Gino Severini

Suburban Train Arriving in Paris


In Tate Modern

Gino Severini 1883–1966
Original title
Train de banlieue arrivant à Paris
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 886 × 1156 mm
frame: 1047 × 1316 × 95 mm
Purchased with assistance from a member of the Art Fund 1968

Display caption

This painting of a train arriving in Paris attempts to express movement and conflicting energies through its fractured, interpenetrating forms. Like all the Italian futurists, Severini was inspired by modern machinery and was enthusiastic about the idea of war. In June 1915 he stayed for some weeks just outside Paris where the sight of trains passing close by day and night laden with munitions, soldiers or wounded prompted the creation of this work.

Gallery label, February 2016

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Catalogue entry

Gino Severini 1883-1966

T01070 Train de Banlieue arrivant à Paris (Suburban Train arriving in Paris) 1915

Inscribed 'G. Severini' b.r. and 'Gino Severini 3 | Train de bainlieu [sic] arrivant a Paris 1915' on back of canvas (the words 'de bainlieu' were inserted as a correction)
Oil on canvas, 34 7/8 x 45 1/2 (89 x 116)
Purchased from M. Knoedler & Co., New York (Special Grant-in-Aid), with the aid of a donation from a member of the NACF 1968
Prov: Hugh Breckenridge, Philadelphia (purchased from the artist through the 291 Gallery, New York, 1917); Charles Temple, New York, 1937; Mrs Esther Kee, New York; with Knoedler, New York
Exh: Exposition Futuriste d'Art Plastique de la Guerre, Galerie Boutet de Monvel, Paris, January 1916 (7) as 'Train arrivant à Paris'; Severini, 291 Gallery, New York, March 1917 (no catalogue)
Lit: Gino Severini, Tutta la Vita di un Pittore (Milan 1946), pp.236-7; Marianne W. Martin, Futurist Art and Theory 1909-1915 (Oxford 1968), pp.198-9; 'Acquisitions of Modern Art by Museums' in Burlington Magazine, CXII, 1970, p.339, repr. p.344; Joan M. Lukach, 'Severini's 1917 Exhibition at Stieglitz's "291"' in Burlington Magazine, CXII, 1971, pp.196-206, repr. p.198; Angelica Zander Rudenstine, The Guggenheim Museum Collection: Paintings 1880-1945 (New York 1976), Vol.2, pp.650-4
Repr: The Tate Gallery (London 1969), p.113 in colour

Severini records in his autobiography Tutta la Vita di un Pittore, pp.236-7, that after his return from Barcelona at the end of June 1915, he took his family for some weeks to Igny in the countryside outside Paris, where the sight of trains passing close by day and night laden with munitions, soldiers or wounded prompted him to begin making his so-called war paintings of trains. He afterwards continued this series in the autumn when he was occupying a small apartment in the Rue de la Tombe-Issoire overlooking the station of Denfert-Rochereau. The first paintings and drawings were inspired by what he saw before his eyes, but the later ones became more and more synthetic and symbolic until those done the following winter turned into true 'symbols of war'.

'Red Cross Train passing a Village' in the Guggenheim Museum, New York, shows a train passing through a rural landscape, with a few houses, and must almost certainly have been painted at Igny, as is confirmed by the presence of the word IGNY (now overpainted) in one of the bottom corners. The Tate's picture is similar in treatment, but depicts a train arriving in Paris, and was possibly the first train painting done after his return there. 'Armoured Train' (coll. Richard S. Zeisler, New York) and 'Red Cross Train' (Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam) both seem to belong to the later, more symbolic phase, though the latter also has a sign in the foreground with the word IGNY. All four paintings are the same size, though two are upright in format instead of landscape-shaped.

T01070 seems to have been included in Severini's Exposition Futuriste d'Art Plastique de la Guerre in Paris in January 1916, as it probably corresponds with painting no.7 listed on the invitation card, 'Train arrivant à Paris' (which was apparently the original form of the title inscribed on the back). Mrs Joan M. Lukach, who has attempted to identify all the pictures shown in Severini's subsequent exhibition at Stieglitz's gallery in New York, has found that the full title and the number 3 inscribed on the back correspond with one of the pictures in the numbered list which Severini sent to Stieglitz when this exhibition was being prepared. The other pictures in this exhibition also have numbers on the back which tally with this list.

There is a closely related drawing in pencil and crayon, 47 x 56cm, now in the collection of J.P. Smid in Amsterdam, which was originally given by Severini in 1916 to the Dutch collector H. van Assendelft and which has an inscription 'à Monsieur H. van Assendelft | en souvenir de son ami devoué | Gino Severini | Paris juillet 1916'. Apart from a few minor differences, such as the absence of the red sign on the right and the inclusion of the additional words 'café de malt' on the Kneipp advertisement, it corresponds closely in composition to this painting, but is rather more precise and assured in treatment, which suggests that it was done afterwards, as a revised version. Van Assendelft was an early friend and patron of Kandinsky, Mondrian and Severini, and was the first owner of the Stedelijk Museum's train painting.

This picture was kept rolled for at least thirty years and there were a number of small paint losses along the top and bottom. It was relined by order of Knoedler's on a transparent fibreglass fabric, but all the retouching was carried out at the Tate after its acquisition.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.684-5, reproduced p.684

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