Lot 4
  • 4

RENÉ MAGRITTE | La Locomotive

150,000 - 250,000 EUR
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  • 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


The cardboard is stable and is slightly convex. Examination under UV light reveals a line of retouching running vertically along the upper part of the extreme right edge (approx. 8 cm long), two small dots of retouching to the upper right quadrant and a small area of retouching (approx. 1 cm wide) associated with a few tiny paint losses at the upper left corner. There are further smaller lines of minor retouching related to craquelure in places, most predominately to the black and brown pigments (as visible in the catalogue illustration). There are some pinholes along the extreme edges, associated with a few tiny paint losses at the lower left tip and some frame rubbing along the extreme edges. This work is in overall fairly good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

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.