Pierre Van Parys Bourdelle was born in Paris, France, on April 21, 1901, the son of the famous French sculptor Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929). He fought in WWI, suffering severe physical trauma which resulted in him becoming deaf. He was embittered by the experiences which he suffered, and it shows in his art.

Bourdelle studied under Rodin (who studied with the senior Bourdelle), graduated from Lycée Henrî 1918 and the Sorbonne in 1921. In 1929 he moved to the United States. He was an artist in New York in the 30's-40's (click here to see one of his paintings) and like most financially strapped artists, Bourdelle tried to make a living with corporate contracts. He produced large scale paintings, mural and reliefs for many architectural projects in New York and other cities, as well as for a number of ships, including the huge murals in the dining room of the SS America.

Working through several different architectural design houses, he also created a number of artworks for the rail industry (click here for a listing of his rail projects), including the California Zephyr. His CZ works were carved linoleum sculptures that adorned the bar fronts in the dome-buffet and lounge-observation cars, a wall map of the CZ's route in the buffet's coffee shop, and the Steward's podium in the diner.

Pierre Bourdelle died in Geneva, Switzerland on July 5, 1966.

(Research information courtesy of John Blow and Peter Bourdelle)
California Zephyr works by Pierre Bourdelle

Bar front, dome-obs Silver Crescent, currently at the Gold Coast Railroad museum in Florida (J. Blow photo)

Bar front, dome-obs, car unknown (Hedrich-Blessin/Burling-ton Route photo, c.1949)

Bar front, dome-obs, car unknown (possibly S. Solarium, see photo below). (CZ publicity photo, c.1960)

Bar front, dome-obs Silver Solarium, in its current state. During restoration, carpet covering the bar front was removed, revealing the original carving, covered by much shellac and in very poor condition.(Photo at left courtesy of Nav Fosse, from the Solarium's brochure) Close-up photo by A. Radecki

Coffee shop rear wall map, car unknown. (CZ publicity photo, c.1955)

Coffee shop wall map, car unknown. These maps were replaced with cable car photos (Burlington Route photo, c.1949)

Double panels at the forward end of the coffee shop. (Burlington Route photo, c. 1949)

Dining car Steward's podium, car unknown. (CZ publicity photo, c.1949).

Dining car Steward's podium from the WP's Silver Plate. (Lon Orlenko photo, via Michael Tresaugue).

Dining car Steward's podium from the Burlington's Silver Salver, a non-CZ diner. (Lon Orlenko photo, via Michael Tresaugue).

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