The art of painting and the delights of motoring seen from a fresh perspective.
Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’
Caillebotte’s ‘Study for a Paris Street, Rainy Day’
Van Ehrenberg’s ‘Renaissance Indoor Staircase’
Hepworth’s 'Night Sky (Porthmeor)'
What a sweet thing this perspective is!’ said Paolo Uccello, the 15th-century Florentine artist whose foreshortened knights and receding black-and-white floors caused such a stir when he first displayed them to his patrons, the Medici family. Those who followed a hundred years later, such as Wilhelm Van Ehrenberg, the Flemish painter, or the Roman printmaker Giovanni Piranesi, played games with vanishing points and the geometry of vision. For them, reality was not enough – they invented churches or prisons, palaces and castles, allowing their architectural dreamscapes to roam free from the confines of what they saw.
Renaissance genius gave the canvas three dimensions. A modern eye, though, needs to be present in the middle of the work of art, seeing what the artist sees and experiencing what the artist feels. Gustave Caillebotte’s 1877 Study for a Paris Street, Rainy Day absorbs you into the damp boulevard. His cobbles shine as his pedestrians pause in their hurry across the almost-empty place.
The next extraordinary strides were taken by Van Gogh, who brought the planets and the moon to the fore in his masterpiece of 1889, The Starry Night. It was painted while he was in an asylum and only a year before he killed himself, and in it the artist is not seeking a heightened realism, but rather ‘hope,’ which, he said in a letter, ‘is in the stars.’ No matter that the village of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence was not visible from his window; he was painting a different truth from another perspective.
And this is, too, what Marcel Duchamp was doing in 1916 with his Nude Descending a Staircase, No 2, but the dimension he is adding is a fourth, that of time itself. His blending of the colours and the planes of Cubism with the free-flowing movement of Futurism is filmic and vivid. ‘Painting is washed up,’ he later wrote to his friend the sculptor Constantin Brancusi. ‘Who will ever do anything better than [a] propeller? Tell me, can you do that?’
It is the pure art of engineering, of power, elegance and proportion, that the design team from Bentley Motors Limited searches for in their work. Just as a propeller, or a chair designed by Mies van der Rohe, or a Zaha Hadid table is a synthesis of function and form, so the look of the Bentayga, the biggest launch in Bentley’s modern history, is defined by its purpose.
The four-door model is the world’s most extraordinary SUV, and the design has to deliver that promise. For a company like Bentley, just as for an artist and sculptor like Barbara Hepworth, age merely transforms the modern into the classic. Again like Hepworth, who was inspired by the tides and rock formations around her home in St Ives, the Bentley team’s inspirations for the car’s shape come from the aerodynamic curve of an eagle’s wing in flight; the athletic strength of a gymnast at full stretch; the ripples and splashes of falling water. Also like Hepworth, the car is British – made in Crewe – and although it is a very different beast from the high-performance sports cars we know so well and are so instantly recognisable, it has Bentley lines, Bentley performance and a Bentley philosophy that run through every aspect of the car’s design and function. It has four round lights, a classic large matrix grille and powerful haunches that mean it could never be mistaken for anything but a Bentley.
And so, a car like the Bentayga will never look out of place, its lines will never jar, since its design is pared back to the minimum, determined by its purpose. The SUV has sinuous curves and proportions that are thought through to deliver the utmost clarity and simplicity. The interior of the car is no less thoughtfully engineered. Darren Day, head of interior design, describes the process of creation of the Bentayga just as an artist might a work of art. ‘Each surface is carefully designed and sculpted,’ he says, ‘so that the beauty of the materials are shown, so that the customer is in no doubt that only the finest hides and veneers are used by the craftsmen and women who make the car.’ The inspirations here range from the tailored perfection of a Savile Row jacket to the pure functionality of a complicated watch. ‘Ensuring the design is sympathetic to the materials means that the cabin portrays an air of calm and authenticity,’ he adds. Like any work of outstanding skill, there is nothing superfluous in the design of the car, nothing accidental or out of place.And thus, precision, inspiration and restraint reveal a mastery of technique that offers a fresh perspective both on art and motoring.
The new Bentley Bentayga
The four-door model is ‘the world’s most extraordinary SUV’
Mesa Table by Zaha Hadid for Vitra. Below: the seats, featuring quilting that can be customised in contrast stitching to match the exterior of the car
Top: the Mulliner Tourbillon clock by Breitling, in white gold or rose gold, will be available in the future through individual inquiries to Bentley Mulliner