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.
- René Magritte
- Time Transfixed
- Oil on canvas
- Signed, l.r.: "Magritte"
- 147 × 98.7 cm (57 7/8 × 38 7/8 in.)
- Joseph Winterbotham Collection
- © 2018 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York