Time Transfixed

Time Transfixed

La Durée poignardée (Time Transfixed)
Artist René Magritte
Year 1938
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 147 cm × 98.7 cm (57.87 in × 38.86 in)
Location Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago

Time Transfixed is an oil on canvas painting by the Belgian surrealist René Magritte. It is part of the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago and is usually on display in the museum's new Modern Wing.[1]

The painting was one of many done for surrealist patron and Magritte supporter Edward James. This was the second painting delivered to James for his London ballroom. The first was the portrait of James, Not to be Reproduced.[2] Time Transfixed was purchased by the Art Institute from James in 1970 when he was raising capital to build his surrealist sculpture garden Las Pozas.[2]

The painting depicts an LMS 4-6-0 Locomotive jutting out of a fireplace, at full steam, in an empty room. Above the mantelpiece is a tall mirror. Only the clock and one candlestick standing on the mantelpiece are reflected in the mirror, suggesting that there are neither people nor furniture in the room.

The artist's perspective

The title of the painting translates to English literally as "Ongoing Time Stabbed by a Dagger" and Magritte was reportedly unhappy with the generally accepted translation of "Time Transfixed".[3] Magritte hoped that James would hang the painting at the base of his staircase so that the train would "stab" guests on their way up to the ballroom.[2] James instead chose to hang the painting above his own fireplace.[4]

Magritte described his motivation for this painting:

"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."[1]


  1. ^ a b The Art Institute of Chicago: Art Access
  2. ^ a b c Object Information | The Art Institute of Chicago
  3. ^ René Magritte / Time Transfixed / 1938
  4. ^ Art Institute of Chicago Self-Guide: Modern Wing Highlights