Sept/Oct 2020 edition
Issue #12 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
Gordon Crosby spent nearly his entire working career as an employee of the English weekly magazine The Autocar, was salaried and produced much of his work to deadlines. Helck, on the other hand, had a variety of clients, and produced advertising illustrations for clients ranging from Mack Trucks to Johnnie Walker Whiskey as well as magazine cover art, and in later years private commission work for his many admirers.
While The Autocar retained Crosby’s magazine artwork, Helck’s went to a great many clients over many more years. Peter Garnier’s book, “The Art of Gordon Crosby,” estimates more than 600 examples of Helck’s work are in private hands, a number I believe to be very low if preliminary works and drawings are included. Crosby worked in pen and ink, charcoal, gouache, and oils, and his output was perhaps 300 finished works owned by The Autocar and, but a few private commissions, made for little supply to satisfy burgeoning collector interest.
There is no catalog raisonné of Crosby’s work. There is Garnier’s book, The Brooks Catalogs, a modest publication of 1991 by The Autocar’s owner Haymarket Press “The Art of Autocar & Motor,” and of course, surviving copies of yellowed eighty plus year weekly pulp magazines. See also Automobile Quarterly Volume IV Number 4.
Like many of his illustrator contemporaries, Gordon Crosby had a desire to be recognized as well in the world of fine art. He exhibited three times at the Royal Academy. Shockingly one of these submissions from 1921 a landscape depicting Mullion Cove in Cornwall, was listed recently on eBay at $58,000!
To the extent they exist small Autocar interior charcoals, $5,000 and up. At the other end of the financial spectrum are two print folios of some of Crosby’s best work, The Endless Quest for Speed and Meteors of Road and Track. These turn up at swap meets and on the internet for $50-$100, often incomplete.
Just a few years ago at the Beaulieu Autojumble I was able to buy, from a dealer friend, a magnificent oil painting of Kaye Don on Miss England II setting a world water speed record in 1931 on Lake Garda. This one, an example foremost of Crosby’s skill as a landscape artist, hangs in our living room.
Crosby’s work also included aviation subjects including The Battle of Britain. His son, an RAF fighter pilot, was killed in battle and a broken-hearted father passed soon after.
To read more great automotive art columns like this one from expert Bob Ames...