PORTRAITS OF THE CYCLIST
Pearson’s new Swift Half sweatshirt celebrates the extraordinary work of Frank Patterson, the prodigious pen-and-ink virtuoso and cycling’s very own great master.
By Jack Buxton.
Patterson's drawing of Surrey's famous pub and our inner sweatshirt tribute.
Since the first bicycles appeared in the late 18th century, artists have tried to capture both their liberating pleasures and cultural significance. Some have tended toward the idiosyncratic. Take Marcel Duchamp’s sculpture, Bicycle Wheel, currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York. Described by that’s institution’s website as ‘provocative’, it is also, let’s face it, a wheel attached to a stool.
Yellow Bike, the surrealist painting by Óscar Domínguez, a contemporary of Salvador Dali, is considered highly subversive. Perhaps because it features a bike being ridden by a giant platypus.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was as obsessed with cycling as he was with women, while the Futurists who followed were so convinced the bike represented the apogee of progress they hardly painted anything else.
Bikes regularly feature in the work of contemporary artists, too. The 1997 Turner Prize shortlist included a sculpture by Cornelia Parker titled Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View. It was created – sort of – when Parker blew up the contents of her garden shed, numerous bicycles included.
To mark Yorkshire’s hosting of the 2014 Grand Départ, meanwhile, Banksy painted fellow artist David Hockney aboard a trusty shopper. Grayson Perry, for the record, is a keen mountain biker.
Few cycling artists, however, are viewed with as much affection, as Frank Patterson, whose pen-and-ink sketches intimately capture cycling life in post-war Britain. Famously appearing in Cycling Weekly magazine, they provide an evocative record of a bygone age, documenting the role of the bike in rural life, on roads blissfully free of cars.
Born on the South Coast in 1871, Patterson’s father intended for his son a maritime career, until he enrolled himself at the Portsmouth School of Art (whose alumni also includes Grayson Perry). Upon graduation, Patterson promptly walked the 75 miles to London – if only he’d had a bike – and found employment with the Illustrated London News. Notably, his depictions of the Boer War for that paper were the British public’s principal window into the conflict.
It was during this time that Cycling Weekly came calling. From his home at Pear Tree Farm, in West Sussex, Patterson penned his first image for the magazine in 1893 – and his last in 1952. Prodigious barely begins to do his output justice. In addition to the six editors that came and went, Patterson racked up 26,000 drawings, of which the vast majority were cyclists.
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