Thursday, January 11, 2007

Art Blogging: Leslie Darrell Ragan

Leslie Darrell Ragan (1897-1972) was an American Art Deco commercial illustrator. A native of Iowa, he was educated at the Chicago Institute of Art. Ragan chronicled the vigorous optimism of industrial America. His medium was the poster, which he created for railroad companies and then the US government during World War II.

This poster is typical of Ragan's work, conveying to potential customers the elegance and power of the Industrial Age. Nota bene the carefully-depicted reflection in the water, shimmering slightly in contrast to the robustly solid locomotive.

Many of the posters didn't directly advertise for railroad companies, but simply encouraged travel (which would naturally require purchasing train tickets). Stone ruins are sharply contrasted with the rising skyscrapers of Chicago, reflecting the hope that Art Deco had for the new age of capitalism and technology.

Art blogger David Apatoff wrote that Ragan:

...painted heavy industrial equipment the way it might exist on Mt. Olympus. He enshrouded trucks and locomotives with swirling steam and glowing celestial clouds. He painted machinery and buildings at heroic angles and imbued them with an almost divine aura.

That's a good way of putting it. Like Barrias, Ragan elevated technology to godhood.

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