I had an utterly marvelous day yesterday. I sketched in the Minster and then went to the National Railway museum. Aside from trains, they are the repository for the mid century railway posters that have mostly inspired my series of landscape prints with the place names carved into them over the last two years. You may have seen some of these images on calendars and whatnot the last few years, which is where I discovered them.
I was heartsick that no posters were on view, but a very kind docent sent me upstairs to the archivists. They have a research center there, and one very kind archivist found books for me to see what I was most interested in and then took me down to the storage area and let me see a ton of the actual original oil paintings (big! --- 36x48 or so) the posters were made from.
This was so much more than I had even hoped for. It was amazing to see the art in person. I hadn't been able to tell from reproductions whether the originals were screen or block prints of some kind or whether they were oil paintings. (Some are more obviously watercolors.) To get to examine the originals in person was marvelous.
One favorite is Lionel Richmond. They had his Tintern Abbey, among others, down in the rolling upright storage bins.
I'm so impressed with how these artists can take a complex scene and simplify it into a strong, graphic painting that will reproduce well as a poster. I've learned a lot about printmaking from looking at their color and plane choices, but it was a treat to get to see the brushwork up close as well.
I really love Richmond's tree shapes.
Here's a second one of his.
Another of my favorite artists in the genre is Norman Wilkinson. They didn't have as many of his (and none of my very favorites), but here's one I liked a lot.
It was such a thrill to see so many of these paintings in person, and I'm very grateful to the kind and patient archivist who let me pore over them in detail. I couldn't stop smiling all the way home.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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