Rene Magritte's autographed letters could bring $400,000 at Sotheby's

René Magritte is widely regarded as one of the greatest surrealist artists of all. Even those who have difficulty placing the name would instantly recognise some of his best known paintings, such as those with his trademark bowler hats.

It is always fascinating to get an insight into the thinking processes of a groundbreaking artist, and a truly exceptional opportunity to do just that is coming up at Sotheby's. A very rare cache of 40 letters and postcards written by Magritte is coming to auction.

The letters are from a correspondence with a fellow Belgian, surrealist poet Paul Colinet, and date from a time (1933 onwards) when Magritte was actually frustrated with the surrealist movement, though his work remained very much of that style.

The collection of letters covers a wide range of topics - artistic, literary and surreal - and reveals that Colinet had considerable influence on Magritte.

Magritte Bowler hat Head On Chair letter
Typical letter from Magritte to Colinet

Magritte commends Colinet for coming up with suitable titles for his works and the letters include sketches of them with requests for suggestions - amongst the various more casual doodling Magritte indulges in.

One painting includes a sketch derived from his iconic L'Empire des Lumières with 'Un titre please!'.

Magritte offers his definition of painting in another letter, but the letters are not limited to his work, as the two men exchange views on books and Magritte muses strangely on the number 9 and its multiples.

The collection was last seen at auction in 1987 when consigned by Magritte's widow. Neither they, nor any significant correspondence from Magritte has gone under the hammer since.

The letters are on display in London until Thursday this week (May 20), and will head Sotheby's Books and Manuscripts sale in New York on June 18, estimated at $200,000-400,000. A letter written by Paul Cezanne is also currently available.


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