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. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/tedtalks-art/id470616189  Just look for the link to Tracey Chevalier ‘Finding the Story inside the Painting’