RENE MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
RENE MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
RENE MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection
RENE MAGRITTE (1898-1967)

Stimulation objective

RENE MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
Stimulation objective
signed ‘Magritte’ (upper right)
gouache on paper
18 1/8 x 14 1/4 in. (46.3 x 36.2 cm.)
Painted circa 1938-1939
Private collection, Brussels (by 1968).
Waddington Custot Galleries, London.
Jack Tilton Gallery, New York (acquired from the above).
Private collection, United States (acquired from the above, 2000); sale, Christie’s, New York, 12 May 2016, lot 34C.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
P. Waldberg, René Magritte, Brussels, 1965, p. 254 (illustrated).
D. Sylvester, ed., René Magritte: Catalogue Raisonné, Gouaches, Temperas, Watercolors and Papiers Collés, 1918-1967, London, 1994, vol. IV, p. 40, no. 1154 (illustrated) and vol. II, p. 73.
Brussels, Palais des beaux-arts, René Magritte, May 1939, no. 11.
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Lot Essay

What at first glance seems to be a still life placed on a window ledge with an azure seascape stretching beyond, is, on closer look, a strange, surreal vision in which objects are duplicated within themselves in René Magritte’s Stimulation objective. Here, replica forms of the pitcher and apple are superimposed over the objects they mimic, creating a bizarre, trompe-l’oeil-like effect that immerses the viewer into the artist’s surreal world, one in which the concepts of artifice, illusion, and reality are constantly subverted and questioned.
The concept of superimposing an exact replica of an image on top of itself was a novel theme in Magritte’s work at this time. Stimulation objective is one of this small and important group—each of which shares the same title—comprising three gouaches (Sylvester, nos. 1153, 1155, and the present work), and a single oil (Sylvester, no. 468). All of these works were exhibited for the first time in a one-man show of the artist held at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels in May 1939.
While in the oil, Magritte painted a landscape occupied by a lion, barrel and a large rock, the subject matter of the three gouaches is more closely linked: the present work shows a pitcher and an apple placed upon a stone window ledge, another pictures this same ledge, with a plaster torso positioned in front of a similar seascape. The other features the same torso, set instead upon a table within an interior. It was Magritte’s friend, Paul Nougé who apparently came up with the title for these works, “Objective stimuli,” writing in the introductory text of the show: “Lastly, I recommend the reader to meditate on the strange series of Stimulations objectives; they give one a feeling of those famous ‘new horizons’ that are referred to so often and so inappropriately” (quoted in D. Sylvester and S. Whitfield, René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1992, vol. II, p. 273).
David Sylvester has suggested that the device of replicating the object upon itself may have been inspired by a type of photography that similarly replicated images, which Magritte had perhaps recalled from his friend, Paul-Gustave van Hecke’s periodical entitled, Variétés in October 1929 (D. Sylvester and S. Whitfield, René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1992, vol. IV, p. 39).
The repetition of imagery within a single composition had long been a device Magritte relished as he constantly sought to undermine the way we see. In addition to juxtaposing unexpected combinations of objects, he frequently included compositional motifs such as the “picture within a picture,” which played with the conventional relationship between representation and reality. With his art, Magritte demonstrated that a painting never presents a “real” image, but rather a flat, fictional artifice that only purports to show reality. This concept is embodied in the present work: by overlaying replicated images on top of one another, Magritte was emphasizing the inherent fiction and thus the endless mystery of an artistic representation. “The image is separate from what it shows,” he once explained. “What we can see that delights us in a painted image becomes uninteresting if what we are shown through the image is encountered in reality; and the contrary, too: what pleases us in reality, we are indifferent to in the image of this pleasing reality if we don’t confuse real and surreal, and surreal with subreal” (quoted in H. Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, New York, 1977, p. 109).

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