Cranfield Chemist Angela Brown muses on the 4.56

As I travelled home by train this summer (following the Wessex Main Line route through the rolling hills of Wiltshire and Somerset for those who like to know that kind of thing) I settled back and took out my copy of Alain de Botton’s beautifully evocative book ‘The Art of Travel’ (if you haven’t read it yet – get hold of it as soon as you can – an elegant antidote to all those travel guides that obsess a little too much on ‘destination’ – here the writer explores the ‘why’ rather than the ‘where’, finding ways to elevate the journey itself into something rather wonderful.) But I digress – as I travelled, read and mused I turned to the page you see captured here. Maybe you’ll recognize the oil painting on the left – ‘Compartment C, Car 193’ by Edward Hopper (1938)

And as I sat and looked again at the woman on a train, her book open, the view from her seat just like the one speeding passed my own, I couldn’t help but love the serendipity of what was happening. I wanted to tell everyone – look at this – art imitating life imitating art imitating life! I refrained from such a public display of emotion and saved the moment for another day – this day.

Tracy Chevalier, author of the ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ describes how she likes to find a way to make a personal connection to a painting. She does this by weaving a story around the picture. The story maybe is true or it may be pure fiction or somewhere in between, what’s important for her is the connection. I have always been fascinated by Edwards Hopper’s work – but now I have my own personal link with the woman reading in Compartment C, and I find I love it all the more.

Compartment CYou can see and hear Tracey Chevalier’s talk for yourself on TEDTalks Art Podcast By TED Conferences LLC.  Just look for the link to Tracey Chevalier ‘Finding the Story inside the Painting’