Time Transfixed

Surrealist painting of miniature train exiting fireplace mid-air, large mirror over mantle.
© 2018 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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  • Surrealist painting of miniature train exiting fireplace mid-air, large mirror over mantle.

Date:

1938

Artist:

René Magritte
Belgian, 1898–1967

About this artwork

Impressed by René Magritte’s submissions to the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition, the collector Edward James invited the artist to paint canvases for the ballroom of his London home. In response, Magritte conceived On the Threshold of Liberty (in the collection of the Art Institute) and his now-famous Time Transfixed. The artist later explained this picture: “I decided to paint the image of a locomotive. . . . In order for its mystery to be evoked, another immediately familiar image without mystery—the image of a dining room fireplace—was joined.” The surprising juxtaposition and scale of unrelated elements, heightened by Magritte’s precise realism, gives the picture its perplexity and allure. The artist transformed the stovepipe of a coal-burning stove into a charging locomotive, situating the train in a fireplace vent so that it appears to be emerging from a railway tunnel. Magritte was unhappy with the English translation of the original French, La durée poignardé, which literally means “ongoing time stabbed by a dagger.” He hoped that the painting would be installed at the bottom of the collector’s staircase so that the train would “stab” guests on their way up to the ballroom. Ironically, James installed it over his fireplace instead.

On View

Modern Art, Gallery 396

Artist

René Magritte

Title

Time Transfixed

Origin

Belgium

Date

1938

Medium

Oil on canvas

Inscriptions

Signed, l.r.: "Magritte"

Dimensions

57 7/8 × 38 7/8 in. (147 × 98.7 cm)

Credit Line

Joseph Winterbotham Collection

Reference Number

1970.426

Copyright

© 2018 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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