Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Monet was of the school of art called Impressionism. This is important in passing, to know that the goal was to paint more quickly than traditional academic painting, allowing the artist to capture more immediate and pressing images. Impressionists were also know to include visualizations of their feelings or impressions of the scene. This allows us to see through his eyes into a time long past. Come with me as we examine this painting.
The painting, 'Train in Snow,' was painted in 1875. In this painting I will focus on three things of interest. First, the smoke coming from the train, second the fence next to the rail-road tracks and finally the headlights of the train.
The smoke coming from the train lets us know a lot about what is going on. First, we know the train is stopped and waiting for travellers to climb on and off of the train. The smoke is prevalent in the image which lets us know it is important. You might also remember that smoke is a recurrent theme in Monet's paintings, which also shows us the importance of smoke. During this time, trains are becoming more and more common and life is adjusting to accepting trains as an everyday part of life.
The fence tells us of the change happening in society. This is obviously a hastily built fence, not designed to withstand the stress of people either jumping over it or the passing of a fast-moving train. We know this because it has many reinforcer pieces that look to be added in later in an effort to shore up the fence. The fact that the fence was either not properly built, or was built without a full understanding of strong it needed to be lets us know that this society was still adjusting to the industrial revolution. Roads and tracks that were previously innocuous are suddenly becoming dangerous thoroughfares.
Finally, the headlights are probably either whale oil or kerosene lamps. They are, as one might guess, not for the conductor to see ahead, but to warn anyone down the line that a train is coming and it would be best to move along. Beyond their function, these lights give us an insight into the dirt of the world. When you look at the lights, you can clearly see that they are dimly lit and almost seem to have an oily film covering them. This is the world of Charles Dickens. This is the world adjusting to the fact that trains are never going to go away, and everything is moving forward.
As you look at the head lamps on the train, notice that Monet has given a red tint to the train. Possibly from the coal burning hot in the firebox, but the firebox would be much farther back on the locomotive, and thus the red tinge would be unrelated. More likely as an impression of the firery presence of this peice of industry waiting for passangers.
It is clear that this train is not new. It is clear that the people have accepted its existence, but as we are learning with the prevalence of the internet today, innovation often spurs unforeseen changes. Did you honestly think, ten years ago, that you would be interested in the personal stories of people you never met? Did you honestly think that you would be one of those people sharing those personal stories? As this painting shows a world begrudgingly moving into the future, so we are pushing forward and learning more about ourselves through technology.