Purchase of René Magritte’s ‘Le miroir vivant’ a Success

René Magritte, Le miroir vivant, 1928, oil on canvas, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Press release

Purchase of René Magritte’s ‘Le miroir vivant’ a Success
27 January 2016

Thanks to a generous extra donation of 120.000 euro from the Vereniging Rembrandt, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has succeeded in raising the sum needed to acquire the 1928 painting ‘Le miroir vivant’ by René Magritte (1898-1967) for its collection. The acquisition of an early Magritte has been a long-held ambition. The painting is a major addition to the world-famous collection of Surrealist art. The museum welcomed the new acquisition into the magnificent collection with ‘Magritte Meets the Collection’, an exhibition that highlighted Magritte’s early work to create a surprising and associative link with fifty diverse works from the collection.

As curator of contemporary art Francesco Stocchi explained, 'this strange canvas is an outstanding example of Magritte’s idiosyncratic approach, which inspired the generations that came after him and many works in the museum’s collection. This is art that addresses the underlying issues without solving them. Work that piques our expectations. “Le miroir vivant” uses verbal clues without presenting an image itself; it paints the image in words alone, directly involving the viewer in the work. By reading words that have yet to be depicted, viewers become creators of their own images, and maker and viewer switch roles. The work turns the traditional division of roles between artist and viewer on its head, forming a conduit to the social, interactive and conceptual forms of art.'

Réne Magritte and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
In 1937 René Magritte spent three weeks in the house of his favourite, eccentric British collector Edward James, where he painted a group of large works. These paintings, ‘Not to be Reproduced’, ‘Illustrated Youth’ and ‘The Red Model’ were determinant images in his oeuvre. Having had them on loan for a time in the early 1970s, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen bought them from Edward James in 1977 and 1979. With ‘On the Threshold of Liberty’ (1930), which had been acquired earlier, this meant that a significant proportion of the works created by Magritte in his most productive period came into the possession of a Dutch museum. 'The Red Model’ was purchased in 1979.

Prominent Collection of Surrealists
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, whose focus on international Surrealism sets it apart from all other Dutch museums, has a wide-ranging collection of 120 surrealist works. With regular additions, it contributes hugely to the museum’s international loan position. In the spring exhibition of 2017 the museum will be exhibiting masterpieces by such artists as Salvador Dalí, René Magritte and Max Ernst – works that provide an unparalleled overview of the Surrealism in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. In collaboration with the Hamburger Kunsthalle and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, the Rotterdam museum will be bringing together icons from four important private collections in different parts of the world. The exhibition will shed light on the dream worlds, fantasies, madness and unbridled passion of both the artists and the collectors of works from this famous art movement.

The Living Mirror
‘Le miroir vivant’ is one of a group of more than forty word and image paintings that Magritte made in the early years of his career. It was an experimental work in its use of language as image. In ‘Le miroir vivant’ four interconnected cloudlike white shapes each feature a short, enigmatic text. The words ‘personnage éclatant de rire’ (person roaring with laughter), ‘armoire’ (closet), ‘horizon’ and ‘cris d’oiseaux’ (birds’ cries) evoke countless associations. Yet the relationship between the words and the meaning of this distinctly non-figurative painting remains difficult to fathom. Rarely does a painting from those early years come on to the market. The work is a major addition to the later, better-known works by Magritte already in the collection, and acts as a bridge between Dadaism, Surrealism and Pop Art – artistic trends that are well represented in the museum’s collection.

The purchase of ‘Le Miroir Vivant’ by René Magritte has been made possible in part by the generous support of the Vereniging Rembrandt, thanks in part to the Dura Kunstfonds, Fonds Willem van Rede, Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, BankGiro Loterij, Mondriaan Fonds and the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds (thanks in part to the Breeman Talle Fonds) and a collection taken among friends and visitors.