- Railroads, Art, and American Life
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Railroads, Art, and American Life
An Artist's Memoir
Published by: Indiana University Press
Explore the past, present, and future of rail travel through 30 years of one artist's work.
Once a common part of the American landscape, trains are increasingly fading from public view. Though photographs can accurately convey the details of "what, where, and when," sometimes paintings can better convey the deeper truths of an era.
Collecting more than thirty years of paintings and renderings, Railroads, Art, and American Life tells the story of rail transportation in America through the life and works of artist J. Craig Thorpe. Commissioned by companies such as Amtrak and General Electric, Thorpe's work can be found featured on items ranging from catalogs to calendars, postcards to posters. His artwork depicts not only the golden age of train travel but considers the present and looks forward to a potential future.
Featuring more than 130 color illustrations and combining history, biography, ethics, and humor, Thorpe's personal story joins with his paintings to invite the reader to relive the heyday of American rail and better understand the role of railroads in our society today.
1. Unfolding a Career
2. Shaped by the Message
3. Painting the Past
4. Painting the Present
5. Painting the Possible
6. From Commission to Celebration
J. Craig Thorpe grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with the sense that rail systems were necessary for society's common good. During his bachelor's program at Carnegie-Mellon University, he pondered ways to bring his artistic and railroad interests together. Work with architects refined those skills, and one of his paintings was used by Amtrak on its 1993 calendar, which resulted in other corporate and private commissions for historical, contemporary, and future-themed rail art. Thorpe's original art can enable us to recognize characteristics inherent in rail transportation so necessary to the maintenance of a civil society. He lives in Bellevue, Washington.
"Although this book's primary appeal will be to connoisseurs of railroad art, it is also worth reading because of Thorpe's commentary about these illustrations. I found this discussion to be an interesting perspective on the history and future of railroading."~Bill Hough, The Ferroequinologist
"Few industries have contributed to the development of the United State as the railroads have. Behind the muscle and reach of these networks, the locomotives, the engineering feats is a human story. J. Craig Thorpe is one of the great artists we have who has captured the awe of this industry, its people and the land it serves. His art both educates and inspires us because there is a reverence to his work and an incomparable dedication to detail. What could have been a book simply cataloging his art is so much more because it is also about his journey in life, the people he met, the way he conceptualized his art and, perhaps most poignantly, wondering how this type of art will survive in a digital age. Whether you simply like trains or appreciate the beauty of art in its purest form, then this book should be a part of your library."~Joe McHugh; Amtrak Executive, 1994-2020
"J. Craig Thorpe is a dear friend to the White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) because he augmented the brand with artwork that communicated the railway's history, scenery and experience. His work was featured on more than a decade of the coveted annual wall calendars and an extensive retail product line. His numerous works showcasing the White Pass' events, rolling stock and facilities are testament to the depth of WP&YR relationship with Craig. I celebrate his friendship and artwork as a legacy memory of my years at the White Pass. I invite everyone to join Craig through this book as he shares highlights of this vision and passion for railroads through his experience and artwork."~Michael D. Brandt; former Sr. Vice President, White Pass & Yukon Route
"Craig Thorpe has put together a fascinating collection of railroad art. Most of these images are Thorpe's posters done for railroad advertising and some for fans for good rail art. There are historic scenes such as GN's Empire Builder arriving in Minneapolis and a B&O streamliner at Silver Spring, MD. Contemporary settings include a dramatic late afternoon view of an Amtrak train on Hell Gate Bridge and trains passing Glacier National Park. Some vintage rail art, such as Jasper Cropsey's "Starrucca Viaduct" and Pennsy's WWII version of "Rosie the Riveter" are included. Unquestionably Thorpe has produced a book worthy of many a library."~Rush Loving Jr., author of The Men Who Loved Trains