René Magritte. The Lovers. Paris 1928

René Magritte The Lovers Paris 1928

  • Not on view

In this unsettling image—the first in a series of four variations of Les Amants that Magritte painted in 1928—the artist invokes the cinematic cliché of a close–up kiss but subverts our voyeuristic pleasure by shrouding the faces in cloth. The device of a draped cloth or veil to conceal a figure’s identity corresponds to a larger Surrealist interest in masks, disguises, and what lies beyond or beneath visible surfaces. The melodramatic scene may also relate to the graphic illustrations that accompanied pulp fiction and thriller stories, which Magritte's friend Paul Nougé, in a letter from 1927, encouraged the artist to emulate.

Gallery label from Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938 , September 28, 2013–January 12, 2014 .
Oil on canvas
21 3/8 x 28 7/8" (54 x 73.4 cm)
Gift of Richard S. Zeisler
Object number
© 2020 C. Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

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Provenance Research Project

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

Jean Bastien, Brussels, by 1953 [1]. [E.L.T. (Edouard Léon Théodore) Mesens (1903-1971), Brussels and London] [2]. Fernand Graindorge (1903-1985), Liège, by 1955 [3]; to Hecker Jensen, Basel [4]; sold to Richard L. Feigen Gallery, Chicago, by 1958 [5]; sold to Richard S. Zeisler, New York, September 1958 [6]; acquired by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998 (Bequest of Richard S. Zeisler).

[1] See David Sylvester and Sarah Whitfield, eds. René Magritte: Catalogue raisonné I: Oil Paintings 1916-1930, Houston: Menil Foundation et al., 1992, p. 296, no. 250: "It may have been for some time (according to Marcel Mariën) in the collection of Jean Bastien, Brussels. It must have been the version recorded in a sale of modern pictures at the Galerie Georges Giroux, Brussels, on 17 October 1953, where lot 333 was entitled 'Les Amants' … but according to an annotation made by Mesens in his copy of the catalogue, it was withdrawn."
[2] Per Richard L. Feigen, "according to whom it had formerly been in the collections of E.L.T. Mesens and Hecker Jensen, Basle" (ibid., p. 297).
[3] Lender to the exhibitions L'Apport wallon au surréalisme: peinture poésie, Musée des Beaux Arts, Liège, October 13-November 12, 1955, no. 59; and XXXe Salon. Cercle royal artistique et littéraire de Charleroi, Salle de la Bourse, Charleroi, March 3-22, 1956, no. 51 (Les amants [I]).
[4] See David Sylvester and Sarah Whitfield, eds. René Magritte, p. 296, no. 250.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.

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