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Getty Research Institute purchases René Magritte letters

June 24, 2010 |  2:33 pm

Magritte Ceci n'est pas une acquisition.

The Getty Research Institute has acquired  a collection of letters and other correspondences from Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte. The institute made the purchase at a June 18 Sotheby's auction.

The previous owner had acquired the group of letters in London in 1987 after the death of Georgette Magritte, the artist’s widow, and they have been in the collector’s possession in the U.S. ever since.

Sotheby's website lists the sold price for the correspondences at $218,500, including the buyer's premium, which is a fee that the auction house tacks on to the winning bid.

According to Sotheby's, the collection contains more than 40 autograph letters and postcards signed by the artist (e.g., "René Magritte," "Magritte" "Magr" and "Mag"). Many of them are illustrated with sketches in ballpoint.

The letters -- which are largely undated but are believed to have been written between 1934 to 1957 -- are addressed to the Belgian Surrealist poet Paul Colinet. They number approximately 50 pages, and also include a telegram and a typescript copy of a letter as well as eight letters and postcards from Colinet.

Magritte is famous for his artwork that depicts everyday objects like pipes, bowler hats and locomotives in strange, dreamlike arrangements. Perhaps his most famous painting is "The Treachery of Images," which depicts a tobacco pipe with the sentence "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (This isn't a pipe) at the bottom of the canvas. The artist died in Brussels in 1967.

The Getty said that its recent acquisition appeared to be "one of the last remaining intact caches of Magritte letters that remained both unpublished and not yet placed with a public institution."

-- David Ng

Photo: a letter from Magritte that was recently acquired by the Getty. Credit: Sotheby's

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