About This Artwork

Walter Ellison
American, 1899–1977

Train Station, 1935

Oil on cardboard
20 x 36 cm (8 x 14 in.)
Signed lower right: Walter W. Ellison
Signed lower right (vertically on suitcase): W W E

Charles M. Kurtz Charitable Trust and Barbara Neff Smith and Solomon Byron Smith funds; through prior gifts of Florence Jane Adams, Mr. and Mrs. Carter H. Harrison, and the estate of Celia Schmidt, 1990.134

In this highly structured composition, Walter Ellison clearly displayed the realities of segregation in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. Ellison, who joined many other Southern African Americans in the Great Migration of the early 20th century, came to Chicago in the 1920s and studied at the School of the Art Institute. Here he depicted wealthy white travelers (helped by black porters) boarding trains destined for Southern resort towns like Miami and West Palm Beach. On the right, working- and middle-class African Americans move through doorways indicating Northern destinations, seeking to escape the poverty and oppression of the rural South.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Chicago, 1418 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago No-Jury Society of Artists, Inc., Twelfth Annual Exhibition, June 13-27, 1936, cat. 98, as R. R. Station, Macon, Ga.

Art Institute of Chicago, New Acquisitions: Early American Modernist Painting, June 25-November 25, 1990, no cat.

Art Institute of Chicago, Telling Images: Stories in Art, September 1996-June 1999, ill. p. 38.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Collecting: African American Art in the Art Institute of Chicago, February 15-May 18, 2003, no cat.

Chicago, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago Modern, 1893-1945: Pursuit of the New, July 17-October 31, 2004, cat. 30.

Art Institute of Chicago, They Seek a City: Chicago and the Art of Migration, 1910-1950, March 3-June 3, 2013, cat. 64.

Publication History

Derrick Joshua Beard Fine Arts, Opening Exhibition, November 30-December 2, 1990, fig. 9. [This is an exhibition catalogue, but Train Station was not shown.]

Andrea D. Barnwell and Kirsten P. Buick, “A Portfolio of Works by African American Artists Continuing the Dialogue: A Work in Progress,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 24, 2 (1999), pp. 186, 193-94, cat 5, ill.

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 103.

"Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, Highlights of the Collection," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2017) p. 122.

Ownership History

Irwin Weinberg. Sold by Galerie Americana to the Art Institute of Chicago, 1990.

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