René Magritte masterpiece offered at Christie's for first time

René Magritte, 'A la rencontre du plaisir' (1962)

"A la rencontre du plaisir (Towards Pleasure)" will be one of the highlights of Christie's The Art of The Surreal evening sale on February 5.

This poetic masterpiece combines several elements of the Belgian artist's personal inventory of everyday objects and motifs, including the moon and his signature bowler-hatted man.

This instantly recognizable character first appeared in Magritte's oeuvre in 1926, acting as the central protagonist in "Les rêveries du promeneur solitaire."

"The bowler ... presents no surprise. It is a headgear lacking originality. The man in the bowler hat simply constitutes the middle class in its anonymity," the artist once said of his recurring character.

However, the bowler-hatted man disappeared from Magritte's compositions for over two decades, making his return in "A la rencontre du plaisir (Towards Pleasure)" where he appears lost in thought before a mist-filled pasture.

This Surrealist painting was acquired directly from Magritte by an anonymous European collector shortly after its completion in 1962.

It has remained in the same private collection for over 50 years, hitting the auction block for the first time in February at Christie's London.

"A la rencontre du plaisir (Towards Pleasure)" is estimated to sell for between £8 million and £12 million ($10.4 million and $15.6 million) -- a presale high estimate far from Magritte's current auction record of $26.8 million.

This record price was achieved in 2018 at Sotheby's New York after a four-minute bidding war for "Le Principe du Plaisir (The Pleasure Principle)."

"A la rencontre du plaisir (Towards Pleasure)" is one of seven masterpieces by Magritte to be offered during Christie's The Art of the Surreal evening sale, with estimates ranging from £350,000 to £8,000,000.

Among them are the Edouard Manet-inspired "Perspective: Le balcon de Manet of 1949," "Les fleurs de l'abîme," and "Le baiser (The Kiss)."

Ahead of The Art of the Surreal evening sale on February 5, "A la rencontre du plaisir (Towards Pleasure)" will be on public view at Christie's London gallery beginning on January 30.