The train station in the cityscape

The train station in the cityscape

  • The suburban train station.

    SPANISH Georges d '(1870 - 1950)

  • The train station.

    CHABAUD Auguste (1882 - 1955)

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Title: The suburban train station.

Author : SPANISH Georges d '(1870 - 1950)

Creation date : 1895

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 97 - Width 130

Technique and other indications: Oil painting on canvas

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © ADAGP, © Photo RMN-Grand Palaissite web

Picture reference: 86EE1648 / RF 1979-21

© ADAGP, Photo RMN-Grand Palais

To close

Title: The train station.

Author : CHABAUD Auguste (1882 - 1955)

Creation date : 1907

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 73 - Width 100

Technique and other indications: Oil painting on canvas

Storage location: Modern Art Museum of Troyes website

Contact copyright: © ADAGP, © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blotsite web

Picture reference: 96DE5370

© ADAGP, Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

With the development of the rail network, new structures and equipment appear, but also places that did not exist before. The stations, which fit into the urban fabric, are in the second half of the XIXe century one of the symbols of modern civilization, such as the World's Fairs and department stores.

In Paris, their location was decided under Louis-Philippe: the Montparnasse, du Nord, de l'Est, Saint-Lazare and Orléans-Orsay stations were placed on the outskirts of the city, unlike those in London, built as close as possible to the center. Their architecture is very elaborate: Hittorff, designer of the facade of the new Gare du Nord in Paris, decorated with glass arches, neo-Greek columns and pilasters. Pavilions, pediments, pilasters and statues cover the exterior of Orsay station.

But, more than the architectural or technical aspects, we must grasp the disturbing "poetry of the stations" which charmed Zola at the Impressionist exhibition of 1877.

Image Analysis

Chabaud's canvas, painted at the beginning of the 20th centurye century, evokes less a station than a tunnel or a giant mousetrap, the opening of which is half closed by a harrow and which is about to leave a train topped by a black plume. It is not lit by any color except the blue of the vapor in the distance and the red of the tail lights. The perception of the rails may guide the gaze outwards, the convoy may escape towards the light, the arch of the station seems to grab the viewer. Within this massive, block-like structure, opposed in every way to the delicate modern cathedrals of the Impressionist stations, one cannot help but feel a sense of oppression. The train station seems to belong to the same universe of darkness as the journey to the Edge of the Night by Céline, published twenty-five years later.

Suburban train station D'Espagnat, on the contrary, is built in the open air and inspires appeasement. While The train station is immersed in anonymity, the figures are represented here in large size and with precision: an elegant bourgeois woman and her daughter are quietly awaiting the arrival at the platform of the train which is looming, at the back, in a cloud of steam. The light colors lighten the composition (based on the diagonal of the track in the left half), while Chabaud's painting is based on a saturation of black which accentuates the monumentality of the place and the feeling of suffocation.

Interpretation

The two paintings, however, illustrate the same reality, the innovations introduced by rail in the Paris region. In the second half of the XIXe century, railways penetrated the heart of cities, facilitating exchanges, improving communications between regions, increasing the mobility of city dwellers and suburbanites. While it is easier to leave the cities, it is also easier to get there. The time savings are clear: in the southern suburbs of Paris, in 1861, the train took only an hour to travel 15 to 20 km. Progress will be rapid: in 1871 a technical commission met to consider the extension of the rail network (railways and tramways) of the Seine, in order to better integrate Paris into its suburbs, to improve traffic Intramural and facilitate exchanges between the center and the periphery.

Provided in the provinces by the modernization of electric tram lines and in Paris by the construction of the metro, the development of mass public transport allows the spatial expansion of the city. The point of intersection between the city dweller and the railway line is the station. And, in fact, The train station and Suburban train station (the definite article is revealing, as if the painter represented an ideal-type) celebrate the appearance of a place of a new kind, a place open to departures, expectations, traffic, disturbing and confined as in the canvas of Chabaud, peaceful and family like in that of d'Espagnat.

  • suburbs
  • railway
  • station
  • Paris
  • town planning
  • city

Bibliography

Georges DUBY (dir.), History of urban France, t. 4, The city of the industrial age, Paris, Seuil, 1983.

Alain FAURE (dir.), The First Commuters. The origins of the suburbs of Paris (1860-1940), Paris, Créaphis, 1991.

Annie FOURCAULT (dir.), A century of the Parisian suburbs (1859-1964), Paris, L’Harmattan, 1988.

Bernard MARCHAND, Paris, history of a city (19th-20th century), Paris, Seuil, 1993.

To cite this article

Ivan JABLONKA, "The station in the urban landscape"


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