Monday, January 4, 2021

Barry Rowe Automobile Paintings

Barry Rowe is a prominent automobile artist.  That is, he's an artist whose main subject matter is automobiles portrayed in plausible settings.

Which is not as easy as it might seem.  In the first place, it helps greatly if the cars are depicted accurately.  Otherwise, knowledgeable potential painting buyers might not be willing to buy.  From an artistic standpoint, there is the matter of backgrounds or settings for the featured car or cars.  An easy solution would be to paint a simple, generic sort of background -- perhaps a golf course or ocean coast -- and focus effort on the subject.  But that would seldom result in an aesthetically satisfying painting.

Rowe, a largely self-taught British artist, places a great deal of effort on the settings as well as the subject cars.  How well this works is discussed in the captions below.

As for Rowe's background, this is worth reading as well as this interview.  In that interview, Rowe states:

"I take stacks of photos of old cars and lighting etc. It could be the background that starts me off or it could be the car and then I find a background. The lighting is never dead right. You have the light coming at an angle on the car and other lighting coming from the background. You have to get it altogether properly, otherwise it's not believable. I like old pictures of nice dresses and something romantic in a way that isn't there now."


Cover of the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d'Élégance publication.  The cars -- a Duesenberg in the foreground and a Bugatti and Bentley behind -- are realistically depicted, as is the background.  However, the people are painted in a flat, fashion illustration manner greatly contrasting with the rest of the painting.  Rowe seems to do this often with people, though I'm not sure of his intent.  But in the interview linked above he mentioned that much of his commercial art was done in an Art Deco style, so perhaps those flat depictions are a carryover from that.  For some reason.

Some of Rowe's paintings divorce the car from its setting more than it should be, as is often seen in lesser artists' works.  Perhaps a client might ask for this effect.

Here the Art Deco, fashion illustration style donates the image.  That's a French Delahaye lurking in the background.

Detail of a larger painting featuring a Bugatti.  This part of the image comes closer to Deco illustration -- even the body panels of the car reflect the type of painting of the restaurant in the background.

Here the Art Deco girl seems almost pasted on the rest of the image.  Moreover, she's a little too small compared to the car.  Odd.

A more stylistically integrated work is this view of famed Italian driver Tazio Nuvolare in an Alfa Romeo at the 1932 Targa Florio race in Sicily.

A little more poster-like is this painting of Bernd Rosemeyer driving an Auto Union racer, probably at Nurburgring.

A Le Mans race around 1930 with an Alfa Romeo in the lead.  Here the people are better integrated than in some of the images above.

The Bugatti pits at a Monaco Grand Prix.  No Art Deco humans here.

Another Bugatti race pits scene, though the 35B Bugatti driven by "W Williams" is painted British Racing Green, not French blue.  He won the 1929 Monaco Grand Prix race.

A later Monaco Grand Prix: Here is Enzo Ferarri's Alfa Romeo team preparing for the start.

Finally a photo of a painting of Louis Chiron at the 1948 Monaco Grand Prix.  The lighting at the left helps offer some information about Rowe's technique.  Click on the image to enlarge somewhat.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Thanks for taking the time to share these wonderful paintings with us. These are so great in detail and the work is something I have never seen before. Have a good one.