Ghost sighting leads to Rolls Royce life

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By Fred Wild

THE work of illustrator Ewart Melbourne Brindle, pictured on the right with S Prestley Blake, now forms the basis of a gallery at the Rolls Royce Foundation’s museum in the United States. Pictures: Supplied

EWART Melbourne Brindle saw his first Rolls Royce Silver Ghost on Dromana Esplanade on a summer afternoon in 1912 — a sighting that led the eight-year-old to a career that would make him America’s most celebrated illustrator of the famous cars.

On May 17 the Twenty Silver Ghosts gallery in the Rolls Royce Foundation’s museum in Mechanicsburg, Philadelphia, US had its official opening.

The purpose built gallery features 26 of Brindle’s original paintings the basis for the 1971 book, “Twenty Silver Ghosts”. The paintings detail some of the most famous pre-World War I cars. The gallery houses the full collection with artist’s renderings, all donated to the foundation in 2015 by Friendly’s Ice Cream founder S Prestley Blake, then aged 101.

Conservators spent many hours restoring the paintings in readiness for the display.

Prestley Blake was a close friend of Melbourne Brindle who died in 1993 and, like the artist, an avid Rolls Royce collector.

The foundation’s CEO Mark Lizewskie said the occasion also marked the 115th anniversary of Charles Rolls and Henry Royce’s meeting for the first time in Manchester, UK.

“The marque they agreed to form that day continues to set global standards for innovation and excellence, and uphold their legacy as the originators of the best car in the world,” Mr Lizewskie said.

“Attendees who were not aware of the paintings were enthralled with the attention to detail Brindle captured within his subjects.”

Brindle’s parents Arthur and Grace Brindle moved from Melbourne to Dromana in 1905 when Ewart was six-months old.

Arthur Brindle, an artist, tried his hand at farming in Dromana but chose to sail to San Francisco to work on the Panama Pacific Exposition in 1914. The Brindle children attended Dromana State School.

War intervened and it wasn’t until war’s end that Grace and her seven children were able to reunite with him.

Melbourne Brindle, who dropped the Ewart from his name in the US, inherited his father’s artistic talent and had a successful career as an illustrator. He was best known for his advertisements for motor vehicles, including Packard, Buick and Cadillac.  He produced War Bond advertisements during World War II and designed US postage stamps.

The book Twenty Silver Ghosts measures 47cm x 39cm. A smaller version was printed in 1978 and copies of both can still be found online.

Some of the paintings feature in Brindle’s An Illustrators Passion available from the Dromana and District Historical Society’s museum in Dromana.

His painting of the Weeroona plying Port Phillip Bay hangs in Dromana State School while his magnificent Diggers Hat on Landing hangs in the Peninsula Club.

Attendees for the opening soiree in (at $80 a person) were able to tour the Roll Royce Foundation’s gallery, experience the collection of “Proper motor cars” and enjoy a British-themed menu.

CEO Mark Lizewskie said the “proper motor car mixer” was such a success it would become an annual event.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 11 June 2019

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