Sitting having a coffee and a biscuit at the catering stop in the Great Hall of the NRM, I find myself musing over how few visitors make it up the stairs towards the Search Engine – or, more particularly, the paintings from the NRM collection on display on that floor. I suppose it might be thought boring to some but I think it an important display of ‘railway art’ in poster and picture form, capturing everything from travel by train over the ages to poster work encouraging the importance of railways in the minds of the public. What about ’Second Class – The Parting’ and ‘First Class – The Meeting’ by Abraham Solomon from 1854/55? This depicts a doubtful looking migrant to Australia and, in the second painting, his successful return. Or perhaps ‘Canon Street Station, 1907’ by Algernon Talmage, an impressionist. It certainly makes an impression on me – dim light, shades of brown and grey, wisps of steam. Borrowing from the language of art critics would you say it’s an example of ‘romantic melancholy’ or ‘romantic nostalgia’, to you?
When I am in London, in non-lockdown times and with an hour or two to spare I like to pop in to the National Gallery to view one of my favourite railway paintings, J M W Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam and Speed: The Great Western Railway’.