Painting of the week No5: The Railway Station

Continuing the Painting of the week series, No.5 is The Railway Station, by William Powell Frith [1819-1909].

Perhaps I should say, here and now, that I was far too ambitious to title the series as Painting of the week. No.4 in the series was added to this blog over two years ago. Frightening, isn’t it, how time zips by. Also, I should say that the chosen paintings in the series, are ones I’ve seen, and stood in front of, and admired.

The Railway Station of a crowd at Paddington station, in London, was painted in 1862, when Frith was 43. He was already famous for his painting of Derby Day, which, in 1857, caused a sensation when exhibited at the Royal Academy.

The painting is vast, at 1.16m high by 2.56m wide (4ft high by 8ft). It can be seen in the Picture Gallery at Royal Holloway College in Egham on certain days of the year. The painting is social history and comment of the time. It’s acknowledged to be his finest work.

In the painting are scenes where, a family is despatching their boys to boarding school, two Scotland Yard policemen apprehending a villain, an aggressive cab driver negotiating a fare, and a posh bridal party sending bride and groom on honeymoon.

Not only was William Powell Frith, probably, the wealthiest Victorian painter, but art historians looking at the painting discovered the story of a woman in the painting, and that William Powell Frith led a complicated life.

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