Times are hard for everybody in Europe in 1942. Magritte is deeply questioning his own art, soon to enter a new phase of mocking Impressionism and Fauvism. Les compagnons de la peur is a singular painting based of Magritte's classical style of the artist but with a very rare political message supported by its title.
I discussed it as follows before the 2015 sale.
In front of a mountain scenery, a group of five owls occupies a dominant position from where they scan their environment with the severity of Gestapo. The arid mountain and the heavy sky increase the anxiety. In Magritte's usual rendering of the contraries the night birds look well awake in day light.
The power of these birds is an illusion. They are not birds but leaf-bird hybrids planted in their eagle's nest from where they will never take flight. The harm suggested by their uncompromising attitude will not be enforced. Some young leaves are nevertheless ready for their metamorphosis.
The leaf-bird is thus the opposite of Miro's free bird. It is following the mineral-human hybrids with which Magritte was already questioning the deep nature of beings.
SOLD for £ 4.7M including premium