APR 14th 2015

Meet Klaus Wagger ‑ The New FoS Artist

For 22 years it has been one of the most instantly recognisable images of the world’s greatest motoring garden party. Calling it a poster is to tell only half the story – the Goodwood Festival of Speed poster has always been more about art than advertising.

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Since the first FoS in 1993 these memorable and original designs – now all very collectible – have been the work of one man, Peter Hearsey. This year, though, there is a new hand on the brushes. Lord March has appointed Klaus Wagger to be the chosen artist for 2015.

So what can we expect this time? We know exactly because this year’s poster is out early – in fact Klaus was signing prints for GRRC members at the 73rd Members’ Meeting (still available from the Goodwood Shop if you’re interested).

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We’ll let Klaus explain the design for 2015: ‘It shows Gilles Villeneuve in the Ferrari 312 at the first right-hander on the hillclimb.’ What Klaus doesn’t say is that the car is very fast, very sideways and has the back wheels fighting for traction on the Goodwood grass…

‘To me Gilles was the ultimate F1 wild boy and famous for going sideways,’ Klaus tells GRR. ‘The FoS theme this year is “Flat-out and fearless – racing on the edge”. Or balls of steel as I like to think of it. Whatever you call it, my painting’s the epitome of it.’

Its very cool. Working for Goodwood is for me the pinnacle of the motoring art world.

It’s certainly a theme well suited to the vibrancy and drama of Klaus’s painting style. Rarely has there been a FoS poster with as much sheer speed in it. Klaus paints in acrylics, using a technical illustrator’s eye for precision, which seems at odds with the abstract urgency of the finished work.

When GRR met up with Klaus recently he explained a little about the processes involved in creating one of his works of automotive art.

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He always begins with a technical drawing. Klaus began his career as a technical illustrator, so accuracy is guaranteed; you can, for instance, rest assured that the loads on Gilles’ Ferrari’s suspension and its angle of oversteer are all technically spot on.

‘What I do then is deconstruct the drawing, just taking what I need and leaving out what I don’t need. The more you leave in, the more precise the painting is and the more you slow down the action. So it is a question of finding the right balance; keeping the movement but also showing a recognisable subject.

‘With this painting I was able to leave out a lot because the car and the location are so well known. Everyone can see at once it is a Ferrari and that it is on the Goodwood hillclimb.’

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Klaus says the traditional FoS poster style of just a few words gives him freedom to ensure the image has maximum impact. ‘It’s all about capturing the speed and the excitement of motor racing,’ says Klaus. ‘The Festival of Speed poster is a dream job for me because it not only suits my style, it gives me all the artistic freedom I want, and that doesn’t happen very often.’

The initial technical drawing evolves into what he calls a ‘sketch’ with the colours applied. ‘I use acrylics because I always start with the background and work to the front, and you can’t do that with oils.’

‘What I like about cars is that there is a lot of emotion in them which you don’t get so much with planes or boats.’

The sketch is more a mini painting and the thought occurs it would look just right on GRR’s office wall but no, this sketch is destined for Klaus’s living room back home in Austria. Incidentally the large finished painting – like all the others in the history of FoS – has joined Goodwood’s art collection.

Incredibly all this work takes Klaus just two days.

Klaus grew up in a village in the Tyrol (near neighbours: Gerhard Berger and Karl Wendlinger). He graduated from university with a degree in industrial design and began a freelance career as a technical illustrator. He started painting racing cars for fun in his spare time, and in 2000 he entered a competition to design the poster for the Mille Miglia. His study of a Mercedes SSK at full speed took first prize.

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After that the commissions flowed in – for Retromobile, the 2007 Daytona 500 and even a painting for the Italian Carabinieri – and he has exhibited widely; not just at Revival and the Festival of Speed but also Pebble Beach, Amelia Island and Techno Classica. He has been a member of the Automotive Fine Arts Society since 2013.

Today his work is highly sought-after all around the world. He paints only racing cars. ‘What I like about cars is that there is a lot of emotion in them which you don’t get so much with planes or boats.’

For someone who portrays motor sport drama and passion so well, you might think that Klaus is a real petrolhead. But no. He drives a people mover – ‘I need something big to transport my paintings’ – and gets his kicks not on the racetrack, but white-water kayaking.

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 What does the Festival of Speed job mean to him?

‘It’s very cool. Working for Goodwood is for me the pinnacle of the motoring art world. At a time when many organisations are turning more to photography it is very important that Goodwood continues to support artists.

‘It is people like Lord March who keep automotive art alive.’

Klaus adds: ‘It is a job I never thought I would get because Peter Hearsey has always done it, and done it brilliantly. Peter’s work plays a very important part in my life and career.’

Lord March says: ‘Our idea for the poster from the start of the Festival of Speed was for a beautiful motor sport painting rather than any hard sell. So we have always kept it simple and given the artist as much freedom to create as possible.

‘Peter Hearsey famously succeeded in this for an incredible 22 years, and the posters he created for us are synonymous with the Festival of Speed.

‘I am delighted to say that in Klaus Wagger we have found exactly the right man to carry on Peter’s amazing work and this great FoS tradition.’

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