I have returned home from my time in the bush watching a member of my family participate in cycling races while at the same time sketching and thinking about the place of Bicycles in Art. There can be little doubt that bicycles are dearly loved by a large number of people around the world and have been part of our lives for the last two hundred years. So how do they fit into the world of art?
The machine and its many manifestations is a work of art starting with the very first bicycle which was really a Running Machine invented in 1817 by the German Barn Karl von Drais.
The Running machine did have a typical bicycle frame and two wheels, but it was propelled by walking as opposed to peddling.
The concept of a bicycle was picked up by a number of British cartwrights; the most notable was Denis Johnson of London announcing in late 1818 that he would sell an improved model. New names were introduced when Johnson patented his machine “pedestrian curricle” or “velocipede,” but the public preferred nicknames like “hobby-horse,” after the children’s toy or, worse still, “dandyhorse,” after the foppish men who often rode them. Johnson's machine was an improvement on Drais's, being notably more elegant: his wooden frame had a serpentine shape instead of Drais's straight one, allowing the use of larger wheels without raising the rider's seat. During the summer of 1819, the "hobby-horse", thanks in part to Johnson's marketing skills and better patent protection, became the craze and fashion in London society. The dandies, the Corinthians of the Regency, adopted it, and therefore the poet John Keats referred to it as "the nothing" of the day. Riders wore out their boots surprisingly rapidly, and the fashion ended within the year, after riders on pavements (sidewalks) were fined two pounds. (Wikipedia)
From then on everyone seems to have claimed to be the first to invent the pedal driven cycle. I have chosen to show you the design of the Frenchman *Pierre Lallement's 1866 cycle with the pedals attached to the front wheel.
The first documented producer of rod-driven two-wheelers, treadle bicycles, was Thomas McCall, of Kilmarnock in 1869. The design was inspired by the French front-crank velocipede of the Lallement/Michaux type.
And then the likes of the penny-farthing began appearing. This one was photographed in the Škoda museum in the Czech Republic
And I particularly like this 1886 Coventry Rotary Quadracycle for two which began appearing.
I’m delighted to say that my grandfather (Arthur Robertson Morris) was a cyclist starting from a very early age.
And I would like to share this wonderful photo of Arthur Robertson Morris taken in the Fernery in Rosalind Park, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia in about 1807 when he was 17 years old. A jeweller by trade he made the bike himself and named it the Albena - Al after my grandmother Alice and bena after Bendigo, his home town.
Arthur was married and a father within a year of this photo being taken and named his daughter (my mother) Albena after his bicycle!
Arthur went on to race competitively for many years and Bendigo is still considered to be the home of cycling in Victoria. Arthur however did not stop at building pedal bicycles: he turned his hand also to creating motor cycles. Here is his Killian-Morris bike made with his friend.
My father's side of the family must not be left out. Here is my aunt Jean Newman in the side car enjoying tearing around the roads of Bendigo with her friend driving.
And to prove how good bike riding is for you. My aunt lived to be 101 and her friend driving turned 110 last month!!
Okay, confession time. I'm not opposed to a bit of a spin on a bike occasionally myself. And of course, A Harley Davidson is the very best!!
But I'm getting appallingly sidetracked from my purpose. To get us back into the realms of art forms I will conclude this little glimpse into wheel art with some photos from the famous Henri Cartier-Bresson. The first was taken in Hyeres, France, 1932.
And several Veledrome Moments.
But my very favourite Wheel Art photo, again from the incredible talent of Henri Cartier-Bresson is this one, taken in Palermo, Sicily, 1971. Please take a little time to study the image very carefully and to think about the message being conveyed by Cartier-Bresson.
The Hero Image today is a slice from my latest painting for children or the young at heart- Down Town.