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Puzzle corner. If the railway didn’t come until 1869, why does this painting of the year before have the words Through Line New York to San Francisco written on the carriages?. Let’s look first at the painting itself. Task 1
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Puzzle corner If the railway didn’t come until 1869, why does this painting of the year before have the words Through Line New York to San Francisco written on the carriages?
Task 1 To really understand the painting, annotate the most significant details the artist has deliberately included. Go for 10. Write them inside the INNER rectangle Task 2 Now for the hard part. For each of the 10 features try to work out what the artist is trying to show. What can we INFER from each part of the painting. Write these in the OUTER RECTANGLE with an arrow, if necessary, showing which aspect it relates to.
What I can infer What I think is important
K F E G D I H J B C A
Some possible answers • A. Men working, shows thriving community • B. School showing a substantial well-organised community. Children seem happy playing outside • C. Settlers appear well-dressed and prosperous • D. Church suggests well-run community, based on strong religious principles. One of just a few public buildings shown.
E. The last visible settlement, suggests there is still some of the West to be opened up • F. You can see that the railroad is not yet complete suggesting a next step is imminent. • G. The fact that the railroad occupied the centre of the image running diagonally across eye-line shows its importance to the artist’s message. • H. The locomotive is the star of the show, the main subject of the painting showing its significance in both opening of the West and affecting natives’ way of life.
I. Natives are clearly being shown as cut off from the future development of the plains. The locomotive’s smoke forms an actual barrier. • J. Native Americans are clearly shown on one side of the tracks, unable to stop this march of industrial progress on the other. • K. The buffalo are shown running away in the distance. Their days are numbered.
On the train is written Through Line New York to San Francisco. But the painting was produced in 1868, and the line wasn’t opened until 1869. How can we explain this?
Rank these in terms of terms of being the likely answer. B. The painting is like a trailer for a new invention. Here it is saying, like an advert, what the future will be. AAAA. Historians don’t know exactly when the painting was produced so the date 1868 could be wrong. Your alternative answer DD. The artist made a lucky gamble. To make the painting seem really up-to-date, she added detail that hadn’t actually happened at the time she was painting. DCC. The painting was created on 30 Dec 1868. The railroad opened just a few days later, but in 1869.
Debrief The painting was made to order of the proprietor of the Delaware-Lackawanna-and Western Railroad, and depicts a wide landscape with a steam train coming toward the foreground, the tender of which is filled with wood, not coal, an interesting detail The picture seems to unite wilderness and civilization in a pleasant description of an attractive, flourishing rural town. It is predicting the future. Who went for D or C? Across the Continent, Westward the Course of Empire takes its way, 1868, a painting by Frances Flora Bond (Fanny) Palmer.