René Magritte (1898-1967)
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René Magritte (1898-1967)

Landscape with rider

René Magritte (1898-1967)
Landscape with rider
oil on canvas
17¾ x 19 5/8 in. (45 x 50 cm.)
Painted in 1967
Georgette Magritte, Brussels, until 1986.
The Magritte Studio Sale, Sotheby's London, 2 July 1989, lot 893. Galerie Christine et Isy Brachot, Brussels.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Germinal, Brussels (?), 2 February 1968 (illustrated p. 11).
De Vlaamse gids, Brussels (?), March 1974, p. 21 (illustrated in a photograph of the interior of Magritte's house).
S. Lauryssens, 'Le modèle du maître', Panorama, 6 August 1974, p. 29.
H. Torczyner, Magritte, Signos e Imagenes, Barcelona, 1978, no. 387, p. 179 (illustrated).
Paris Match, Paris, 26 January 1979, p. 50 (illustrated in a photograph of the interior of Magritte's house).
Sphere, Brussels, January-February 1985, p. 23 (illustrated in colour in a photograph of the interior of Magritte's house).
J. Meuris, Magritte, Paris, 1988, no. 262, p. 179 (illustrated).
M. Paquet, René Magritte, Cologne-Bonn, 1992, p. 19 (illustrated).
D. Sylvester, Ed., René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. III: Oil Paintings, Objects and Bronzes 1949-1967, London, 1993, no. 1066 (illustrated p. 446).
Brussels, Galerie Isy Brachot, Magritte, Cent cinquante oeuvres: première vue mondiale de ses sculptures, January-February 1968, no. 116.
Lessines, Hôtel de Ville, Hommage de la Ville de Lessines à René Magritte, May 1973, no. 22 or 23.
Brussels, Galerie Isy Brachot, Rétrospective Magritte dans les collections privées, January-March 1988 (illustrated p. 173).
Tokyo, Mitsukoshi Museum of Art, René Magritte, November 1994- January 1995, no. 73, p. 198 (illustrated); This exhibition later travelled to Osaka, Daimaru Museum, March, and Fukuoka, City Museum, April-May.
Dusseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Magritte, November 1996-March 1997, no. 46 (illustrated in colour p. 132).
Brussels, Galerie Christine et Isy Brachot, Hommage à Magritte, 1998.
Barcelona, Fundació Joan Miró, Magritte, 1998-1999, no. 35, p. 112 (illustrated in colour).
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Lot Essay

'I find this evocation of night and day is endowed with the power to surprise and enchant us. I call this power: poetry.'(René Magritte, quoted in Harry Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, trans. Richard Miller, New York, 1977.)

Executed in 1967, the year of René Magritte's death, this painting was the artist's final reprisal of his most recurrent image, usually entitled L'empire des lumières, and representing a nocturnal landscape underneath a daylight sky. This particular work was painted by Magritte for a German friend of his, but the artist died very shortly before applying his final touches to the painting, and the painting remained in the collection of Georgette, Magritte's wife, until her death in 1986. The prominence it was afforded in Georgette Magritte's home is particularly noteworthy, as the photographs of the interior testify.

The almost finished state of the work lends it a poignant ambience and also affords a rare opportunity to examine the actual process of Magritte's draughtsmanship. He was a painter who, during most of his career, avoided anything which could be perceived as a 'style', feeling that any question of style would detract from the actual image, an interesting exception being his mocking foray into Impressionism during the Second World War. In this work, the sky is almost complete, as is the skyline, but there is a lack of finish to the trees unseen in a completed work, which reveals Magritte's actual painterly process of construction.

This picture shows the melding of two elements. Not only is the night/day dichotomy played out, but there is also a rider approaching the house at a gallop. This rider motif had appeared earlier in Les barricades mysterieuses, painted in 1961. Here, it adds a narrative flavour. There is some urgency and real mystery about the purpose of the rider, not only in an iconographic context, but also within the universe of the painting.
Magritte has here deliberately manipulated the viewer's expectations and faculties of understanding. He has portrayed two elements which the mind automatically recognises, but by placing them on the same canvas he has upset the dichotomy which the exists in the real world of conscious experience: there cannot be night at the same time as day. It is through this disruption of spectatorial preconceptions that Magritte forces the viewer to reassess both the mental process of understanding, and the realities of night and day. This is where Magritte derives his poetry: by juxtaposing the two opposing elements in a way that the mind knows is impossible, Magritte makes the viewer look with fresh eyes and fresh perceptions at night and day. The addition of the rider lends the work the deceptive appearance of a traditional Old Master Flemish landscape, in some manner taking the focus from the larger theme, and thereby making the larger theme all the more powerful. The presence of a figure involves the viewer in the world of the painting, as do the lighted windows in the house, making the incongruous day sky all the more potent above the inhabited night. Essentially, the surprise Magritte provokes removes the familiarity which hinders our wonder at the simplest but most glorious elements of our universe, perfectly captured by André Breton's words, 'If only the sun were to come out tonight'.


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