Belgian Surrealist René Magritte developed a repertoire of private symbols that he continued to employ in new combinations throughout his career. The bloodied white plaster bust first appeared in a painting of 1942 entitled Memory. It was accompanied by the ball, a wooden wall, and a cloud filled sky. In this treatment from 1950 the haunting bare tree has been added. The original French title was taken from Proust by the painter’s friend the writer, Paul Nougé, who also provided the following poetic interpretation:

As walls recede, as daylight recedes, as palpable shadows recede, as the music of the branches and of inevitable mental tracery recedes, as youth recedes, our memory bleeds and smiles.

The painting was purchased in New York in 1951 by the great choreographer George Balanchine and his wife the dancer, Tanaquil Le Clercq. It is fitting that they have donated it to the Wadsworth Atheneum, since it was through the efforts of this museum’s director, A. Everett “Chick” Austin, Jr., that Balanchine was able to come to America in 1933 with the hope of founding a new ballet company in Hartford. Although this was not to be, Balanchine did present the premiers of several of his works in the Atheneum’s theater in 1934.

René Magritte
Belgian, 1898–1967
The Fickleness of the Heart, 1950
Oil on canvas; 32 x 25 in.
Gift of Tanaquil Le Clercq and George Balanchine, 1998.48.1.

From Our Collection

1594, Caravaggio 1731, Canaletto 1749, Panini 1773, Wright

Upcoming Events

Oct
23
Thu
1:00 pm Tour: Highlights
Tour: Highlights
Oct 23 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Tour: Highlights: Join a docent for an exploration of the collection. Meet by The Museum Shop. Highlights Tours are offered daily at 1 pm, Wednesday [...]
7:00 pm Film: The Better Angels
Film: The Better Angels
Oct 23 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Film: The Better Angels
Film: The Better Angels: Beginning circa 1817, the story spans three years of Abraham Lincoln’s childhood in the harsh wilderness of Indiana. Learn about the [...]
Oct
24
Fri
1:00 pm Tour: Highlights
Tour: Highlights
Oct 24 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Tour: Highlights: Join a docent for an exploration of the collection. Meet by The Museum Shop. Highlights Tours are offered daily at 1 pm, Wednesday [...]
Oct
25
Sat
1:00 pm Tour: Highlights
Tour: Highlights
Oct 25 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Tour: Highlights: Join a docent for an exploration of the collection. Meet by The Museum Shop. Highlights Tours are offered daily at 1 pm, Wednesday [...]
2:30 pm Tour: Looking at Landscapes
Tour: Looking at Landscapes
Oct 25 @ 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Tour: Looking at Landscapes: Free with admission; meet at the Information Desk by The Museum Shop.

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Hours & Admission

Hours:
Wednesday – Friday: 11 am – 5 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm
First Thursdays: 11 am – 8 pm

Admission:
Members: Free
Adults: $10
Seniors (age 62+): $8
Students (age 13 & over or with college ID): $5
Children (age 12 & under): Free
First Thursdays (from 5-8 pm): $5