Railroad Signal, 1936

Oil on beaverboard by Coreen Spellman

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Railroad Signal, the 1936 painting by Texas artist Coreen Spellman, was part of The Centennial Exhibition of Paintings, Sculpture, and Graphic Arts held on the grounds of Fair Park at Dallas’s original Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition, curated specifically for the Texas Centennial Exposition world’s fair, ran June 6–November 29, 1936. The exhibition brought together 606 works of art from all over the world and from many artistic periods. The section devoted to Texas art was by far the largest of the show, with 113 Texas paintings, watercolors, prints, and drawings on display for the world to see.

Coreen Spellman’s paintings often depict human-made structures and industrial landscapes in a style combining realism, precisionism, and abstraction. In this painting, a railroad signal is silhouetted against the intensely blue sky of a flat, vast Texas landscape. The road markers, with their simple, but powerful shapes, stand as silent sentinels of a new industrial Texas.

Coreen Mary Spellman (1905–1978) was born in Forney, Texas and moved to Dallas during her youth. After graduating from the College of Industrial Arts (now Texas Womanʼs University) in Denton, she received graduate degrees from Columbia University and the University of Iowa. She also studied art at Harvard, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Art Students League of New York. Between 1925 and 1974, Spellman taught painting, illustration, and drawing at Texas Womanʼs University and the Dallas Museum of Fine Art School. Her work was featured in more than 40 one-person shows.

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Railroad Signal, 1936 Artifact from Dallas
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