René Magritte (1898 - 1967): The Pleasure Principle, 1937

René Magritte (1898 - 1967): The Pleasure Principle, 1937

11/12/2021, 4:17:39 PM
René Magritte (1898 - 1967): The Pleasure Principle, 1937, Oil on canvas, 73 x 54.5 cm, Private Collection René Magritte's 'The Pleasure Principle' (Le Principe du Plaisir) showcases several enduring and recognizable themes from the artist's oeuvre: visual and cerebral paradox, an uncanny alteration of the familiar and the tension between the visible and the hidden. The painting is a portrait of Edward James, an English heir to an American railroad fortune turned eccentric poet and influential patron of Surrealist art. In June 1937, several months after his stay at James’ Wimpole Street home, Magritte presented the idea of this portrait in a letter to James: “I have done a picture representing a man whose head is a light…I consider it as a preliminary study, the real picture as I envision is still to be painted but since it would be intended for you, do you not think your person could be recognized in it as well? If the idea appeals to you, all you have to do is be photographed full-faced at a table with your arms crossed and resting on the table and a sort of stone lying on the table to your right and not too far from your arm. And send me the photograph” 'Le Principe du Plaisir' exemplifies Magritte’s interest with what is hidden in our visual reality. Throughout his career, Magritte employs surrealist imagery that confronts our fascination with the hidden—hidden faces in particular. In one of his few recorded interviews (Magritte detested publicity and discussions of his own work), Magritte relates that, “Everything we see hides another thing; we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible doesn’t show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is apparent” (Sotheby's)

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