Art in the Age of Steam: Europe, America and the Railway, 1830-1960

Art in the Age of Steam: Europe, America and the Railway, 1830-1960

September 13, 2008—January 18, 2009

Location: Bloch Building, Galleries L13 and L14

“We feel ourselves as powerful as the sorcerers of old! We put our magic horse to the carriage and space disappears; we fly like clouds in a storm!”
Hans Christian Andersen, Railway Readings, 1847

No industrial development has had such a sudden and transforming effect as the steam railroad. Within a few years of trains’ first use ca. 1830, their speed increased to at least three times that of road coaches, and the volume of passenger and freight traffic far surpassed any other form of transport.

This exhibition shows how artists responded to the railroad, especially in Europe and the United States. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, artists concentrated on feats of railroad engineering, the railroad as a focus for human drama, as a setting to explore light and atmosphere and as a symbol of reflective states of mind. Not until after the First World War did artists begin to celebrate the railroad as a mechanical marvel.  The exhibition is organized—and the story told—in six sections:

The Formative Years in Europe


Human Drama


Crossing Continents: American and Beyond


Impressionists and Post Impressionists


States of Mind


The Machine Age

This featured exhibition will be ticketed.


Image: Charles Sheeler, American (1883-1965). Rolling Power, 1939. Oil on canvas, 15 x 30 inches. Smith College Museum of Art, purchased with the Drayton Hillyer Fund, SC 1940:18.


Sponsored by

BNSF Railway

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