July/Aug 2019 edition
Issue #6 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
My art collection started in the basement of a stranger’s home. I dropped into an estate sale because the man whose stuff was being sold had owned a British car parts business, and I figured (correctly) there would be some treasures in the mix. I didn’t expect to start an art collection.
Down in that basement, among innumerable racing and concours event posters, was a painting by British artist Dion Pears. The work depicts Captain George Eyston and Count Johnny Lurani driving the No. 39 MG Magnette K3 in the 1933 Mille Miglia. The asking price was well out of my budget, but the sale manager encouraged me to place a bid because no one else had expressed interest in the piece. I wrote down a figure I could afford and placed it in the bid box. At the conclusion of the sale, after a bit of negotiation, I purchased the painting.
Who was Dion Pears?
I had no idea who Dion Pears was when I bought that painting. Five more paintings and many more prints and posters later, I still don’t know much about him. According to the Motoringart.info website, he lived from 1929 to 1985 in Worthing, UK. He came from a family of ship painters, and is said to have suffered from agoraphobia.
Pears is best known for his many works covering motorsports and the golden age of British motoring. He was prolific, painting every kind of car in every sort of venue. Most of his paintings are oils on canvas, but he was also known for watercolors and charcoal sketches, and did occasional work on board surfaces. He also painted sailing boats and ships, military air and naval scenes from the world wars, and English landscapes.
Posters and Commercial Art
A few of Pears’ paintings were printed as posters in a series called “My Favorite Race.” Notably, there are posters of Stirling Moss at Monaco, John Surtees at the 1966 Belgian GP, and Mike Hawthorn at the 1955 Le Mans. Signed and numbered copies of these posters are easy to find and quite affordable. In addition, some of Pears art found its way onto event posters, magazine covers, and even promotional posters by Ford Motor Company and others.
Who’s the Other Guy?
Pears tended to depict specific moments in racing—the pass that won the race, or a notable corner. The primary subject is front and center, but often there’s another car in the background. Those background cars have their own stories.
In the painting of Eyston in the MG, the car in the background is an Alfa Romeo, and Nuvolari won that race overall in the Alfa 8C 2300. The painting of Briggs Cunningham driving the E-Type Jaguar in the 1962 24 Hours of Le Mans, shows Phil Hill’s race-winning Ferrari 330 TRI/LM in the background. The poster of Surtees in Belgium has second-place Jochen Rindt chasing Surtees through the rain. The poster of Moss at Monaco shows second-place Richie Ginther following Moss through Massenet corner past the opera house. These details give depth to the art, or at least I think they do.
Collecting Dion Pears
Most of Pears’ body of work remains in Britain. However, paintings come through auction houses frequently, averaging 1–2 pieces per month. Auction resources such as Invaluable.com and The-Saleroom.com aggregate many small auctioneers, and you can create a persistent search to notify you when pieces are listed. The same is true at eBay.
Prices vary, but it’s rare to see a Pears painting go for more than $1,000. Typical prices for a 30”x39” oil painting are about $400-$500. Posters and prints typically trade well under $100. Famous drivers and scenes command higher prices. Landscapes and other-than-motorsports pieces tend to be less expensive. JZ