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

La catapulte du désert

René Magritte (1898-1967)
La catapulte du désert
signed 'Magritte' (bottom right); signed and titled 'Magritte La Catapulte du désert' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
25 x 29¾ in. (75.5 x 64.8 cm.)
Painted in 1926
Galerie L'Epoque, Brussels (no. GS263).
Jean Van Parys, Brussels by 1956.
Acquired from the above by the present owner through the agency of Galerie Isy Brachot, Brussels, circa 1990.
Le Fait accompli, no. 34-5, Brussels, April 1970.
D. Sylvester (ed.), René Magritte, Catalogue raisonné, vol. I, Oil Paintings 1916-1930, Antwerp, 1992, p. 188, no. 108 (illustrated p. 188).
Brussels, Galerie Le Centaure, Exposition Magritte, April - May 1927, no. 18.
Charleroi, Salle de la Bourse, L'exposition de quelques toiles de René Magritte, January 1929, no. 3.
Charleroi, Salle de la Bourse, XXXe salon du Cercle Royal Artistique et Littéraire de Charleroi, Rétrospective René Magritte, March 1956, no. 25 (on loan from Jean Van Parys).
New York, The Pace Gallery, René Magritte: Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, May - June 1990.
Verona, Palazzo Forti, Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Da Magritte a Magritte, July - October 1991, no. 16 (illustrated in colour p. 66).
Brussels, Galerie Isy Brachot, René Magritte et la pensée, January - February 1993.
Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, René Magritte 1898-1967, March - June 1998, no. 25 (illustrated in colour p. 64).
Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Magritte, August - November 1999, no. 1 (illustrated in colour p. 20).
Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, René Magritte, December 1999 - March 2000.
San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art, René Magritte, May - September 2000.
Paris, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Magritte, February - June 2003 (illustrated in colour p. 54).
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Lot Essay

Painted in 1926, La catapulte du désert is a mysterious and engaging work that is filled with all the strangeness of Magritte's visual universe. This picture dates from less than three years after Magritte's 1923 epiphany, when he saw de Chirico's Le chant d'amour, a work that forced him to completely reassess his approach to painting. Immediately, a new energy entered his work as he introduced and developed the disjointed and surreal visual world that would become his trademark. Magritte's assurance in La catapulte du désert intriguingly illustrates one of the most important stages of this evolution. Already, Magritte was painting works that were filled with an authority, Magritte tapping into his innate ability to make the strange appear iconic. La catapulte du désert reveals an artist who, after only a few years as a Surrealist, was already at the forefront of Surreal thinking. It is a reflection both of public and academic interest in paintings from this crucial, cutting-edge period of Magritte's art, and of La catapulte du désert's position amongst these early works, that this painting has featured in so many exhibitions.

In La catapulte du désert, Magritte has presented dispersed and impossible dream-like elements from the real world - curtains, clouds, a man's shadow - but has juxtaposed them in such a way that each is 'out of its element.' In this way, he harnesses some of the timeless, stimmung-soaked atmosphere of de Chirico's painting. However, the domestic origins and scale of the depicted objects, their very endemic nature in our world, means that La catapulte du désert forces the scales from the viewer's eyes. The visual qualities of the everyday world are presented in a new and absurd light, forcing us to reappraise all that we have taken for granted, Magritte inducing a new, Surreal epiphany.


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