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Foreign Policy Analysis
Rail Talk: BNSF’s Art Collection

Rail Talk: BNSF’s Art Collection


Hello, I’m Bradley Houston with C2 Art
Advisors. We manage the collection here at BNSF in Fort Worth as well as across
the entire U.S. system and we’re here today to give you a brief highlights
tour of a select group of masterpieces throughout the collection, starting of
course here with the sweeping view of the Grand Canyon by female artist Edith
Hamlin. Hamlin was a very important artist of the early part of the 20th
century, gaining notoriety in the 1930s for the Works Progress Administration
murals that were commissioned from her. BNSF
commissioned this work especially from Hamlin in 1945 and it
was eventually installed in the Chicago office in 1947, making its way here to
Fort Worth in the 1990s when this building was completed. And it really is
just a such a stunning view of the Grand Canyon, which is a hallmark vista of the American development of this country and of the collection
overall. We have many more views of the Grand Canyon throughout the
headquarters. Now we’ll continue on to view a few other highlights of the
collection. The collection has approximately 700
paintings in total in addition to photographs and works on paper and ceramics and other artifacts of history. Among the paintings we have a large
selection of works by E.I. Couse. This one, Grinding Corn is one of the most important, not least of which because of the presence of the Santa Fe Railroad
logo right there at the top left and this gives you this sense of the linkage
between the artist and the history of the economic development of the railroads
across the late 19th and early 20th centuries. E.I. Couse worked directly with the advertising executives at the Santa Fe Railroad at
the time to create this piece that eventually would be reproduced across
the system and calendars and posters and advertisements for the railroad to push
tourist traffic to the Southwest. And in case you
didn’t see the logo on the first try Couse actually adds a little arrow right
here to lead your eye directly over to the logo so that no matter what if
you’re engaging with this team of Native Americans
grinding corn you’re also engaging with the Santa Fe. Our final stop on the art collection tour today shows you one of
the large-scale masterpieces from one of the most prolific artists at our
collection, John Fery. He was the most heavily commissioned artist by the
Great Northern line. Just as E.I. Couse who we saw before was the most prolific artist for the Santa Fe line as a way of generating tourist
traffic, the Great Northern also had decided to commission these grand
artworks that would show stunning views of the western United States as a
way to encourage tourist traffic on the railroad to see these vistas for the
very first time. And you have to understand that most people in the
eastern United States would have only seen these areas for the very first
time in these railroad paintings and lithographic reproductions, so they
would have looked very much like foreign landscapes. Here you see Fery at really the height of his
artistic powers, with a very much impressionistic style of painting with the
broad strokes of the trees and on the foreground here but simultaneously with
a very distinctly American view of an American national landscape
that he really was so adept at painting. He went to the Glacier National Park in
Montana over 300 times and painted scene after scene after scene of
these grand landscapes, in this case Chief Mountain there in Glacier National Park. And you really see him going back to what is the most iconic view of
America, the most iconic view in this case of the Northern subject
matter and why these railroads were successful in their time to generate
tourist traffic out toward the western United States. And that concludes our tour of this portion of the art collection today and we thank you so
much for your time and your interest.

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