Although its often cited as having been produced in 1994, this August 1988 work by Terence Cuneo is in fact a rarity. Barely any examples can seen on the Internet and even in the wild any one of the 500 limited edition prints to be made are seldom seen on sites such as Ebay. Despite its limited edition appeal I somehow think it wasn’t very popular and quite a few years was spent trying to sell all 500 copies to the work. It is a lovely Cuneo painting but its not what people would usually expect from the artist. Yes he has done quite a lot of modern image paintings but (as I personally find myself) the classic ones with steam were often more appealing, even the early diesel ones (such as The Condor Freight) because they had a certain texture about them.
The down side of this one particular image was perhaps it was too squeaky clean (pardon the pun!) It doesn’t have the feel of hard graft and work the other images so often conveyed and that is probably why it hasnt ensued such a good following unlike much of Cuneo’s other work.
I recently found a fairly good rendition of this artwork in a near thirty year old copy of RAIL. Despite having a banner across one quarter of it which proclaimed it ‘A Modern Cuneo Masterpiece.’ I rebuilt that banner section by comparing the scene with the somewhat poor quality examples that can be found on the Internet. There were some print inconsistencies no doubt due to the half-tone method and its not always easy to pull the details out of a half-tone image easily.
I have had to use a little bit of imagination to try and render the paint how Cuneo would have liked it especially with regards to the part covered by a banner. Like most artwork the composition should really be viewed large preferably on a wall. That is because people want to be able to stand and appreciate the entire work in its wholeness, before going up close and seeing the detail.
To be able to do that in a virtual sense would mean one would need a large high quality digital image which could be zoomed in or out at will giving the same sort of feel as if one was standing in a gallery and then walking up close to inspect the detail in the painting and seeing the techniques Cuneo employed in his artworks whether they were trains, the military or even portraits of famous people.
The limited edition was signed by Cuneo as always but also countersigned by Chris Green (Inter City’s managing director) and Sir Bob Reid (chair of British Railways Board.)
I imagine Cuneo had special dispensation (as he did always) to work between the tracks at the Bounds Green depot. This location would have been at the southern end of the depot area looking towards the Buckingham Road bridge and King’s Cross. I think the scene was actually painted from just inside the covered depot itself. The tracks he would have been working on were no more than occasionally used tracks for trains to gain the depot thus Cuneo probably did not have a lookout in this instance.
Chris Green, former NSE supremo, and the new managing director of Inter City, writes on Cuneo’s painting.
If one looks at the image below it will be seen the concrete area that can be seen in Cuneo’s painting can also be seen here. Obviously they’ve upgraded the shunt signals.
The concrete area can be seen between the first and second pair of tracks on the right. Source: Wikipedia
Where was the mouse in this particular Intercity scene? It was jumping off the concrete area (shown in the image above) down onto the trackbed. I know its not a good rendition but this is a high dpi scan of the original half-tone print and the actual size of mouse in this print was approximately 2.5mm in size – and I cant find any other better quality than this!
The size of the image itself was 178 x 125mm which isn’t terribly big either!
It is said that he too had the opportunity to paint his signature mouse on the side of the Inter City Class 91 which was 91011 and named after him. It must however be pointed out the locomotive in ‘Intercity’ was 91001.
Terence Cuneo on top of the signal gantry at Clapham Junction. Source: Twitter
Below is a video of Cueno at work and how the railways helped him. One can observe a rail lookout at work and then alerting Cuneo to move out of the way while a train passes by. Evidently he had a lot of contacts and was able to achieve viewpoints of the railway at work that would not normally be available. The above and below pictures of him at Clapham Junction are an example of this privilege – although I think the above photograph is more of a publicity shot than an actual work session – because the scene on the easel doesn’t match the actual scene. Cuneo is actually depicted in a position nearer the station to that the viewpoint depicted in his artwork.
The picture below may represent a more accurate viewpoint although its somewhat hard to fathom he would work with his back to the actual scene! The photograph is taken in the Waterloo direction and this is evidenced by the fact Battersea Power Station can be seen in the distance. It is said that in those days the spoils from the steam trains (the cinders) would regularly land on his freshly painted work! I dont know if that ever gave Cuneo the idea his work should have a certain kind of gritty look but nevertheless it means we in the UK have some of the most excellent paintings of trains the world has seen!
Another example of Cuneo at work at Clapham Junction. Source: Science Museum
How Cuneo painted the ‘Condor.’ A rail lookout was on hand to ensure Cuneo’s safety at all times. Picture source: You Tube
This is a nice video of Cuneo and how he achieved the famous Condor painting of 1960. As one will see from this video the painting was done in the daytime even though its made out to be a night scene. The locomotive was of the rare Co-Bo offering which only twenty were built. It wasn’t a very successful build and the last of the class was withdrawn after just eleven years. They were often in pairs and worked the Condor express freight service.