Char, Marcel Duchamp, Picasso, Brauner, Ernst, Miro, Oscar Dominguez. In 1937 they remain at Rene Char with Céreste (Provence).

In May 1940 Scutenaire leave Brussels towards Paris and Bordeaux, joins Magritte and Raoul Ubac with Carcassonne, meets Joe Bousquet, Jean Paulhan, André Gide, regains Brussels in October. Scutenaire enters in 1941 to the ministry for the Interior, will be named adviser-assistant (until 1970). It is in May 1943 that it starts to note its inscriptions whose first volume is published in 1945 on proposal of Éluard, with the support of Paulhan and Queneau. A second must follow but the editor asking for the suppression of two or three reflections considered to be too free, Scutenaire refuses there. In 1948 it accompanies by a foreword the exposure to Paris of paintings not less scandalous of the " period vache" of Magritte.

As from the Fifties Louis Scutenaire collaborates in many reviews, the Chart according to nature , (animated in Brussels by Magritte), mixed Times (of André Blavier, with Verviers), the naked Lips (Marcel Mariën), Rhétorique (devoted to Magritte by André Bosmans), Phantomas , then the Vocative (Tom Gutt), and written many forewords (Magritte, Jean Raine, Roland Delcol).

The second volume of My Inscriptions is published in 1976, thanks to Tom Gutt and Isy Brachot. Three others will follow.

Louis Scutenaire (who signs and is done familiarly called " Scut") the August 15th 1987 dies whereas it on television looks at a film on his friend Magritte.

In the legacy " Irene Scutenaire-Hamoir" , whose Tom Gutt is the executor, in the royal Musées of the Art schools of Belgium appear many works of the painter (more than one score of paintings, a score of gouaches, forty drawings, etc) which were with the walls of their house of the street of the Alfalfa, in particular: in particular: Portrait of Nougé , 1927; the Robber , 1927; Discovered , 1927; Character meditating on the madness , 1928; Portrait of Irene Hamoir , 1936; defended Reading , 1936; Beautiful Canto , 1938; the Great hopes , 1940; the Fifth season , 1943; the Smile , 1943; the Harvest , 1943; Good fortune , 1945; natural Meetings , 1945; Thousand and One Nights , 1946; the Intelligence , 1946; Lyricism , 1947; Lola de Valence , 1948 (whose images are visible on the site of the royal Museums of the Art schools of Belgium). Similarly the library of Scutenaire, which included/understood thousands of books often very rare, was bequeathed to the royal Bibliothèque of Belgium.

Louis Scutenaire was selected like one of the Hundred Walloons of the century, by the Institut Jules Destrée, in 1995.

 

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