René Magritte Surrealist painting sells for record $27M

René Magritte’s ‘Le Principe du plaisir (The Pleasure Principle),’ 1937. Estimate $15 million-$20 million. Courtesy Sotheby’s

NEW YORK – A painting by Surrealist icon René Magritte sold for $26.8 million at Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on Monday.

Magritte’s Surrealist portrait of Patron Edward James titled Le Principe du Plaisir (Pleasure Principle) new world auction record for the artist following a seven-way bidding battle.

Painted in 1937, René Magritte’s Le Principe du plaisir is an entrancing portrait depicting Edward James, one of the most influential patrons of Surrealist art, who was introduced to Magritte by Salvador Dalí in 1937. Commissioned directly by James, the present portrait was rendered from a photograph of the patron that was taken according to the artist’s specifications by fellow Surrealist, Man Ray.

Magritte envisioned the concept for the present work before ever meeting James – in 1936, the artist included an ink sketch resembling the oil on the first page of a hand-made book honoring the Surrealist poet, Paul Éluard.

Setting a new world auction record for the artist Oskar Kokoschka was his restituted masterpiece portrait of Joseph de Montesquiou-Fezensac that sold for $20.4 million—five times the previous record of $4.1 million.

Ludwig Meidner’s Apokalyptische Landschaft, a prophetic painting executed at the brink of World War I, achieved $14.1 million, also a record for the artist.