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René Magritte: The Fifth Season
Edited with text by Caitlin Haskell. Text by Michel Draguet, Clare Elliott, Katrina Rush, Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Sandra Zalman.
Magritte's extraordinary late paintings
When René Magritte reached his 40s, something unexpected happened. The painter, who had honed an iconic Surrealist style between 1926 and 1938, suddenly started making paintings that looked almost nothing like his earlier work. First he adopted an Impressionist aesthetic, borrowing the sweet, hazy palette of Pierre-Auguste Renoir—which he described as “sunlit Surrealism.” Then his style shifted again, incorporating popular imagery, the brash colors of Fauvism and the gestural brushwork of Expressionism. And then Magritte returned to his classic style as if nothing had happened.
René Magritte: The Fifth Season looks at the art Magritte made during and after the stylistic crises of the 1940s, revealing his shifting attitudes toward painting. Subjects explored in this volume include the artist’s Renoir period; the période vache, with its Fauvist- and Expressionist-style paintings that are little known to American audiences; the “hypertrophy of objects” paintings, a series that plays with the scale of familiar objects; and the enigmatic Dominion of Light suite, paintings that suggest the simultaneous experience of day and night.
Featuring full-color plates of approximately 50 oil paintings, and a dozen of the artist’s gouaches, René Magritte: The Fifth Season offers a new understanding of Magritte’s special position in the history of 20th-century art.
In a career of almost half a century, Belgian Surrealist René Magritte (1898–1967) probed the distance between object, language and image. Even as he playfully explored new styles, his painting practice remained consistent in its cautionary message not to equate the observable world with reality in all its fullness.
"Personal Values" (1952) is reproduced from 'René Magritte
The Fifth Season.'
PRAISE AND REVIEWS
Magritte balanced irony and conviction, philosophy and fantasy to illuminate the gaps between what is seen and what is known. The selected works on display reveal Magritte as an artist acutely attuned to the paradoxes at work within reality and an enduring champion of the role of mystery in life and art.
... a grand success on its own terms: a well chosen, carefully researched, beautifully designed reconsideration of an artist we thought we knew.
A once-in-a-lifetime event.
Instead of seeing an old, familiar friend, whose best-known motifs (pipes that aren’t pipes, bowler hats and so on) have leaked into every aspect of popular culture, we are confronted with a man who seems to be undergoing a breakdown.
[The paintings] reawaken age-old questions about what the senses apprehend, what awareness and reflection contribute, and how we know.
Wall Street Journal
Magritte’s power rests in his unpretentiousness. Instead of saying “I see things that you don’t,” he says, “You’ve probably seen this, too, but maybe you haven’t noticed that you’ve seen it.
A revelatory exhibition.
Magritte still has the power to surprise.
The New York Review of Books
The pleasures of humor, of mystery, of layers of semblance and concealment still operate in these works.
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FROM THE BOOKExcerpt from "Odalisques of Revolt" by Michel Draguet
In February 1943, as the German army was overpowered at Stalingrad (now Volgograd, Russia), the greater Nazi defeat was all but assured. René Magritte construed the Soviet victory as a signal that the post–World War II era would by necessity be one of absolute liberation. He expected Surrealism, too, to transform radically, on both iconographic and stylistic fronts. In his work this rupture manifested in a richer use of color, which the artist had until then reserved for his advertising assignments. Color allowed Magritte to reconnect with a sensual aesthetic and break away from the conceptual deconstruction of language that he had pursued since the late 1920s. In the tradition of the Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir—as well as the neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres—Magritte's sunlit surrealist period would last until 1947. Meant to reflect a social and artistic revolution, the works created in this style number approximately seventy-five oil paintings and thirty gouaches.
Antimilitarist and libertarian, Magritte turned his back on the register of a reality dominated by war and used his art as a hopeful gesture. He linked the act of painting to pleasure, a concept born of his desire to re-enchant daily life. As early as December 1941 he mentioned to the surrealist poet Paul Éluard his wish to "bring fresh air into [his] painting" in such a way that a "fairly powerful charm" would replace the "disturbing poetry" of his prewar work. He embraced a form of hedonism in which one takes pleasure in the heart of reality while also being "sharply aware of all the imperfections of everyday life." The image became a site where broken unity could regain its balance, despair could morph into hope, and Surrealism, until then introspective and nocturnal, could step fully into the sunlight. "Since the beginning of this war," he wrote to his friend and colleague Pol Bury, "I have had a strong desire to achieve a new poetic reflectiveness which would bring us both charm and pleasure. I leave to others the business of causing anxiety and terror and mixing everything up as before."
FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG
CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 5/19/2018
"The painting of my 'sunlit period' is obviously in contradiction to many things we were convinced of before 1940," René Magritte wrote to fellow Surrealist André Breton. "This, I think, is the main explanation of the resistance it has met with. I believe however that we no longer exist to prophesy (our prophesies were always unpleasant, it must be admitted); at the International Surrealist Exhibition in Paris visitors had to find their way around with electric torches. We had this experience during the occupation and it wasn't funny. The confusion and panic that Surrealism wanted to create in order to bring everything into question were achieved much better by the Nazi idiots than by us, and there was no question of avoiding the consequences." This quotation and Seasickness (1948) are reproduced from René Magritte: The Fifth Season, published to accompany the major SFMOMA show opening today. continue to blog
FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG
CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 5/18/2018
René Magritte: The Fifth Season, focused on the artist's late vache and "sunlit surrealist" paintings, opens tomorrow at SFMOMA, and we are delighted to have co-published the superb exhibition catalog. "To paraphrase philosopher Ferdinand Alquié," curator Caitlin Haskell writes, "Magritte's Surrealism was not so much about losing reason, but rather a concerted recovery of what reason makes us lose. He took advantage of moments when our subconscious inclination to trust in pictorial transparency would leave us susceptible to loss and cast a spotlight on the hidden realities that exist alongside those we are aware of. A viewer's propensity to believe in the congruence of a canvas and what lies behind it allowed Magritte to operate a mode of two-channel communication: a painterly version of what contemporary artist Julia Scher, who is known for work on themes of surveillance, would call a 'fake feed'… It was Magritte's gift, and his great pleasure, to identify the cracks between a painting's imagery and a viewer's assumptions and then slip a second 'feed' into that perceptual blind spot." Featured image is "Where Euclid Walked" (1955). continue to blog
FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG
CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 5/20/2018
Magritte's sunlit surrealist and vache paintings are "deeply, thoroughly weird," Abigail Solomon-Godeau writes in the new SFMOMA exhibition catalog, René Magritte: The Fifth Season, "not only in their iconography but also in their departure from Magritte's long-established style, palette, and facture… With their penis-nosed grotesques, lurid colors, and bodily eruptions, the vache paintings have been described as 'look[ing] like nothing so much as the missing link between James Ensor and Zap Comix.'" Featured image is "The Cripple" (1948). continue to blog
D.A.P./SAN FRANCISCO MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
USD $34.95 | CAN $45.95
Pub Date: 4/24/2018
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THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK
USD $65.00 | CAN $87
Pub Date: 9/30/2013
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