James Hunt – Painting an Anniversary

Art at school for me was something that I thought I was good at. I copied things out of books all the time from sketching Concorde through to the space shuttle, my Dad’s old Cortina through to a technical drawing of a gearbox. I had a talent. That’s what I was told. Problem was, I had a talent at copying something or drawing something but I had no style of my own.

It was a difficult thing to accept and so instead of going down the art route, I took to cartooning because here I could doodle things that made me laugh, made my mates laugh and more importantly, I could vent and take the rise out of things that irked my adolescent years. Later in life I decided I wanted to pick up the pencils and painting pots once again and I occasionally have a couple of hours lost in thought doodling away.

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The other day, I started to draw a racing helmet for absolutely no reason at all but then when it came to shading it and colouring it in, I only had one design in mind. Hunt. Not because it is simple to do because it is predominantly black with three stripes – red, blue and yellow – but because it is such an iconic symbol of Formula One. With James Hunt written in bold type across it, there is none of the modern faff of designs, logo’s, branding or embellishment to be seen. James Hunt was the driver and this was his brand.

Once my doodling had stopped I turned my thoughts to this year being the fortieth anniversary of James Hunt becoming world champion. Sitting down to write anything about this man is quite the task. A renowned ladies man, charismatic, good looking and a talented pilot of the monsters that the formula used to be is a very well trodden path. Throw in to that the blockbuster movie Rush that was released to critical acclaims in 2013 and we’re left wondering how we can celebrate this anniversary.

Here at TMC we like to think that we bring a different angle to both the familiar and the not so well known items that we cover and luckily, hidden away in amongst so many other treasures of the Cotswolds is the supremely talented artist, Jeremy Houghton.

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His paintings are unique in their style and his passion for speed, movement and flight have made him the artist in residence for The Goodwood Estate, prior to that he covered the Aston Martin Centenary Tour and has now been commissioned to produce the official collection of ten paintings marking the 40th anniversary of the legendary racing driver’s championship year.

We first met Jeremy at the Goodwood Revival last year where we took his picture standing proudly between his own work and his beloved vintage Bentley that was originally his great grandfather’s. ‘The car won the RAC Scottish rally in 1937 driven by my grandmother and it was used by my great uncle as part of the homelands fire brigade in Coventry where it survived the bombing’ he states, rightly proud of both the car and his family.

Jeremy is also a well-heeled traveler just as much as the car. When he worked with Aston Martin, he travelled to some majestic locations including Monaco and Lake Como before having the finished works exhibited for a month in the Heritage Motor Centre. ‘The courage of the drivers combined with the skill of the engineers gave that exhibition a story like no other that I’ve been involved with’ a resonance with Formula One that continues with this latest commission.

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His unique eye for detail raises the question of how you approach the subject of F1 when creating the artwork for the Hunt Foundation. ‘I stand back and squint’ is his eye-glinting response. And when you see the artwork you should do that too. Not because you will struggle to make out the subject matter for that floats in and out of abstraction, but you will notice so many different things within the artwork each time you look. The crowd line, the track, the chasing cars they are all there but you need to invest some quality squinting time to get the most out of this magnificent artwork.

But it is worth every second. It doesn’t take a big leap of even the least initiated of us to see why Jeremy has become one of the most collectable artists of his generation. A small selection of his work is shown here and of course, so is his beloved BOP600 Bentley that we hope to have a feature on in a forthcoming release but for now, enjoy the anniversary for the legend and enigma that was James Hunt through the artwork of Jeremy Houghton.

My own attempts at art will remain unseen as I’ve noticed that they are best viewed not by squinting but with your eyes tightly closed.