Stolen Rene Magritte Masterpiece Returned

£3.6 million painting stolen at gunpoint dumped as thieves fail to find buyer

A 1948 painting  titled “Olympia” by the Surrealist/Dadaist, Belgian painter René Magritte has been returned after a £62,000 ransom was paid by the owners insurers.

The Magritte Museum was the target of the high profile robbery two years ago when thieves held staff and tourists at gunpoint in a snatch from the museum located in the city where the artist had lived and worked. The museum is located in the Brussels suburb of Jette and had no metal detectors or other screening equipment at the entrance.

“They clearly understood that they could not sell it because it was too well known,” said André Garitte, the museum’s curator. “As a result, the painting became embarrassing for them and they preferred to get rid of it. But fortunately they have not destroyed it.” It was returned in pristine condition.

Opened in June, 2009, the Magritte Museum displays works of the surrealist artist for which it is named. Located in the heart of Brussels at the Place Royale, the museum is housed in the neo-classical landmark Altenloh Hotel, superbly restored in 1984 with the generous support of the Franco-Belgian group GDF SUEZ and the Magritte Foundation, and operates as part of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. Instantly popular, the museum welcomed over 500,000 visitors in its first year of operation.

The museum’s multi-disciplinary collection is unrivaled. It contains more than 200 works consisting of oils on canvas, gouaches, drawings, sculptures and painted objects as well as advertising posters, musical scores, vintage photographs and films produced by the artist. The collection is comprised of purchases by the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, which owns the collection, and gifts from the Irène Hamoir-Scutenaire and Georgette Magritte estates. Additionally, many private collectors, as well as public and private institutions, loan art to the museum through an ambitious lending program.

The Magritte Museum is also the primary repository for research on the artist. With the support of INEO media system, the museum has developed an online research center which provides access to archives about the painter\’s life and works, an invaluable resource not only for art scholars, students, and academicians worldwide, but also for anyone interested in learning more about this national treasure of Belgium.

René Magritte was born on the 21st November 1898 in Hainaut in Belgium. His father was a tailor and a merchant. From 1916 through 1918 Magritte studied in the Royal Academy of Arts in Brussels  (Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts). He became a wallpaper designer and commercial artist. His early painting works were executed under the influence of the Cubism and Futurism (1918-20), then he was inspired by the Purists and Fernand Léger.

His acquaintance with Giorgio de Chirico’s Pittura Metafisica (Metaphysical Painting) and Dadaistic poetry constituted an important artistic turning-point for Magritte. In 1925 he came close with a group of Dadaists and co-operated in the magazines Aesophage and Marie, together with E.L.T. Mesens, Jean Arp, Francis Picabia, Schwitters, Tzara and Man Ray.