♣ No. VII ~ Time Transfixed

Most of you recognize the name of this painting which is a masterpiece done by the great artist, René Magritte.

René François Ghislain Magritte [21 November 1898 – 15 August 1967] standing in front of his painting, “The Pilgrim”
(Photograph taken by Lothar Wolleh)

René Magritte – the famous Belgian Surrealist artist – was born on November 21, 1898 in Lessiness, Belgium.  He went to study in Brussels at Académie des Beaux-Arts for two years [1916 – 1918]. He then decided to settle in Brussels and began making his living by designing wallpaper and drawing fashion advertisements at first.

Magritte became very friendly with a variety of respected writers and poets like Geomans, Scutenaire, Mesens, and Nougé. They all – along with Magritte – were interested in evoking mystery. They were later on the founders of the Belgian Surrealist group.

In 1925, Magritte decided to leave his early Cubist-Futurist experiments, which were under the influence of De Chirico, and begin experimenting and exploring more ways of creating a poetic, alien, and distinguishable effects by playing around with objects (altering their normal scale, placing them in strange settings, creating a startling combination of objects, etc.).  His first one-mane exhibition was held at the Galerie Le Centaure, Brussels, in 1927.

He then lived at Perreux-sur-Marne, a suburb of Paris, for three years (till 1930). There, he met Arp, Breton, Dali, Eluard, Buñuel, Miró, and Tanguy.

After that, he returned back to Brussels to spend the rest of his life there. A cycle of murals, The Enchanted Domain, was painted from his designs in the Casino at Knokke in 1951-3, and eight sculptures were made under his supervision in 1967 from themes in his paintings.

Magritte died of pancreatic cancer on August 15, 1967 at the age of 68 in his own bed in Brussels.

Time Transfixed [1938] Oil on Canvas
Oil on canvas, 147 cm × 98.7 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago

Note: Apologies in advance in case the analysis gets a bit choppy.


As you can notice in the painting, the clock above the fireplace refers, obviously, to time. And, regarding the note mentioned above about Magritte’s way of combining different elements together and placing objects in alien settings, it shows with the element of the train. If removed, the painting would look pretty normal, so it is definitely the center of attention mostly. Why is it sticking out of the fireplace and hanging in mid-air like that? And even though it’s just stuck to the wall, motionless, the steam contradicts this stillness and makes the train appear alive and working. I think the train is there because people back then, and even now in most of the countries around the world, are familiar with the train and they consider it as a daily object that best describes length, as well as motion. Two things which can also be used to described time. I think Magritte painted the locomotive alone and not the whole train because he wants it to seem like a snapshot of a moment, like the process of making a stop-motion film. Hence, the term “transfixed”. This is how he manages to leave a sense of continuity in the painting. The viewer can’t but imagine the painting as a very short film of the train passing through the fireplace – moving forward because of the steam and the fact that the train is not falling of or bending downward – its parts/carriages hidden behind the wall showing one by one and the train moves forward.

CopyScape - No for Plagiarism© Nour Fakih 2012 – 2013


~ by Núr on August 31, 2013.

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