Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938

Conservation of René Magritte's _Le Jockey perdu (The Lost Jockey)._ Brussels, 1926

Conservation of René Magritte's Le Jockey perdu (The Lost Jockey). Brussels, 1926

Cut-and-pasted sheet music, watercolor, pencil, and ink on paper
Gale and Ira Drukier

Narrator: Many Surrealists sought to tap into the subconscious by letting a work of art unfold as they created it—a technique called automatism. As conservator Scott Gerson explains, that was not Magritte’s approach.

Conservator, Scott Gerson: I would feel very comfortable saying that this was a very planned-out image. The types of things that you would expect to see in a collage where an artist was working through an image and maybe removing and changing the position of collage elements—quite frequently, you see a lot of glue across the surface of the work, maybe even traces of a collage element being pasted down and then being removed and put into another position—there's nothing like that on this surface. This is a very clean surface.

Narrator: By examining this collage under magnification and noting where forms overlapped, Gerson and other conservators have gathered clues about Magritte’s process.

Scott Gerson: The first step was most likely to draw the rider and the horse using charcoal. Then the collage elements are cut from a piece of sheet music. And then the antlers, which were a later addition after the collage elements were placed, were painted in watercolor gouache directly onto the paper primary support.

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