In the spring of 1948, René Magritte debuted an astonishing body of work, including the painting seen here, in which he set out to challenge the notion of artistic sincerity. Radiantly expressive and looking nothing like his paintings of the previous two decades, this new style—termed his période vache, or “nasty style”—used lurid colors and crude paint handling to convey the ongoing unease of Europe after the Second World War.
Seasickness, arguably the most iconic painting from this moment, has no nautical elements. Yet the title is paid off by a garish sport coat and slab of ham sweltering in the sun that were intended to make viewers feel mild visual nausea. As Magritte explained at the time: “I live in a very
unpleasant world … that’s why my painting is a battle, or rather a counteroffensive.”
Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.
The Lacy Armour, Eloise W. Martin Legacy, and Kate S. Buckingham endowment funds
Extended information about this artwork
Stephanie Barron, Michel Draguet, Sara Cochran, and Richard Armstrong, René Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Ghent: Ludion, 2006), 201 (color ill.).
Christoph Grunenberg and Darren Pih, eds., Magritte A to Z, exh. cat. (London: Tate Publishing, 2012), 181 (color ill.).
Paris, Galerie du Faubourg, Magritte: peintures et gouaches, May 11–June 5, 1948, cat. 7.
Brussels, Galerie Isy Brachot, Magritte: cent cinquante oeuvres; première vue mondiale de ses sculptures, Jan. 19–Feb. 20, 1968, cat. 75.
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Rétrospective Magritte, Oct. 27–Dec. 31, 1978, cat. 140; Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Jan. 19–Apr. 9, 1979.
Cologne, Messehall, Westkunst: Zeitgenössische Kunst seit 1939, May 30–Aug. 16, 1981, cat. 355, as Seekrankheit, 1947.
Tokyo, Galerie des Arts de Tokyo, Shibuya, René Magritte, Aug. 27–Sep. 15, 1982, cat. 34; Toyama, Musée d’Art de la Préfecture, Oct. 30–Dec. 12, 1982.
Marseilles, Musée Cantini, René Magritte: la période vache: “les pieds dans le plat” avec Louis Scutenaire, Feb. 28–May 3, 1992, no cat. no., as Le Mal de mer, 1947.
Los Angeles, County Museum of Art (LACMA), Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images, Nov. 19, 2006–Mar. 4, 2007, no cat. no., as Seasickness (Le mal de mer), 1948.
Paris, Centre Pompidou, René Magritte: Le trahison des images, Sept. 21, 2016–Jan. 23, 2017, no cat. no.
San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), René Magritte: The Fifth Season, May 19–Oct. 28, 2018, no cat. no., as Le mal de mer (Seasickness), 1948.
The artist until 1964 [this and the following according to letter from Paul DeKnop, Aug. 30, 2020; copy in curatorial file]; purchased by Evelyn Kornelis (1920–2009) and François DeKnop (1919–1998), Brussels, for Paul DeKnop (born 1947), Brussels; sold to the Art Institute of Chicago, Nov. 10, 2020.
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