Much to their surprise, the curators of the biggest Magritte exhibition mounted in Britain have discovered that one of his works is a cult object to Marc Bolan and T Rex fans, who are expected to make their way to Tate Liverpool in droves to see the painting.
To Magritte admirers, The Sixteenth of September is a deceptively realistic work painted in 1956, one of a series in which the artist plays tricks with light and time of day. It shows a crescent moon impossibly shining through the dark mass of a tree, against a dawn sky.
To Bolan fans, the painting has an entirely different significance: 16 September 1977 was the date the singer was returning home in the small hours from a night out, in a Mini driven by his girlfriend Gloria Jones.
The car span off the road and hit a tree on Barnes Common in west London. She was badly injured and he was killed, two weeks before the 30th birthday he had predicted he would not live to see. A shrine, lovingly tended by fans and never without flowers, now marks the spot.
Fans say the tree in the painting closely resembles the sycamore the car crashed into, and the moon was at the same phase on 16 September 1977.
...The curators were already in discussions with the Kunsthaus in Zurich for The Sixteenth of September when they learned of the Bolan connection – from Martin Barden, Tate's head of ticketing and a lifelong Bolan fan.
He is just as keen on Magritte and bought a postcard of the painting as a child on a family holiday in Paris, and kept it by his bed for years.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing the actual painting that I've known so well for so many years," he said. "Now the word is out, I expect there are going to be a lot of us."