Friday 14 February 2014

Trains in art and motion

To complement an earlier post about trains (and to mentioned Richard Fleischer again), here is a fantastic shot from Violent Saturday (Fleischer 1955).

It is almost like an optical illusion, with the smoke not coming from the train yet looking like it does. The low angle of the camera captures the immense sky and the plains and hills and the pylons also help to make the image come alive, without being cluttered.

Just for good measure, here are two paintings from two key European artists that also signals the allure that trains have on the imagination of artists. The first is J.M.W. Turner's Rain, Steam and Speed from 1844.

One critic said that Turner had managed to paint "speed itself". You may not see it on this small image but there is a hare in front of the train, desperately trying to escape from it, a detail that gives added meaning and depth to the painting. 

The second example is by Claude Monet, who made a number of paintings with trains (as did other Impressionists as well, such as Camille Pissarro). 

This one is called Train in the Snow (or The Locomotive), from 1875, and is much less explosive than Turner's. There is no speed here but a moment of rest, which is more in line with Monet's sensibilities. It seems cold, only the headlights generate any heat or colour, but instead of feeling in any way threatening this train seems to be kind and inviting. 

If you want to see the real paintings Turner's is to be found at the National Gallery in London (even there the hare is difficult to spot) and Monet's is at Musée Marmottan in Paris.