Terence Cuneo

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One of the greatest modern artists, Terence Cuneo, OBE, has died at the age of 88. In our world he will be remembered for his few, but outstanding, motoring studies. One of the best known of these is that of the Speed Six Bentley coupe driven for a bet by its owner, Woolf Barnato, beating the “Blue Train” from coast to coast across Europe in 1930, at an average speed of 43.43mph. Cuneo showed the great car just ahead of the train in daylight, whereas in fact Barnato never saw it, as the road did not run close to the track and it would have been dark anyway at such a point. But this display of recognised artist’s licence can be excused, for the accuracy otherwise, and verve, of this fine study.

Cuneo also painted the Le Mans scene of a Bentley pit-stop during the moment when Jack Dunfee roared past D’Erlanger who was replenishing the sump of his Bentley. Also those Brooklands scenes of the 1913 V12 Sunbeam on the Railway Straight, amid another (shown above) of the V12 Delage duelling with Sir Henry Birkin’s 4 1/2-litre single-seater Bentley on the Members’ banking, both of which he generously let me use on the dust-jackets of my last two books. Nor did he restrict himself to pre-war subjects: he also depicted Tony Rolt’s C-type Jaguar in the pits at Le Mans in 1953.

Cuneo’s motoring interest commenced at the age of 16 with a fourth-hand New Imperial motorcycle, which he followed with two more and then a couple of Morgan three-wheelers, one I believe an Aero model used in competitions. As an artist Terence Cuneo covered a vast range of subjects, all of the very highest standard. Each was identified by his famous “White Mouse”, hidden unless you searched diligently; it ran ahead of the Bentley, for example, on that fast dash from Nice… Whether it was Royal occasions, military’ episodes, railway portraits, battle scenes, female figures, or immaculate wildlife and animal studies, Cuneo had the magic touch — the true master. He painted broad canvasses of formal occasions, such as the Queen’s Coronation, and many other Royal and noble portraits. Unusual tasks, such as recording the then new M1 motorway from a helicopter were just another challenge faithfully surrendering to his brush. His railway paintings are simply wonderful for their detail and drama. . . How fortunate we were that he also recognised, and understood, the motor-racing world. W B

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