1916. 24-year-old John Folinsbee moved to New Hope, Pa. and started a fairly obsessive period of painting industrial scenes. Maybe he arrived on the P&R.
By the 1920s, when he made “Trenton Platform,” the New York Times noted an “absence of claptrap.” His work had a truly compelling, still beautiful, Expressionistic style. This view looks east (toward New York). That’s the State Street overpass ahead.
His interests are in form and design over more traditional notions of beauty and realism. John Folinsbee had become a modernist.
He wasn’t alone. Pennsylvania modernists embraced the beauty and power of industry, urban visions, speed, genius of place, the local and everyday. Too bad most of them did it while in a relationship with New York City.
In the 1920s Joseph Pennell remarked, “no artist of international reputation…born in Philadelphia has ever been able to live here, or, if he leaves…and returns, the bourgeois by whom the place is entirely overrun drive him out again.”
He liked Philly enough to make some sensational etchings like The Trains that Come, and the Trains that Go, Pennsylvania Railroad, Philadelphia. 1919. Pennell wrote, “Philadelphians do not know that they have the most pictorial train shed in the world, a shed which amazed Europeans, but then what do Philadelphians know? Each other, Spruce Street and their ancestors. But there it is and when it is on a spring or fall day filled with the trains that come and that go and the smoke and steam that comes from them it is amazing, so amazing, that no Philadelphian has ever seen it, or drawn it, or etched it, or painted it, but now I have shown it to them, so they will all be doing it.”
VIADUCTgreene hero, Frank Furness designed the c.1876 home of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. PAFA counted among its students the esteemed modernist painters Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth, John Marin, John Sloan, William Glackens, Everett Shinn, Robert Henri and George Luks and my favorite, Charles Demuth.
VIADUCTgreene loves the aesthetic.
Think about Follinsbee when you pass through Trenton on an Amtrak or NJT train. Today it looks different, but not all that much.
2009. In an attempt to kick-start a stalled economy, the French expand the construction of high speed rail projects. One TGV line planned to pass through Cezanne’s Provence gets scrapped so as not to disturb the landscape he was obsessed with. A 20-minute slower, 3.5 billion euro more expensive route to the south is selected.
2010. The Poughkeepsie Bridge opens as a spectacular linear park, Walkway over the Hudson.
2011. Through March 6. John Folinsbee is at the Woodmere Art Museum.
Hopefully, Philly isn’t ‘entirely overrun’ with Pennell’s driving sort of bourgeois.
You can still ride over the 9th Street Branch and out the old P&R lines to Warminster. Every now and again you can even get a train to New Hope; it’s a beautiful ride, and your train just might be hauled by a steam locomotive.