July 31, 2021

at the Orangerie, Magritte in the sun of Georgette

On May 15, 1940, fleeing the invasion of Belgium by the Wehrmacht, a group of Belgian surrealists withdrew to Paris, then to the south of France. René Magritte (1898-1967) is among them. On May 23, he settled in Carcassonne, where the poet Joë Bousquet housed authors from the NRF, including André Gide and Jean Paulhan, and artists, including Raoul Ubac. Testimonies and letters agree: Magritte is then in a gloomy mood. Without doubt the triumph of IIIe Reich is part of the reason for his depression, but he is another, more intimate one.

Before leaving Brussels, Magritte, who is not himself a model of loyalty, learned that his wife, Georgette, was having an affair with the poet Paul Colinet and filed for divorce. Magritte is so obsessed with it that, shortly after his arrival in Carcassonne, he conceives the project of returning to Brussels to reconquer it. The trains no longer running, he rents a bicycle and, despite warnings from his friends, claims to reach Brussels by this means. Four hours after his departure, he is back, exhausted. Love has been conquered by the stiffness of the Audoise coasts. At the beginning of August, he finally obtained a pass and returned to Belgium. And there, a miracle of passion, Georgette comes back to him. Some time later, Magritte painted three female nudes from behind in front of the sea and the work is titled The Embellie, which is pretty clear.

Read also: René Magritte, an aberration theorist

The canvas is not in the exhibition “Magritte / Renoir. Surrealism in full sun ”, presented at the Orangerie in Paris, but others are also explicit. The return shows a bird with blue sky wings flying towards a nest. There is also The Flashback, self-portrait in Fantomas victorious. And, above all, the canvases in which Magritte borrows subjects, style and colors from Renoir. Subjects: female nudes with fairly abundant shapes, bouquets of flowers and rural landscapes. Way: instead of the smooth and meticulous realism of his surrealist paintings with enigmas, symbols and absurdities, touches in commas and curves, pressed and visible, to draw the anatomies or the petals. Colors: an abundance of pinks, light yellows, pale blues and cool greens.

Doves flutter and the painter’s attention is focused with insistence on the breasts and legs of his Venus, which we therefore understand that they are all more or less Georgette. As for the piece of the chess game which holds the fool and the king, against which the heroine of The Age of Pleasure (1946), its function as a phallic symbol is not in doubt.

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