by David Waldron
Until fairly recently, automotive artists occupied a lowly rung in the hierarchy of painters
even if the Impressionists, in particular Claude Monet and Gustave Caillebotte, depicted
everyday scenes that included the trains and bridges of the Gare Saint Lazare
in Paris, and the locomotives that were becoming an increasingly common part of everyday
life, puffing their way through the French countryside.
Over four hundred years before that Leonardo da Vinci created his futuristic machines! Certain artists like Geo Ham in France, Gordon Crosby in England, as well as Walter Goetsche and Carlo Demand in Germany enjoyed a certain renown. In the last twenty-five years there has been an explosion of painters and sculptors using the motor car as their subject. This in turn has led to an expanding market for their work as fine art collectors have begun to appreciate the fact that automotive art is collectable and will increase in value. It has now evolved into a wide variety of expressions catering for many different tastes.
Frenchman, François Bruére, is a member of the new generation of artists using the motor car as its medium of expression. He was born in Le Mans on 18th June 1961, and after studying at the School of Fine Arts in Angers went on to graduate from the National Conservatory of Visual Artists in France, after which he dedicated himself professionally to the mechanical arts.* “My destiny seemed to me to be clear cut and the fusion between art and the motor car my vocation.” He has made a career for himself since 1982 drawing, painting and sculpting in addition to illustrating motor cycle and car magazines and books.
* He is a member of the “Maison des Artistes”, the biggest association of visual artists in France.
After early full-colour airbrush paintings of cars and bikes, he has developed a technique using a detailed sepia background with the vehicle in full colour in the foreground – an eye-catching contrast - which goes beyond hyperrealism and expresses the sensations people experience when looking at, listening to, or driving a car. He expresses himself in a powerfully recognizable style through a mix of mirroring, transparency and the play of light on chrome and on the luster of shining coachwork, and captures the essence of the car being depicted in a stunning combination of light and shade that enhances its volume and curves.
As he points out: “Style is an eternal quest for identity and it’s fundamental for an artist to be identifiable even without his signature. The contrast between sepia and colour corresponds exactly to what I’m trying to express. The brightly-coloured foreground catches the viewer’s eye immediately while the sepia background provides the ambience. Style, though, should never be fixed and should evolve in a subtle fashion with the effects of the play of light, and also the research for new subjects.”
Being from Le Mans he has been motivated by famous figures from the Sarthe like the Bollée brothers, Geo Ham and Jean Rondeau, the only driver/constructor to have won the Le Mans 24 Hours. One of his early influences was Norman Rockwell, while today he looks to abstract art to give him inspiration. The event has also provided him with many subjects for his air-brushing-enhanced water colour technique that captures the glamour, the speed and the passion of the cars competing in the greatest endurance race in the world. “Speed is a form of abstraction where you lose yourself in the movement,“ so
obviously the winners in the Sarthe appear in many of his paintings. They are far from being the only ones, however, as the beautiful vehicles that have won Concours d’Elégance prizes in Amelia Island, at Monterey and in other places also feature in his work.
In addition, he has created posters and art editions for Meadow Brook and Auburn in the USA, the world-famous and very exclusive Villa d’Este Concours in Italy as well as La Baule in France. His individual and highly-recognisable style has attracted the attention of car manufacturers, including Audi, BMW, Cadillac, GM, Harley Davidson (of which he is a dyed-in-the-wool fan) Honda and Jaguar among others. For them he has created original and unique artwork drawing his inspiration from the history of the make, a time period marked by the romanticism surrounding a vehicle or a milestone episode in its history.
But François is not only a painter: he has also designed several motor bikes that have been on show in the USA and elsewhere, as well as creating sculptures in bronze and aluminium making him an all-round artist in the realm of the motor car.
“The motor car exerts a fascination and an attraction that is almost like that of the amorous relationship between two human beings. This magic has a magnetic attraction for me. I fall in love with the pertinence of a concept car in the same way as I do with classic coachwork, with the charm of a patina as well as the pedigree of a historic car. But the cars I prefer are those that I’ve built myself; dreams that I’ve turned into reality, in fact.” He refers here to the two and three-wheel prototypes that he has constructed as he combines excellent mechanical skills with those of the paintbrush!
And what about the future: “I’ve just painted my first still life and it’s an avenue I’m going to pursue as well as portrait painting by changing the format and the technique. I have to hone my perception to translate all the beauty I see around me.” Although his work is impregnated with the history of the Sarthe his orientation is always forward looking and expanding to new horizons.