In this new exhibition, James celebrates one hundred editions of the Tour de France by framing this year’s 100th edition of the race within the stanzas of John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. Echoing the twelve books of Paradise Lost, James presents the 100e collection as a series of twelve limited edition prints, each themed around a line from Milton’s poem and created as an intricately-montaged collection of vintage press photographs and graphic forms.
Highlights for me include No.44 – The verdurous wall of paradise, where we see Jacques Anquetil, the winner of the 1957 tour, signing the leg of a local beauty. Times were different then. As Jacques famously said: “To prepare for a race there is nothing better than a good pheasant, some champagne and a woman”.
Then there’s No.36 – Of patience and heroic martyrdom, featuring the rivalry between Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali on the 1949 tour, won by Coppi.
Bradley Wiggins is featured obliquely in No.54 – Demy-gods on golden seats. If you look closely at Eddy Merckx’s shirt, you will see Bradley Wiggins’ race number, 101, from the historic 2012 victory.
The collection does not duck controversy. One of the most powerful images for me in the set is the last, No.91 – Of darkness do we dread ?, which puts Lance Armstrong at its centre and is rich in symbolism and intricately constructed.
James Straffon’s limited editions from the 100e series are available to purchase in a choice of two different physical size options: a regular size measuring 16×20 inches (in an edition of 20) and a large format measuring 30×38 inches (in an edition of 5). Each print is signed and numbered by James Straffon on the front under the image area. Purchasers of the complete set of twelve 16×20 inch prints receive the collection in a handmade portfolio, which also includes ‘Imaging the Century’ – an 1,100 word essay written by renowned author Graeme Fife – author of Tour de France: the history, the legend, the riders and The Beautiful Machine.
Graeme Fife puts it well when he describes the collection as an “egregious tribute to the great bike race. Sensitively conceived and beautifully produced, the collection pulses with that sentiment which pumps through the extraordinary events on the roads, every July since 1903, as the Giants of those roads add a new chapter to the saga: Vive le Tour.”
The twelve prints in the collection show the drama of one hundred editions of the Tour de France against a backdrop of universally artistic subjects: descent and ascent; light and dark; immortality; rebellious angels; the anti-hero; temptation; and the pursuit of Paradise. We hope you enjoy this exciting collection.