|Many of Curnoe's self portraits show |
him in a bicycle cap, or jersey.
Greg Curnoe was primarily known as a painter, but he was also an organizer in Canada's artistic community, and a highly "regionalistic" artist. His "regionalism," or what I've read some call "nationalism," was reflected in one of Curnoe's famous bicycles and paintings. The bicycle was built by Mariposa in the 1970s. Mike Barry recalled that Curnoe was excited about discovering a custom frame builder in Toronto, and he ordered a bike from Barry's shop. When the mustard yellow bike was complete, Curnoe immediately added a statement to the bike's top-tube using cut-out letter decals. In typical Canadian style, it was in English on one side, French on the other. The statement? "Close the 49th Parallel etc," a statement that seems to capture a number of Canada-centric sentiments. The bike was the subject of more than one well-known painting, such as this watercolor:
|Close the 49th Parallel calls to mind a number of sentiments|
in U.S./Canadian relations.
The 49th Parallel bike was damaged in an accident. When Curnoe brought it back to Mike Barry for repairs, he ordered another bike - a dedicated time-trial machine. Keep in mind that time-trial bikes in the 1970s were quite a bit different than such bikes today. But that green machine also served as the model for several famous paintings and drawings.
|A watercolor of Curnoe's Mariposa TT.|
|The plexiglass print of the Mariposa TT. A copy of this work is in the National Gallery in Ottawa.|
|"Mariposa Low Profile"|
|"Untitled" (orange bicycle) from 1990.|
One thing people will notice about Curnoe's style is his almost shocking use of color. Bright, bold, and extremely eye-catching. According to the National Gallery of Canada, which houses some of Curnoe's works, this can be attributed to the artist's love of comic books when he was young. "As a child Curnoe enjoyed copying images from popular comic books as well as creating his own comic book characters and stories. His interest in the bright color palette of his comic books, and in recording the minutia of the world around him, would stay with him into adult life." That attention to "minutia" can be seen in some of the bicycle paintings, in that Curnoe would record a complete list of build details, such as tubing, components, builders, etc., about the bicycle in the painting.
Tragically, Greg Curnoe's life was cut short while he was doing what he loved - riding his bicycle. In 1992, Curnoe was riding with the London Centennial Wheelers club when a driver in a pickup truck plowed through the group. Curnoe was killed, and six others were seriously injured. The driver, who was described as "distracted," was later acquitted of all charges. Mike Barry wrote later, "That morning we lost not only one of Canada's most prominent artists but also one of the nicest, most cheerful persons one could meet. Greg it seems was always smiling and never more so than when he was riding his bike or doing his artwork."
The second watercolor you show is the one I have a framed copy of. It hangs by my workbench in the garage, where I sometimes stare at it and think about Greg Curnoe. Like all good art, it does not go with any of our furnishings or decor in the house, and my wife sees nothing in it that she likes. But, she does not know anything about fine bicycles. I, on the other hand, do.ReplyDelete
I'd love to have one of those plexiglass prints of the green TT bike. My wife probably wouldn't "get it" either.Delete
Oh - and thanks for the idea, Jim!Delete
One thing I find very interesting is that as bold, even jarring, as Curnoe's use of color could be, the actual colors themselves were actually pretty traditional bike colors.ReplyDelete
It's terrible that he died as young, and the way, he did.
I also have a print of the second pink background Mariposa watercolor. Looking to sell/give it to a new home. Any interest in this?ReplyDelete