René Magritte 1948: la période vache

30 October 2008 - 4 January 2009

René Magritte numbers not only among the most important, but also among the most popular artists of the twentieth century. Many of the surrealist’s equally enigmatic and hard-to-forget solutions have been reproduced in the millions and become famous icons far beyond the world of art. However, a fascinating period of the artist’s landmark oeuvre has remained nearly unknown: his so-called période vache. In 1948, Magritte made a group of paintings and gouaches distinctly different from the rest of his work for his first solo exhibition in Paris. Relying on a new, fast and aggressive style of painting – and particularly inspired by popular sources such as caricatures and comics, but also interspersing his works with stylistic quotations from artists like James Ensor or Henri Matisse – Magritte, within only a few weeks, produced about thirty entirely uncharacteristic works that caused an outrage in Paris. The artist deliberately conceived the exhibition as a provocation of and an assault on the Parisian public. Painting in an unexpectedly crude, playful, and intentionally “bad” manner, he reflected his own work and painting in general. Magritte thus anticipated strategies of painting current in the 1970s and 1980s, which are highly topical again today. While only sporadically included in most retrospectives of Magritte’s oeuvre, the works from the période vache will be assembled in the exhibition at the Schirn outside France and Belgium for the first time. Especially against the background of the last thirty years’ art, this concentrated presentation will shed a new, surprising light on an extraordinary artist.