story and photos by Tony Clark
It is over two years since we last had an opportunity to see Dexter Brown’s work and a report of that show was published in AFAS journal of April 2015. This new one-man selling exhibition was organised by Bonhams auctioneers in their Bond Street, London rooms. And what a superb exhibition it was! The art was displayed around the walls of the main ground floor gallery and a side gallery. There were some 69 examples of Dexter’s work on display ranging from large 6ft long canvases to small pencil sketches. In fact something for every pocket. As an added attraction the display was organised to coincide with the two-day viewing of the main December 2017 car sale featuring the finest automobiles. The cars were in the centre of the room surrounded by the Dexter art on the walls.
At the previous exhibition there was emphasis on the personalities and cars associated with them, including film stars, automobile manufacturers and drivers. In this show the cars were the stars; Dexter had concentrated on the automobiles not the people, albeit there were six excellent portraits of racing drivers. In addition there were several compositions based on manufacturer’s emblems for example Abarth, Bugatti, Mercedes, Maserati, Porsche, Jaguar and Ferrari. Dexter has a special way of putting life into a staid badge that is particularly appealing and to some extent the closer they approach abstraction the more attractive I find them.
And what of the automobiles? With every exhibition the show stopper is normally a large Dexter painting of a Porsche 917. This show was no different with an excellent acrylic on canvas of two Porsche 917S sweeping round Daytona in 1970.
However, my star of the show was an Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato rendering in acrylic on canvas. This depicted Jim Clark racing at Goodwood in 1960. This was a large painting at 6ft long and it was full of movement, so much so that the offset car image seemed to be sliding out of the painting in a four-wheeled drift. No Dexter exhibition would be complete without Ferrari paintings and one strong painting was a 1961 Goodwood scene, this time the Ferrari 250 GTO driven by Stirling Moss, the car being painted in Rob Walker’s blue and white instead of the usual Ferrari red.
Mercedes-Benz cars always feature in Dexter’s work and this show had several studies of the W125 pre-war grand prix car.
The ages of the automobiles ranged from a pen and wash sketch of the 1929 Monaco Grand Prix to right up to the present with a gouache of Lewis Hamilton in 2017.
There were two interesting features of this exhibition. Firstly, all the art was signed Dexter Brown and nothing was painted by his alter ego de Bruyne.. De Bruyne normally paints the nostalgic scenes of pre-war racing and motoring, these often feature people in period clothes. Sometimes the motoring is a secondary feature to the main composition. However, I am sure that at least one color sketch was completed by de Bruyne; this was an elegant lady with parasol talking to the driver of a Brescia Bugatti!
The other interesting point was that all the paintings were to a similar level of looseness and abstraction. Dexter is capable of painting motoring scenes from near photographic to total abstract. All the art in the exhibition was to my view middle ground. One of the loosest pictures was another favourite of mine. This depicted Jim Clark driving the Lotus at Indianapolis in 1965.
Special thanks are due to Bonhams and James Knight, Director of Bonhams who was responsible for pulling this whole show together, and of course to Dexter who has lost a year of his life working on the art! This is in addition to a new knee operation. It is gratifying that over the course of the exhibition a high sales percentage was achieved. The art had appeared in advance on the Bonham’s website and even before the exhibition was opened half the artwork had already sold. Thanks also to Bonhams for supplying the images of the paintings used in this article.