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

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, and The Machine Age.

On the Road by Thomas Proudley Otter
Thomas Proudley Otter, American, 1832-1890. On the Road, 1860. Oil on canvas, 22 1/8 x 45 3/8 inches. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 50-1.