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Bowes Museum Presents At the Heart of Progress. Coal Iron and Steam since 1750

The Bowes Museum Presents At the Heart of Progress. Coal, Iron and Steam since 1750 an exhibition on view through Sun 15 Jan 2012.

John P. Eckblad worked as a management consultant to large petrochemical complexes on Teesside in north-eastern England and in northern Europe. In northern England in about 1974, he purchased his first print of what has become a significant collection of works on paper depicting various aspects of the Industrial Revolution and of the progress of industry.

The Bowes Museum

The exhibition explores this remarkable collection, assembled over the last three and-a-half decades by John P. Eckblad on the subject of work and industry – focussing on heavy industry – the trinity of coal, iron, and steam. Between the 1750s and the 1950s that trinity, beginning as an exotic addition to human life, progressed to an all-encompassing framework for civilization. It did not begin the industrial revolution but it drastically changed the scale and pace of industrial development, transforming the economy, the appearance, and the culture of Europe and America during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The Eckblad Collection records the ways that many different artists – and different kinds of artists – have looked at industry and labour over a period of more than two centuries. The works show various aspects of the culture of progress: coal mining, the manufacture and use of iron and steel, and the life of the worker. On the most basic level, the print techniques themselves trace the history of an industrial revolution in the multiplication of pictures.

The first artists to depict the workings of industry were documentarians who might well have used cameras if photography had been invented. As industry matured, in the later nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, an increasing number of “fine-art” painters, sculptors, and printmakers came to see it as a valid subject for them. The exhibition shows many of these different approaches to the subject.

Eckblad, an American, specifically wants to bring his unique collection to the North-East to re-connect with the area that first inspired him to collect and to reach out to the population that had, or still has, involvement with the heavy industry his collection depicts. Some of the works show sites in the region as well as other English sites.

This is an important collection of significant works with a specific theme that has relevance to the region. It can enhance people’s understanding of the development of the industrialised world we live in and of the changes in technology and work practices, through a variety of artistic styles and imagery.

The Bowes Museum
Barnard Castle
County Durham
DL12 8NP
T 01833 690606
F 01833 637163
E [email protected]

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