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Crosby's most cherished paintings went beyond the
mere recording of events. Within their borders the careful viewer could
experience what it actually meant to fight for control of these
monstrous machines in the early days of the automobile, their long,
high bonnets masking the threat of power lying just beneath a thin
skin of metal. This was his favorite period, one that had lasted too
few years in his opinion. The period marked a time when a car was something special, its
drivers to be envied and the best of them judged heroic. He would long for
these days later in his life. In a 1938 issue of The Autocar he is quoted
as saying that cars were becoming “…eggs on wheels, with only the
driver’s head showing”.
It was said that he often did not actually
witness the subjects in his paintings relying instead on the
descriptions of others and his own mind’s eye. Having no formal
training save for “life” classes taken after the start of his
professional career, Peter Garnier in his book on the Art of Gordon
Crosby stated that Crosby had crossed the line separating an
illustrator from the artist.
There is no record of his actual birth date in 1885. Of
his death in 1943 there is more known as he died from his own hand
unable too overcome the depression caused by his failing health and the
loss of his son in combat, shot down flying a P-51 over the English Channel in 1942. Between these two dates Crosby began his
career as a draughtsman for Daimler. Here he came into contact with
Sammy Davis, Ludlow Clayden and a host of others who would later work
with him at one time or another at The Autocar. This legendary
journal was a pioneer in automotive art and the use of perspective
drawings of their mechanical workings. This lifetime partnership
resulted in between 300-400 individual works including some of the
most valuable automotive art in existence.
making his annual visit to the Paris Salon with W.F.
Bradley, he would quietly settle down on his shooting stick,
making simplified, easily understood mechanical sketches,
indifferent to his surroundings as though he were seated at
his desk at home. Stand attendants would look with suspicion
upon this unruffled Englishman who calmly put on paper the
details of their new models about to be shown to the public.
The less important the attendants, the more officious they
were - and, after verbal protests, to which Crosby remained
completely and utterly indifferent, they would hurry off and
seek a policeman. But, since there was nothing illegal in
making sketches in the Grand Palais, however unusual the
practice at the time the Law usually shrugged its shoulders
and looked on in wonder and admiration.
Peter Garnier in the Art of Gordon Crosby