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La saignée

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  • Liane Imeri asked

    Guten Tag, ich habe dieses Bild in Verbindung mit Hegels Dialektischer Methode gefunden. Können Sie mir erklären, wo da eine Verbindung ist? Wo sich Hegel in Magritte findet? Vielen herzlichen Dank. Liane Imeri

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dear Liane, Thank you for your question. If you don't mind I will formulate my reaction in English. Magritte made this gouache at the threshold of the Second World War. As he never explained his work and sought for titles that would make his images even more enigmatic, we have to look and interpret ourselves. Combining the image, the atmosphere and the historic context, I would say that the work expresses a feeling of hopelessness: not even art is able to present us a view on the future. Still, by searching for meaningful images and making the work Magritte also expresses the opposite. I am not an expert on Hegel so I can imagine that you yourself will find another connection. Good luck with your research! Els


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More information


Title La saignée
Material and technique Gouache on paper
Object type
Drawing > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Height 37 cm
Width 43 cm
Artists Artist: René Magritte
Accession number 2941 (MK)
Credits Purchased 1977
Department Modern Art
Acquisition date 1977
Creation date in 1938-1939
Collector Collector / Edward James
Provenance Edward James, Chichester 1939-64; Edward James Foundation, Chichester 1964-77
Exhibitions Brussels 1939; London 1973a; Brussels 1982; Rotterdam 1996a; Brussels 1998; St Petersburg 2000; Rotterdam 2006; London/Rotterdam/Bilbao 2007-08; Liverpool 2011; Edinburgh/Hamburg/Rotterdam 2016-17
Internal exhibitions Gek van surrealisme (2017)
External exhibitions René Magritte: The Pleasure Principle (2011)
Dalí, Ernst, Miró, Magritte... (2016)
Surreal Encounters - Collecting the Marvellous (2016)
Surrealist Art - Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (2021)
A Surreal Shock. Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (2023)
Dalí, Magritte, Man Ray and Surrealism. Highlights from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (2023)
Dal nulla al sogno (2018)
A Surreal Shock – Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (2021)
Only the Marvelous is Beautiful (2022)
Research Show research A dream collection - Surrealism in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Literature Hammacher 1973, p. 118; London 1973, p. 39, cat. no. 27; Sylvester 1994, p. 37, cat. no. 1149; Brussels 1998, p. 240; Rotterdam 2006, p. 107; Edinburgh 2016, pp. 215, 248, 259, cat. no. 100
Gouache > Drawing technique > Technique > Material and technique
Geographical origin Belgium > Western Europe > Europe

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Entry catalogue A dream collection - Surrealism in Museum Boijmans Van beuningen

Author: Marijke Peyser

During the René Magritte solo exhibition that ran from 13 to 24 May 1939 in the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, Magritte showed ten canvases and twenty-four gouaches.[1] The artist had not previously depicted the subjects of a number of the gouaches in oils.[2] His enthusiasm for working in gouache is revealed in a letter to his friend and fellow artist Marcel Mariën.[3] Magritte told him that he needed idea-associations because he was suffering from a kind of painter’s fatigue and that the association of specific images like ‘an eagle in a jacket’ could reinspire him.[4] Magritte used this image in his gouache Le présent (1938 or 1939). In La saignée, a gouache of a framed picture of a brick wall on a wainscoted wall, the images likewise evoke associations other than what one would expect; after all a brick wall does not provide a view whereas a painting can be a window on the world.

The Belgian art magazine Les Beaux Arts of 5 May 1939 carried a review of the René Magritte exhibition entitled ‘Le surréalisme vu à travers l’oeuvre de René Magritte’ – Surrealism viewed through the oeuvre of René Magritte – accompanied by an illustration of La saignée. The journalist asked Magritte how he had come up with the idea for making this work. The artist replied: ‘I think that it was when I was thinking about what would be absolutely forbidden to show in a painting.’[5] This thought led Magritte to the certainty that it is absolutely forbidden to show the ‘nothingness’, the ‘emptiness’ behind a painting. He continued: ‘behind the paint of the painting there is the canvas. Behind the canvas is a wall. Behind the wall there is… etc. Visible things always hide other visible things. But a visible image hides nothing.’[6] La saignée exposes the deceptiveness of any attempt to depict. The conventional and traditional role of painting is the depiction of a form of the world around us or of an idea relating to it. Magritte, however, exposed the lack of reality ‘behind a work of art’: it is a medium that reveals absence and instability. Magritte’s thinking, expressed in La saignée, echoes Surrealist ideas: our expectations of reality are once again disordered.

On their return from Paris in July 1930, Magritte and his wife Georgette moved into a small house in rue Esseghem, Jette-Brussels. Life happened in the dining room, a space measuring three by four metres where they had their meals and welcomed friends, but it also served as a studio. Magritte’s easel stood in a corner by a window. There was so little space that it was trapped between the table, the door and the stove. Although Magritte found this cramped layout oppressive he had no need for a painter’s studio, as from 1926 onwards he ‘no longer made paintings, but objets bouleversants’: objects that worked randomly, which called for reflection and which sometimes took the form of paint on canvas.[7] The house itself proved to be an important source of inspiration; numerous elements feature in the paintings he made after 1930.



[1] A gouache is a painting made with opaque watercolours, where the ground is no longer visible as it is in a watercolour.

[2] Sylvester 1993a, p. 72: Magritte probably wrote this letter in April 1939.

[3] Ibid.

[4] See Rotterdam 2006, p. 104.

[5] Sylvester 1994, p. 37.

[6] Allmer 2009, p. 70.

[7] Ceuleers 1999, p. 126.

Show research A dream collection - Surrealism in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
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All about the artist

René Magritte

Lessen 1898 - Schaarbeek 1967

René Magritte studied at the academy in Brussels. He began as pattern designer in a carpet factory and as painter by painting and designing advertising posters...

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