Masterpiece Story: The Railway Station by Alf Rolfsen

Alf Rolfsen, The Railway Station, 1932, Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo, Norway. Enlarged Detail.

Steam, breath, and sweat combine into a pulsating cloud filling the railway station with energy and anticipation. Everyone is in motion either towards or away from the trains and it is here that journeys begin and journeys end. In reality, the railway station is a hub of untold stories passing along platforms and track lines. We see one such story in Alf Rolfsen’s The Railway Station (Den store stasjon). In this painting, Rolfsen captures a single moment in human experience, exploring hope, desire, peace, and loss. And, in addition, what it means to be human in the modern age.

Alf Rolfsen was a Norwegian painter who captured the vibrancy and intensity of the modern age. His wonderful painting, The Railway Station depicts a large train station, a space filled with three trains and a multitude of figures. Two passengers and two luggage carriers fill the foreground while an embracing couple can be seen in the mid-ground. One of the passengers, a blonde woman in a white fur coat, dominates the foreground with her chic silhouette and calm appearance. She is poised and stylish – a modern woman. Like the railway station, this beautiful woman represents the youth and vigor of a new age. In this painting, Rolfsen has embraced progress. Its style reflects both Modernism and Futurism, praising speed, machinery, industry and offering a rejection of the traditional past. It is the machine age.

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