La Gâcheuse [The Bungler]
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2006

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La Gâcheuse [The Bungler] 1935
This painting is a Surrealist version of a vanitas painting, presenting youth and death in a wittily macabre combination. It is typical of Magritte’s work in that it is a finely painted scene which combines dramatically different elements in a deadpan style, making an illogical scene appear credible. Painted as a grisaille on tinted paper, it was made to be reproduced in black and white on the cover of the Belgian edition of the ‘Bulletin International du Surréalisme’. The painting formerly belonged to the jazz musician George Melly, who was involved with the British Surrealist Group while in his teens and was a great admirer of Magritte’s work.

Glossary Open


A style of monochromatic painting in shades of grey.


A literary and artistic movement founded by the poet André Breton in 1924. Many of the associated artists, such as Max Ernst and Jean Arp, had previously been involved with Dadaism. The movement sought to challenge conventions through the exploration of the subconscious mind, invoking the power of dreams and elements of chance. Cultural hierarchies were challenged by the combination of diverse elements in collages and sculptural assemblages. The movement is also notable for the collaborations between artists and writers evident in the Surrealists' many publications.


A still life in which the elements remind the viewer of human mortality. A common element is the skull. This was a popular subject in 17th century Holland.

Grisaille, Surrealism, Vanitas


  • Acc. No. GMA 3998
  • Medium Gouache on paper
  • Size 20.00 x 13.60 cm (framed: 31.10 x 38.40 x 2.20 cm)
  • Credit Bequeathed by Gabrielle Keiller 1995