Both a celebration and critique of modernity, the railroad, while inseparable from the ideology of unstoppable progress pulsing through the Industrial Age, generated surprising and incongruous effects in artists’ imaginations. Trains embody both the rational and the irrational.
Singing the praises of the speed and movement of machines, the Futurists express a burning passion for the evolution of things. With Surrealism, railroad accidents and travelogues feed into dark fantasies, but trains also reveal an erotic and poetic potential, an instrument that fosters waking dreams and brings out visual metonymies and metaphors. In the art of Edward Hopper and Paul Delvaux, the train and the railroad station, emptied out of their travelers, are places tinged with mystery and solitude. The stations aren’t those of railway workers and travelers; they are rather those of dreams and illusions, boredom and sadness. Trains have no timetables, no passengers, no destinations.
Although supplanted by the airplane and soon the rocket ship in the collective dream of conquering new spaces, the train hasn’t disappeared for all that from the imaginations of artists active in the second half of the 20th century, who have taken over the miniature train, appropriated this childhood toy, and strip away its innocence.
Standard bearer of the modern world, the train invites you to embark for a number of imaginary trips.
Exhibition curator: Camille Lévêque-Claudet, museum curator.