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Last updated: 6/23/2019
Home / Gallery Tour 1 / Dada and Surrealism / Gallery Tour 2 / Artists
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René Magritte (Belgian, 1896-1967): Etchings and a Lithograph

Arp / Bourgeois / Coutaud / Delvaux / De Chirico / Ernst / Fini / Hayter / Höch / Klee / Lam / Magritte
Masson / Matta / Miró / Picasso / Richier / Seligmann / Sutherland / Tanning/ Toyon / Wunderlich
For many people, Magritte's works are the first to come to mind when Surrealism is mentioned. Magritte created a world of well-dressed men in bowler hats (a staple of pre-war European dress still happily embraced by Brussels' corps of business men on trains) around whom odd things happen (toys trains coming out of walls, houses with faces, a pipe bearing the legend, "this is not a pipe") without ever breaking their compsure. In Magritte's world, as in dreams, the unconscious is fully conscious and we simply see without emotions a new world existing all around us all of the time. Magritte's works are to be found in every important collection of modern art. 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 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 (see below), 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. Our images are very good impressions. 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-printed 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. More recently, prices have taken a big jump: Kaplan/Buam 5, Paysage de Baucis (Self-Portrait with a Hat) is estimated to sell this week for $15,000-$20,000 (plus a 20% buyer's premium) at an auction in NYC. By contrast, Kaplan/Buam 20, Les Moyens s'Existence, an etching in color made in 1968 after Magritte's death "after an original color sketch by the artist" is estimated to sell for $4000-$6000 (plus the buhyer's premium). Our three etchings, according to the estate stamp, were printed 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 aspects 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); Anne Umland, ed., Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary 1926-1938 (NY: MOMA, 2013) in connection with the wonderful Magritte show at MOMA last year. 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.
Les bijoux indiscrets / The talkative jewels. Original color lithograph, 1963. 75 signed and numbered impressions, 20 HC impressions, and an edition of c. 2000 impressions published in the deluxe art review, XXe Siecle in 1963. This is his first lithograph, one of twenty lithographs and etchings he finished before his unexpected death in 1966. The work is illustrated in Gilbert Kaplan, ed. Surrealist Prints (NY: Abrams, 1997) and reproduced on the front cover of the catalogue raisonné of Magritte's prints, The Graphic Work of René Magritte, 1982. A very important print. Image size: 235x303mm. Price: $2500.
Magritte's print oeuvre is quite small: Gilbert E. Kaplan and Timothy Baum include only 20 works in theeir catalogue raisonné of Magritte's original prints, and of those 20, only 6 were printed from lithographic stones or copperplates upon which Magritte worked directly and which were pencil-signed and numbered. The series Aube à l'Antipode (n. 6-12) were made during Magritte's lifetime and were signed by him, but the plates were made (presumably by others) "after" original pen and ink drawings by the artist." The remaining 7 etchings were made posthumously (with the exception of n. 16, "the one etching from the eight posthumously-printed works that was engraved entirely by the artist." The remainder bear the annotation, "after an orignial color sketch by the artist." In 2003, there was a large Magritte exhibition in Paris at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume. For this exhibition, the "Succession Magritte" (i.e., the Magritte estate) presented a deluxe portfolio that included 3 additional etchings, all signed in the plate and one–La Trahison des images / The Treachery of Images–dated "1952" in the plate as well. All bear the estate stamp of the Succession Magritte below the image. The works were published in an edition of 950 with an additional 50 impressions hors commerce (HC). The edition was quickly sold out, but we procured several sets, and although we are getting low on some of them, we can still offer each of the three works below. The 2013 Magritte exhibition (which we visited several times at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC) showed Magritte working not randomly but deliberately, building each image from the ones that preceeded it and in turn giving rise to others that followed it. (The show is still available until June1 2014 at the Menil Museum in Houston and will then travel to the Art Institute of Chicago and be on display from June 29 to October 12, 2014.) The catalogue of the show, Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary 1926-1938 (NY: MOMA, 2013), edited by Anne Umland, should be required reading for anyone interested in seeing the logical way (yes, one can use that term for Magritte, unlikely as it might seem!) in which Magritte proceeds from one idea tio the next, working out each image as he proceeds, painting by painting, drawing by drawing, etching by etching to discover and share with viewers this new world of images, these images of a new world.
Le Viol / The Rape. Original etching, 1934. 950 numbered impressions signed in the plate lower right plus 50 HC impressions. All are also signed with the blind stamp of the "Succession Magritte" (The Magritte Estate). Printed at Atelier Dutrou in Paris on Velin de Rives. This is the original publication of this etching. Image size: 155x137mm. Price: $3000.
The blind stamp of the Magritte Estate serves to autheticate the etching above and the two below and appears on each of the etchings. Printed at Atelier Dutrou in Paris on Velin de Rives. This is the original publication of these three etchings.
Les Amants / The Lovers. Original etching, 1928. 950 numbered impressions signed in the plate lower right plus 50 HC impressions. All are also signed with the blind stamp of the Succession Magritte (The Magritte Estate). Printed at Atelier Dutrou in Paris on Velin de Rives. This is the original publication of this etching. Image size: 121x130mm. Price: $3000.
La Trahison des images / The Treachery of Images. Original etching, 1952. 950 numbered impressions signed and dated in the plate plus 50 HC impressions. All are also signed with the blind stamp of the Succession Magritte (The Magritte Estate). Printed at Atelier Dutrou in Paris on Velin de Rives. This is the original publication of this etching. Image size: 88x132mm. Price: $3500.
I’m afraid that we do not deal in the posthumous “Magritte” prints with which Magritte had no involvement. As the editors of the Magritte catalogue raisonné, The Graphic Work or René Magritte, Gilbert E. Kaplan and Timothy Baum, say in the introduction to their work, “Certain of Magritte’s images, originally rendered as either oil paintings or Gouaches, have, at various times, been reproduced, both as posters and as limited edition color prints. The technical quality of many of these renditions is often high, even masterful, but these always remain within the realm of reproduction works only, since the images they mirror are already the exact subject of previous paintings and gouaches. Therefore, these reproduction prints do not overlap, in any way, with the graphic works covered in this book.”
René Magritte–Harry Torczyner, Letters Between Friends (NY: Abrams, 1994). Letters translated into English with reduced-size French versions parallel to the translations. Trade format paperback. Magritte and Torczyner became close friends after Magritte painted his portrait; Torczyner, a lawyer in New York, watched out for Magritte's business affairs in the US and published a study of Magritte after his death, Magritte: Ideas and Images (NY: Abrams, 1977). An interesting look into two friends and the business end of art. Mint, shrink-wrapped copy. List: $19.95.; Price: $12.50.
Gilbert Kaplan, ed. Surrealist Prints (NY: Abrams, 1997). The best book on Surrealist printmaking available. It illustrates several prints by including the litograph above. Large format hardcover: $45.

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