Robert E. Townsend, 1991. Resist ground etching and engraving with hand refinement in charcoal, pencil, stabilo, and eraser on BFK Rives white wove paper, 20 x 36 inches (507 x 914 mm), full margins. Signed, titled, dated and numbered 51/175 by the artist in pencil, lower margin. A brilliant, inky impression with luminous light and gradient tones. In excellent condition with one extremely minor and superficial spot of light tan adhesive residue on the verso, unobtrusive and not visible on the recto, with no other visible defects. With the blind stamp of the printer, Robert E. Townsend in the lower left margin. An especially fine impression in superb condition.
When asked about this work in particular, Milton expressed that his favorite images were his darkest images, in theme, mood, and in ink. Milton, who has said that his work is infused with a postmodern awareness of the past, has focused here in a deeply personal way on a segment of history that continues to haunt us all. The work, published in 1991, evokes one of the darkest periods of European history, the eroding and erasing of European culture under fascism, and the eventual total loss of humanity. The Train from Munich is an especially relevant and emotional work for Milton, who created the piece for his wife, Edith, who escaped Munich in 1939 as a child on the fabled Kinderstransport. The Kinderstransport was a desperate rescue effort on the part of the British government to save as many Jewish children as possible by railway before borders closed on the precipice of the Second World War. Children left their parents behind, and boarded the trains alone, leaving the impending doom of Nazi Germany, they arrived in Great Britain as refugees. More than 10,000 children escaped the holocaust via the Kinderstransport. In Train from Munich, the image itself holds an almost immeasurable amount of symbolism; each inch of the matrix is a successful effort to confront this history in a way that is poignant through a series of motifs. We see the Café disappearing into a ghostlike memory of the past, an allegory to the disintegration of culture, while through the windows we can see a rampant, snarling dog; a portrait of Hitler's shepherd, Blondi. Blondi isn't the only notable figure in the composition. Milton has pointed out that the fading figure of the doorman at the Hotel Metropole is modeled after the artist and intellectual Marcel Duchamp, and the face of the young girl peering out the Café window is modeled after a photographic composition by Eugene Atget, the original subject's face molded into the portrait of Edith at 12 years of age. We can also see a deflated figure, an homage to René Magritte, seated, head lowered, sleeping on a bench to the left of the Café. This figure is surrounded in the terminal by additional figures, none of them aware, none of them awake, including an unleashed sleeping dog. In an empowering turn, the image of Raoul Wallenberg, the savior of thousands of Hungarian Jews, stands the focal point, staring up a staircase filled with steam which evokes the smoke of furnaces, peering into the future, seeing what we cannot yet see. Wallenberg is holding a German Shepherd, the only leashed dog in the composition. And between the two allegorical figures representing humanity and culture, Wallenberg and Duchamp, we see the long corridor of the Café become a tunnel, at dark end of which is hope in the form of the headlights of the Train to Munich.
Item number: 442