A Philadelphia auction is offering several original photographs by William Rau. Its not hard to find examples of Rau’s work on stereoview cards or in books. Rau may be best known however as a photographer for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Rau captured the industrial encroachment of the natural landscape as well as the Scalp Level painters captured the absence of it.
Rau was hired in 1890 by the Pennsylvania Railroad and in 1899 by the Lehigh Valley Railroad, for which he produced a series of views from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to Buffalo and Niagara Falls. He also recorded the Johnstown flood and the 1904 Baltimore fire. It reminds me of the commissioned work by George Innes in the National Gallery. Rau was no run of the mill company photographer, however. The artistic value of his work rivals many landscapes painted by well-known Pennsylvania painters.
Some of Rau’s extrordinary landscape photography can be seen at LACMA in LA, the Cleveland Museum of Art, MOMA and a large collection is on view at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Loretto (a short and scenic drive from Pittsburgh).