Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Fabulous Railway Station Paintings from the Golden Age of Train Travel

The Terminus, Penzance Station, Cornwall by Stanhope Alexander Forbes cover
Stanhope Alexander Forbes, The Terminus, Penzance Station, Cornwall (detail), 1925. National Railway Museum, York, UK.

Art Travels

Fabulous Railway Station Paintings from the Golden Age of Train Travel

Once upon a time, train travel was the height of fashion. That’s why the second half of the 19th century and first few decades of the 20th century are considered the Golden Age of Train Travel. The train represented an exciting new way to get places faster and more easily than ever before. Railway stations sprang up all over the world. Built using novel new materials like cast iron and large sheets of glass, these railway stations could be simultaneously elegant and industrial – fashionable and forward-thinking all at once.

Cannon Street Station by Algernon Talmage
Algernon Talmage, Cannon Street Station, 1908. National Railway Museum, York, UK. Photo via the-athenaeum.org.

Artists around the world were just as taken with trail travel as everybody else. Many chose trains and railway stations for the subjects of their paintings. Here are some of the best railway station paintings from the Golden Age of Train Travel.

The Terminus, Penzance Station, Cornwall by Stanhope Alexander Forbes
Stanhope Alexander Forbes, The Terminus, Penzance Station, Cornwall, 1925. National Railway Museum, York, UK. Photo via the-athenaeum.org.

The steam engine was originally invented in England, and all things railroad are still hugely popular there. So, it’s quite fitting that many British painters have portrayed the nation’s great railway stations. England is home to famous stations, such as Paddington Station (home of the beloved character Paddington Bear), King’s Cross Station (site of Platform 9 3/4 in the Harry Potter series), and St. Pancras Station.

The Railway Station by William Powell Frith
William Powell Frith, The Railway Station, 1862. University of London – Royal Holloway, London, UK. Photo via the-athenaeum.org.

The Railway Station by William Powell Frith (1818-1909) shows a crowd of well-dressed Londoners wait for their trains inside the elegant, massive arches of Paddington Station’s train shed. This is a very characteristic work for Frith, who specialized in painting huge Victorian crowds in fashionable settings. He chose to include himself and his family in this among the travelers. They appear just to the left of center, saying goodbye to their younger son on his way back to school. Mrs. Frith is kissing her son’s cheek, so she’s the easiest to spot.

View of York Station by Herbert William Garratt
Herbert William Garratt, View of York Station, c. 1909. Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, UK. Photo via the-athenaeum.org.

View of York Station, by Herbert William Garratt (1864-1913), presents a contrast to Frith’s painting in every possible way. While Frith showed the excitement and human element of train travel, Garratt focused on its industrial, mechanized side. This painting looks out from inside a locomotive approaching York Station. The train shed is just visible in the background, but we mainly see the bank of signals directing the conductor into the station. This technological focus is fitting for Garratt, who is remembered primarily as a scientist and the inventor of new kind of locomotive. Unsurprisingly, many of his paintings depict trains.

The Gare St-Lazare by Claude Monet
Claude Monet, The Gare St-Lazare. 1877. National Gallery, London, UK. Photo via the-athenaeum.org.

France produced some of the world’s best-known railway station paintings thanks to the Impressionists. Impressionism was all about depicting modern life (and also beautiful landscapes), so trains and railway stations made perfect subjects for Impressionist paintings. Claude Monet (1840-1926), who is known for painting the same subjects over and over, did a series on the Gare St-Lazare in Paris. His depictions of the Gare St-Lazare frequently show trains entering and departing the train shed, letting out steam that fills the pictures. Neo-Impressionist Maximilien Luce’s sharp-edged painting of another Parisian railway station at first appears very different than Monet’s; however, it’s also about modern life and atmosphere.

The Gare de l'Est in Snow by Maximilien Luce
Maximilien Luce, The Gare de l’Est in Snow, 1917. Musée de l’Hôtel-Dieu, Mantes-la-Jolie, France. Photo via the-athenaeum.org.

American Impressionists loved making railway station paintings, too. Philadelphia-born Colin Campbell Cooper (1856-1937) seems to have particularly enjoyed them. He painted many stations in New York and Pennsylvania, as well as numerous other landmarks throughout the world. In fact, almost all of his paintings depict architecture in one form or another. Chatham Square Station is undoubtedly the prettiest and most exciting of his many railway station paintings I considered for this post.

Chatham Square Station, New York by Colin Campbell Cooper
Colin Campbell Cooper, Chatham Square Station, New York, 1919. Private collection, Photo via the-athenaeum.org.

Chatham Square is in New York City’s Chinatown district, but sadly, this lovely elevated train station no longer exists there. However, I think that anybody visiting New York City a century later will still recognize all the the hustle and bustle of people waiting to board their trains.

(Train) Station on the Morris and Essex Railroad by Edward Lamson Henry
Edward Lamson Henry, Station on the Morris and Essex Railroad, 1864. Private collection. Photo via the-athenaeum.org.

Most of the world’s most famous railway stations are in big cities, but these aren’t the only places with train stations. Smaller towns, particularly out in the country, actually gained the most from the invention of train travel. Being on the train line put them on the map and allowed their inhabitants to communicate with the wider world far more easily than before. Edward Lamson Henry’s Station on the Morris and Essex Railroad shows a small, timber railway station in New Jersey. Horse-drawn carriages drop off and pick up passengers, while passengers wait eagerly for a train arriving from the distance. Although the buggies and Civil War-era clothing make this image look dated, the scene isn’t all that different from what you’ll see at many local train stations today.

Letchworth Station by Spencer Gore
Spencer Gore, Letchworth Station, 1912. National Railway Museum, York, UK. Photo via the-athenaeum.org.

Spencer Gore’s Letchworth Station shows a rural English station half a century later than Henry’s American version. His wonderful, colorful painting captures a cheerful day in a Hertfordshire town, with a rolling green landscape behind the locals waiting on the platform. It really looks like a place I wouldn’t mind getting off a train in! Gore (1878-1914) was a founding member of the Camden Town Group, British modernists who painted contemporary life in Post-Impressionist high-key colors.

The Eastern Railway Station at Night by Tivadar Csontvary Kosztka
Tivadar Csontvary Kosztka, The Eastern Railway Station at Night, 1902. Whereabouts unknown. Photo via the-athenaeum.org.

Hungarian Modernist Tivadar Csontvary Kosztka (1853-1919) wasn’t particularly popular during his lifetime, but he’s greatly respected in Hungary today. His painting of Eastern Railway Station has a subtle, Avant-Garde magic that I find very compelling. It contrasts the inviting lights of the train station with the dark, cold night shown outside. Only a few horse-drawn carriages populate the left side of the painting. It’s easy to imagine that we’re seeing the viewpoint of another carriage arriving to pick up or drop off a passenger.

Dear DailyArt Magazine readers! We want to make our website even better for you. Could you spare 5 minutes time to take a short survey? Here it is! Thank you!


Sources:
– “Colin Campbell Cooper (1856-1937)” Sullivan Goss.
– “Spencer Gore (The Camden Town Group in Context)“. Tate.org.
– “Herbert William Garratt“. Science Museum Group.
– “William Powell Frith (1818-1909): The Railway Station“. Royal Collection Trust.
– Karasz, Palko. “Hungary Honors a Self-Proclaimed Genius“. The New York Times. December 2, 2015.

Alexandra believes that enjoying the art of the past is the closest she can get to time travel, only much safer. When she’s not being an art historian, she can usually be found ice skating and dancing. Visit her at ascholarlyskater.com.

Comments

More in Art Travels

  • René Magritte, The Lovers II, 1928, Museum of Modern Art, New York Rene magritte Lovers rene magritte Love René Magritte, The Lovers II, 1928, Museum of Modern Art, New York Rene magritte Lovers rene magritte Love

    Love Story

    René Magritte: Lovers in Separation

    By

    Now, while we are all being asked to practice social distancing, you have probably been bombarded with the paintings of lovers by René Magritte. Magritte’s surreal style is unmistakable, his wit is well-known but his depictions of love and lovers are quite disturbing. These beautiful (and...

  • 20th century

    The Window and the Pitchfork: The Story Behind Wood’s American Gothic

    By

    Under the blue sky of Iowa, a man and a woman stand solemnly in front of their house. They are farmers as suggested by their clothing and the pitchfork the man is holding. This is Wood’s American Gothic, one of the most iconic artworks in American...

  • 20th century

    10 Things You Must Know About Tamara de Lempicka

    By

    Tamara de Lempicka was many things: a successful artist, a society darling, an expat. She knew how to create interest in herself and capitalize on it. She was an artist and a celebrity at the same time. You may say she was way ahead of her...

  • 20th century

    Once Upon a Time in Moscow: Pertsov’s House, a Russian Terem Amidst Modern Buildings

    By

    This building from the art-nouveau era is a sight for sore eyes! Pertsov’s house is an interesting example of Russian classical folk influences combined with 20th century architecture. Pertsov’s Apartment House is one of the most famous buildings in Moscow. The house is an embodiment of...

  • 20th century

    5 Modern Women Artists to Know

    By

    When we think of modern women artists, certain names immediately come to mind. For instance, anyone can name Frida Kahlo, and the more well-read will even mention names like Leonora Carrington or Hilma af Klint. However, the art of women who lived and created in the...

To Top

Just to let you know, DailyArt Magazine’s website uses cookies to personalise content and adverts, to provide social media features and to analyse traffic. Read cookies policy