Monday, 12 January 2009
F Moore, a fictional identity
In the lower right corner of a multitude of railway pictures in children’s annuals, railway books and picture postcards, the neat signature of F Moore can be easily distinguished. I spent some time researching the identity of this artist only to discover that there was never such a person. The name had been devised by the Locomotive Publishing Company to conceal the identity of Thomas Rudd, who so far as can be established created all these images in the form of oil paintings based on black and white photographic originals. The full story was told by V R Webster in the November 1984 issue of Railway World in a comprehensive article (F. Moore, the story of a notable railway artist, page 582). The publishers realised that while locomotive enthusiasts would be content with monochrome images, colour was essential if sales to the general public were to be expanded.
Mr Webster recorded a bewildering amount of detail in his article about the revisions, amendments, anomalies and inconsistencies to be detected as well as the plethora of publications in which they appeared. He catalogued some 626 separate subjects produced between 1897 and 1933. Most were painted on top of card-mounted photographs measuring about 10” by 15”. A number of originals have survived and most are in the collections of the Science Museum and the National Railway Museum. Mr Rudd did a lot more than add colour to the images and displayed considerable drawing skills when it came to redrafting from the original. The image at the top of this post shows the entrance to Woodhead Tunnel in the Pennines and Mr Webster discovered by comparison with the photographic original that the composition was almost entirely revised by Rudd. The train that emerges from the tunnel towards us was entirely Rudd’s invention and the locomotives about to enter the tunnel had their identities completely changed. All that remained of the original was the background and the footplateman whose head is turned back towards the viewer.
As for the elusive and overworked Thomas Rudd, eyewitness accounts are few but he seems to have been an unassertive and unambitious individual. The suppression of his identity may well have been a consequence of the business culture in Edwardian publishing where a rigid hierarchical structure prevailed in which Mr Rudd was no more than a low status technician despite the enormous amount of money generated by his artwork. One small insight is to be found in the story that Mr Rudd was instructed to cease working at his home and work instead at the company office where it was believed he would be more productive under direct supervision.
The published images with an F.Moore signature vary in quality but at their best they reflect a high degree of technical skill in which accurate rendering of engineering detail takes precedence over all other aspects. In many instances landscape details are a product of the artist’s invention and appear disappointingly generalised and lacking in character. The potential drama of light and shade offered by brilliant sunlight is scrupulously avoided, presumably to avoid obscuring vital details. Thus the results are sometimes short on atmospheric qualities and have little of the visual excitement that often accompanies railway subjects. What remains is a kind of stilted period charm and a persistent air of unreality. It would be interesting to know how much Mr Rudd was paid for his efforts but it would be no more than a tiny fraction of the lucrative returns his employer obtained from such widespread exploitation of the images. As well as magazines, books and postcards, they turned up on jigsaws, art prints, cigarette cards and collectors’ stamps. These examples come from my own books and cards and offer a reasonably representative selection.