In recent times the different drawings and paintings of cars and motor races, obtainable commercially, has become quite prolific and rather than refer to isolated examples, we have tended to take the easy approach, and ignore them. There is unquestionably a growing demand for good pictures which can be framed and treasured, and for less expensive artwork which can be usefully employed as study, garage or even home decoration, put up with the aid of drawing pins.
Part of the writer’s reluctance to publicise motoring artwork is his distrust of the brush or pen, compared to the camera. Unless deliberately faked, the camera cannot lie. But we have seen serious errors by well-known artists, such as a Napier-Railton with but one filler-cap on its tail and a Bugatti at Brooklands depicted in quite the incorrect colour. Such inattention to detail can lead historians badly astray in later years.
The great motor-racing artists of days gone by were usually pretty meticulous and the late Gordon Crosby and Brian de Grineau are rightly much praised, but personally we have always found the former to depict dwarf drivers and mechanics in unrealistically enormous cars and the latter to use too many scribbly pencil lines to emphasise speed and drama. A more recent motoring artist has horrified us by asking for a check on the colour of certain Brooklands cars, regardless of the impossibility, when quoting an appropriate Race Card, of knowing what shade of red, blue or green a particular car was painted….
One piece of artwork, however, deserves mention. We refer to the great paintings by Terence Cuneo, the famous railway artist, of vintage Bentleys. Cuneo’s first essay into Bentley history was his painting of “Bentleys at Le Mans 1929”. This picture of d’Erlanger filling the sump of No. 10 4 1/2-litre Bentley as Jack Dunfee in 4 1/2-litre Bentley No. 9 roars past the pits was reproduced in lithography, appropriately by The Bentley Photo-Litho Co. Ltd., who were awarded first prize in the UK Section of the World Wide Excellency in Lithography Competition of 1969, and later third place out of 40 entries in the World Finals in America, the highest award a British entry has ever attained. This print has been made available commercially by Colourviews Ltd., at £2.62 1/2 plus 25p extra for packing and (sic!) postage (Air Mail £1.25). They also supply six of Cuneo’s railway paintings at the same price, all reproduced on high quality paper. with Cuneo’s preliminary sketches and notes in the margin, size 30 in. x 20 in.
The demand for another Cuneo Bentley picture resulted in his now-classic “The Bentley and the Blue Train”, depicting “Bebe” Barnato’s Speed Six saloon racing the famous French express in 1930. The present owner of the restored Bentley, Hugh Harben, took it to Hereford, where the GWR express locomotive King George V was used by the artist as a stand-in for the Blue Train engine. Another fine picture resulted, which Colourviews Ltd. sell at the same price as the Le Mans picture, or the two for £5. The Blue Train print is full of action, but its authenticity is doubtful, because it is unlikely that car and train actually raced side-by-side. You see what we mean about photography….
Another line by Colourviews is a series of famous sports cars by Norman Giles, F.S.I.A., the locomotive illustrator, lithographed in warm black on 12 1/2 in. x 8 in. fine quality cartridge paper. The cars available are 1929 Mercedes SS 38/250, 1932 Type 55 Bugatti, 1934 2.3-litre s/c. Alfa Romeo and 1928/29 Le Mans blower-4 1/2 Bentley, each one seen in action. These prints cost 20p each, packing and postage on up to eight prints 10p extra. The publisher’s address is 59, Cambridge Road, Birmingham, BI3 9UF.—W. B.
Letters, November 2012
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