A Surreal interpretation of the 19th century German Romantic painters, Le domaine d'Arnheim is a gouache of the bird-mountain motif that occurred in several of Magritte's paintings. It had already appeared in a nascent form in an undated early oil, but found itself consolidated in the two versions of Le précurseur of 1936. However, this simple landscape format changed with the introduction of the eggs, the glass and the windowsill that fuel the Surreal chain of loose associations that lends Le domaine d'Arnheim its striking visual power. The image of Magritte's bird-mountain with its impossible abandoned eggs has become one of his most iconic, not least because of the inclusion of the 1938 oil of the same subject being included in a huge number of major exhibitions of the artist's works.
Discussing this oil version of the picture, Magritte explained that 'I was trying to paint a mountain and thought of giving it a bird's shape and calling this image Le domaine d'Arnheim, the title of one of Poe's stories. Poe would have liked seeing this mountain (he shows us landscapes and mountains in his story)' (Magritte, quoted in Harry Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, trans. Richard Miller, New York, 1977, p. 205). Magritte believed that Poe would have enjoyed this mountain view for several reasons, not least because of its uncanny eagle appearance, which would not have been out of place in one of his stories. The title of this painting and its intentions also link Poe and Magritte, for The Domain of Arnheim was Poe's own cynical take on German Romanticism, while Le domaine d'Arnheim marries Caspar David Friedrich's works with Wonderland logic.
Magritte would later recall that the development of Le domaine d'Arnheim had taken six months, an intriguing insight into the dedication with which the artist carried out his research into theworld around him. Essentially, he would take an object from the real world - a tree, a door, or in this case a mountain - and try to uncover his own 'solution' for the image, a way of presenting its associative power in such a way as to jar the viewer out of a lazy, unappreciative understanding of the subject. Here, the alpine vista has been filled with a strange life, Magritte forcing the viewer to reconsider everything that they once thought they knew about mountains.