Inauguration of the « Musée Magritte » in Brussels


1. View of a Room of the Musée Magritte
Photo : Didier Rykner

29/5/09 – Inauguration – Brussels – Before talking about the Musée Magritte which is opening inside the complex of the Musées Royaux de Bruxelles on 2 June, we first have to bring up its marketing aspect. This is not in fact a new museum but rather the creation of a monographic section without the addition of a single square metre to the previous building. Formerly, the area where it has been installed was devoted to temporary exhibitions [1].

The project does present some interest. It allows all of the museum’s Magritte works to be exhibited at once whereas before many remained in storage, as well as a large number of paintings and drawings on loan from private collections, museums and, in large part, from the president of the Fondation Magritte who is today the artist’s legal heir, Charles Herscovici. Naturally, this museum thus looks more like a Magritte exhibition with works varying depending on the changing loans. The hang and staging are well done, offering many masterpieces and instructive enough to attract tourists, which seems to be one of the stated goals, without disappointing them [2]. It is too bad that this is done, as dictated by fashion for at least the last fifteen years (but does a fashion last that long ?), in the dark. No one will object to the fact that photographs and drawings need dim lighting. But why are we subjected to these black walls (ill. 1) which most visitors find so depressing and don’t necessarily enhance the paintings anyway ?

2. René Magritte (1898-1967)
L’Homme du large, 1927
Oil on canvas - 139 x 105 cm
Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts
© Charly Herscovici, with his kind authorization
c/o SABAM-ADAGP, 2009

3. René Magritte (1898-1967)
Le Joueur secret, 1927
Oil on canvas - 152 x 195 cm
Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts
© Charly Herscovici, with his kind authorization
c/o SABAM-ADAGP, 2009


The museum’s collection seems to be a very complete one except for the artist’s last period : the lower level where the exhibition ends presents practically works on loan only…
The early years (Magritte before Magritte) while the artist is still searching for a style, underwent various influences, until the moment he met Giorgio de Chirico and found his path. L’Homme du large (ill. 2) and especially Le Mariage de minuit reflect his proximity to the Italian painter. Among the most beautiful paintings exhibited here dating from the 20’s, there is also Le Joueur secret (ill. 3) and Le Sang du monde. The first rooms present as well what the artist called his “imbecile works”, that is pieces which he considered as minor : posters and illustrations for musical scores produced at the request of his brother who composed popular songs.

4. René Magritte (1898-1967)
Le Retour, 1940
Oil on canvas - 50.2 x 65 cm
Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts
© Charly Herscovici, with his kind authorization
c/o SABAM-ADAGP, 2009

5. René Magritte (1898-1967)
Le Galet, 1948
Oil on canvas - 100 x 81 cm
Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts
© Charly Herscovici, with his kind authorization
c/o SABAM-ADAGP, 2009


Another masterpiece, Le Retour (ill. 4), from 1940, is one of the first paintings in which the visitor will recognize his idea of the artist : a bird (one of his recurring themes) and the famous Magritte blue … Some of the canvases from the period between 1945-1950 (Le Lyrisme ; La bonne fortune), painted in a very loose manner, unlike his usually precise style, are rather bad. The museum authorities seem aware of the fact as they did not authorize reproduction rights, the reason why we cannot show them here (the artist is still under copyright obviously). And yet, during this same period, the visitor can see very beautiful works some of which reflect Matisse’s influence (ill. 5).
This lesser quality did not last long. As opposed to certain surrealists (notably Chirico), the interest of Magritte’s works does not decrease with age. He would paint magnificent canvases up to the end of his life. We could quote just the two versions of Empire des Lumières (ill. 6), a marvelously poetic composition which has sixteen versions (the museum is planning an exhibition presenting all of them). Page blanche (ill. 7) was the last canvas Magritte painted in 1967, ample confirmation of our statement.

6. René Magritte (1898-1967)
L’Empire des Lumières, 1954
Oil on canvas - 146 x 114 cm
Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts
© Charly Herscovici, with his kind authorization
c/o SABAM-ADAGP, 2009

7. René Magritte (1898-1967)
Page Blanche, 1967
Oil on canvas - 54 x 65 cm
Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts
© Charly Herscovici, with his kind authorization
c/o SABAM-ADAGP, 2009


To mark this opening, the museum is publishing at editions Hazan a very beautiful album titled “Guide de la collection” but which is much more than just that. It reproduces all of the works on exhibition and offers very good essays. This is an excellent introduction to the life and work of Magritte.

Michel Draguet, Virginie Devillez and Ingrid Goddeeris, Musée Magritte Museum, Guide du musée, Hazan, 2009, 162 p., 15 €. ISBN : 9782754103541.

Website of the Musée Magritte

Version française


Didier Rykner, vendredi 29 mai 2009


Notes

[1] Let us point out that a remarkable retrospective devoted to the painter Alfred Stevens opened recently in the old part of the museum. We will soon publish a review.

[2] To conclude the marketing discussion, we should mention the price of entrance tickets to the museum which will increase steeply as a consequence. We refer our readers to an article, in French, on this subject (which we discovered thanks to the site Louvre pour tous).



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