Motoring art: Roy Nockolds

| 14 Sep 2023
Classic & Sports Car – Motoring art: Roy Nockolds

Be it a Jaguar D-type sports-racer roaring through the mist along the Mulsanne or a Sunderland seaplane dropping depth charges in evening light over the ocean, Roy Nockolds was a master of capturing great machines in their element.

His commercial paintings in oils and acrylics were often very photo-realist, but Nockolds on occasion adopted a more Impressionist style, which resulted in some of his finest works.

A spectacular study of his hero, Richard Seaman, drifting a Mercedes-Benz W154 en route to winning the 1938 German Grand Prix is regarded as one of the greatest motorsport paintings.

Classic & Sports Car – Motoring art: Roy Nockolds

Roy Nockolds was highly regarded for his landscapes, as demonstrated by this Bentley motoring through Broadway, in the Cotswolds

Born in 1911 in Croydon, Nockolds was the youngest of seven children.

His artistic genes came from his mother, who was related to the Flemish master Pieter van der Heyden, and from an early age drawing and painting were his main passion.

But it was a trip to Brooklands in 1924 that really captured his imagination, and during his teens this self-taught talent was already having his illustrations published in The Light Car.

With little colour in period magazines, Nockolds’ early work was monochrome including ink, scraperboards and dry-point etching prints.

Classic & Sports Car – Motoring art: Roy Nockolds

Richard Seaman on his way to winning the 1938 German Grand Prix in a Mercedes-Benz W154

In the 1930s, Nockolds’ talent was rewarded with industry commissions including Standard and Lockheed, but during WW2 he worked for the RAF producing propaganda posters and designing camouflage for aircraft.

His innovative ideas for night fighters led to the Mosquitos of 151 Squadron being repainted with a white underside – the idea was inspired by watching owls from his home studio near Farnham.

With the return of peace, Nockolds focused on regular commissions and even had a landscape accepted for the Royal Academy.

But motoring and motorsport remained his main inspirations, leading to a part-time post with The Motor.

Classic & Sports Car – Motoring art: Roy Nockolds

Nockolds was a master of night scenes; here, the Jaguar C-type of Rolt/Hamilton roars through the Esses on its way to Le Mans victory in 1953

Editorial highlights included a European tour in a loaned Daimler, during which he made his first visit to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix.

As the British motor industry flourished during the 1950s, Nockolds’ work was much in demand both for publicity and boardroom paintings.

Jaguar’s glorious Le Mans success inspired a marvellous series of works that brilliantly captured racing at night and at dawn.

Rally commissions were also relished by Nockolds, because he could use his talent for landscape and light.

Classic & Sports Car – Motoring art: Roy Nockolds

Phil Hill heads a quartet of ‘Sharknose’ Ferraris at Spa

The demand for illustration faded as photography became more prominent, but through the 1960s Nockolds focused more
on private commissions.

His nostalgia for Brooklands led to enthusiastic support of the track’s historical society, for whom he regularly designed Christmas cards and donated paintings for charity auctions.

During the early 1970s Nockolds received a major commission from Mobil for a set of 36 collector cards depicting ‘The story of Grand Prix motor racing’, to be given away with petrol sales.

In later years he was a key supporter of the Guild of Aviation Artists, before his passing aged 68 in 1979.

Roy Nockolds’ work is regularly offered by Bonhams and Tony Clark

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