'My Father's Railway art is a dramatic history of the genre itself. He was a man blessed with dimensional thinking on a grand scale' (C. Cuneo, A Short Biography of Terence Cuneo, Cuneo Estate, www.terencecuneo.co.uk).
Carole Cuneo's reflection on her father's work captures the combination of energy and precision that characterised her father's legacy as Britain's foremost railway artist. His long and noteworthy career was commemorated following his death in 1996 with the erection at Waterloo Station of a 1½ times life size bronze statue of him by Philip Jackson.
Cuneo began his career as a successful illustrator but won further acclaim when he started painting in oils in 1936. He was appointed as the official artist for the Coronation of Elizabeth II, and became widely known to the public. During the Second World War he worked as an artist for the Illustrated London News before being appointed as an official war artist. He served simultaneously as a sapper (or combat engineer), and his work at this time often depicted acts of heroism amongst industrial guns and armaments.
Cuneo was famously passionate about railways, but was also interested in any great feat of engineering as well as the workers who were the life blood of the industrial age. The Firth of Forth railway bridge was a subject Cuneo returned to more than once. This is perhaps surprising since he is said to have found it neccessary to tie himself on to the structure of the bridge to prevent being blown away when making preliminary sketches. Indeed, he took 'dreadful personal risks' (loc. cit) on more than one occasion in order to capture a scene with his customary exactness.
As with many of his pictures, Cuneo included a small mouse in the composition as a signature. Often, particularly in his more formal portraits, the mouse is hidden - here it takes its place as a natural element of the scene.
The train depicted is an LNER class A4 Gresley Pacific steam locomotive 'Union of South Africa'. Built in 1937 and based in Edinbugh until 1962, she then transferred to Aberdeen and was the last booked steam train to haul passengers from King's Cross in 1964. The train has continued to work 'in preservation' and can now be booked through the Railway Touring Company in the Edinburgh area.