Our René Magritte exhibition is now open. In previous posts you have seen how we have built the exhibition space, received artwork into the gallery and the 'behind the scenes' of a press view.

My posts are going to examine the artist in more depth - this post is about René Magritte and how he came to be known in the United Kingdom. E.L.T. Mesens played a vital role in bringing Magritte and his work to audiences on these shores. Magritte first met Mesens on the occasion of his first exhibition in Brussels in 1920. He ensured that the artist was well represented in the first major international Surrealist exhibition in the United Kingdom, staged in London during the summer of 1936. It was through Mesens that Magritte met the English aristocrat and Surrealist patron Edward James. Time Transfixed, currently on display at Tate Liverpool, was composed with James in mind and shows the fireplace of the patron’s London home (see below).

Magritte and Surrealism Time Transfixed
René Magritte, Time Transfixed 1938

In early 1938 Mesens relocated from Brussels to London. In partnership with Roland Penrose, he took over the running of the London Gallery. Its inaugural exhibition was devoted to Magritte - some forty-six works, most from Mesens’ own collection.The private view began at midnight on 31 March and was opened with a long announcement by the artist Julian Trevelyan. Bearing a placard on which was inscribed ‘Totally Blind’, Trevelyan wore a sun-helmet, red gloves and enormous mirror-lens glasses. ‘I am an explorer,’ he declared, ‘Passing through Belgium, I heard voices. Loudest of all, the paintings of Magritte - the paintings that are now here.’

This shows Magritte in a publicity photograph taken at the time. He adopts the pose of Fantômas, the masked anti-hero famous from silent movies and pulp novels. His visage can be seen in the painting The Barbarian, which was destroyed along with other works during the London Blitz in autumn 1940.

Magritte and Surrealism Barbarian
René Magritte wearing bowler hat next to The Barbarian, London Gallery 1938


Under Mesens, the London Gallery became the headquarters of Surrealism in England. The Liverpool-born jazz musician, critic and bon vivant George Melly also worked at the gallery after the Second World War. His interest in Surrealism led him to collect works by Magritte.

Magritte and Surrealism Menaced Assassin
Installation view showing The Menaced Assassin 1927


Finally, I wanted to show you some extraordinary installation images of Magritte’s exhibition in 1969, which occupied the Duveen Galleries at the Tate Gallery in London. Curated by David Sylvester, this was the first major museum exhibition after the artist’s death in 1967.  The painting above is included in our current exhibition at Tate Liverpool.

Magritte and Surrealism Installation View
Installation view showing An End to Contemplation 1927, and The Sense of Realities 1963



Wow Jollie wonderfull with natural philosophiecall background...no fade with time ! I love it ! Thanks

alison salmon

I need to go to London. Now

Keith Bracey

Loved Magritte as a schoolboy in the 70's and saw that Tate Liverpool are showing a number of his best works. Must get to Tate Liverpool to see the exhibition. Spent some time at The Albert Dock last November and thought what a wonderful place it is. The regeneration of Liverpool, like my home city Birmingham has been so well realised....with Liverpool One and The Albert Dock in Liverpool and Brindleyplace and The Bullring in Birmingham. If you are into eclecticism, get along to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery for the 'Home of Metal' Exhibition at Gas Hall which reclaims Birmingham and The Black Country as the home of metal music. Heavy Metal was invented in Birmingham and The Black Country by bands such as Led Zeppelin (the 'Greatest Rock Band ever', according to the BBC, unlike The Beatles who were the pioneers of 'Popular', 'Pop' music) and Black Sabbath, whose riffs and drum beats aped the presses and machines of Midlands factories where guys like Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi worked. They took surrealism to new heights with darker undertones.......


RCA 'Chrous'Singing "Awesome God " Youtube.(between a ROCK and a hard place?) Surrealism lives!


of course Surrealism was not a joke. The 'multi-direction thing - well ,the object looks back at us and what does IT see? does it SEE ? The object 'the other' is all in our head we do not know what is really 'out there' so we should show it more respect perhaps.Magritte's code was maybe not 'watch out' but 'watch in' perhaps.


Hi Kacey - René Magritte the Pleasure Principle is showing at Tate Liverpool until 16 October 2011


I went to Tate Liverpool yesterday and what a wonderful exhibition it is. I commented that I had seen Time Transfixed in London nearly 50 years ago and thought it was a great shame that it was sold to Chicago but I guess what I saw was a loan then as now. It was a shame as it always had such an impact on me and I always wanted to show it to my children. Nevertheless it was great to see it in the exhibition so well done Tate Liverpool!


how long is it there for?

Really looking forward to the next big Surrealism retrospective in London. I guess it's fallen out of popularity at the moment. I'm putting up with visiting a Surrealist's Brunch for now (http://melba.co/feasts/198) There's some pretty interesting stuff happening in the food and art space.