Lot 4
  • 4

RENÉ MAGRITTE | La Locomotive

150,000 - 250,000 EUR
bidding is closed


  • René Magritte
  • La Locomotive
  • signed René Magritte and dated 1922 (lower left); titled "LOCOMOTIVE", signed René MAGRITTE and dated 1922 (on the reverse)
  • oil on cardboard
  • 36 x 44,8 cm; 14 1/8 x 17 5/8 in.
  • Painted in 1922.


Private collection, Europe (gift from the artist)
Private collection, Europe (by descent from the above and sold: Christie's, Amsterdam, October 12, 1999, lot 148)
KBL epb, Luxembourg (acquired from the above)
Private collection, Brussels


Antwerp, Cercle Royal Artistique, Exposition organisée par la revue Ça Ira, 1923, no. 61


Letter from Magritte to Maurice Van Essche, January 30, 1923
David Sylvester & Sarah Whitfield, René Magritte, Catalogue raisonné I : Oil Paintings, 1916-1930, Antwerp, 1992, no. 34, illustrated p. 142

Catalogue Note

The 1920s were a period of intense creativity for the young Magritte, who developed his style while drawing upon various influences.

According to Edouard Léon Théodore Mesens, “Magritte […] painted under a wide range of influences: Matisse, the Futurists and Albert Gleizes, rather than Picasso. He knew most of these painters only through reproductions.” (Mesens, in “René Magritte”, Peintres belges contemporains, Brussels, 1947, p. 157). His meeting with Mesens in the 1920s was seminal. Together, the two artists consulted the exhibition catalogues of various movements, including first and foremost that of the Futurist movement. While this Futurist inspiration is particularly noticeable in Locomotive due to the almost kinetic way in which it is handled, in this work, Magritte also drew inspiration from the Cubists, which is particularly noticeable in his use of a rhythmic grid pattern and solid colours. It was in 1919, while working in a studio shared with Pierre-Louis Flouquet, with whom he collaborated on the journal Au volant, that he discovered Cubism and Futurism. It is also interesting to note that the train, a symbol of the Industrial Revolution and the modern world, is a key theme that had fascinated painters since the mid-19th century. By refining the subject matter, Magritte pushes Cubist principles to their limit, retaining only the basic structural lines, leading him towards abstraction. Blending substance and form, the handling of this subject matter opens up an oneiric dimension that heralds Magritte’s later works.

This painting was shown at the Antwerp International Exhibition in 1923, which was organized by the journal Ça ira. It reveals the artist’s persistent pursuit of a Constructivist style before he invented his own universe upon his discovery of Le chant d’amour by the painter Giorgio de Chirico, during the same year, which bowled him over with its poetry of familiar objects in a static, silent setting. Even though the works from this period lie at the edges of abstraction, Magritte always wanted to work with reality, selecting the then traditional title Locomotive, following the Impressionist period.