Belgian Surrealist René Magritte’s masterpiece The Castle of the Pyrenees was commissioned by the artist’s longtime friend, the international lawyer, poet, and author Harry Torczyner. The unfolding of the commission and evolution of the painting are documented in letters between the two men, which were published by the Israel Museum in 1991. Though Magritte had complete freedom, the correspondence reveals that his patron was encouraged to express his opinions on the choice of a subject. From a number of drawings proposed by Magritte, Torczyner selected one of a large rock surmounted by a castle. Intimately acquainted with the artist’s repertoire, Torczyner added the suggestion of a sky on a clear day and a rough darkish sea “because over the dark sea or ocean there rises the rock of hope, topped by a fortress, a castle.” As Magritte refined the painting, he decided to exclude other proposed additions so that it would retain the “vigor” and “harshness” he envisioned.
The Castle of the Pyrenees has become one of Magritte’s best known and most-reproduced images. It embodies the artist’s typical disturbing juxtaposition of familiar objects, combined with captivating poetry and mystery.
From the Israel Museum publications:
Zalmona, Yigal, ed., The Israel Museum at 40: Masterworks of Beauty and Sanctity, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2005
The Israel Museum, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005
Beauty and Sanctity: the Israel Museum at 40. A Series of Exhibitions Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Zalmona, Yigal, 2006
Kamien-Kazhdan, Adina, Surrealism and Beyond in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2007
Kamien-Kazhdan, Adina (ed.), Modernism in Dialogue: 20th-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Israel Museum, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2010
3x50@50: IMJ Collection Highlights, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2015
Dada Surrealism and Beyond in the Israel Museum, 2007
The Beauty of Sanctity: Masterworks from Every Age, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 29/03/2005 - 12/11/2005
Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: Nancy Wald, in honor of the memory of Benjamin Miller