Edward Hopper wasn’t really a prolific artist, he actually spent very little time in front of the canvas, and spent more time gestating on what he might paint next. It was during one of these long periods of questioning himself living in New York that he found himself walking every night to Madison Square garden to buy 40 cent tickets to watch the Six Day races. It was during one of these visits he watched one of the great Six Day champions, that eventually inspired him to put brush to canvas again. That rider was Frenchman Alfred Letourner, a six times champion at Madison Square Garden. Letourner was named “Le Diable Rouge” because of his choice of red jersey. Hopper described him vaguely as “ I did not attempt an accurate portrait, but it resembles him in a general way. He was I think a member of one of the last French teams to win a race at Madison Square Garden”. The painting depicts the life of a track rider back in the 40s, often staying at the track during the races. His suitcases tucked under his bunk, topped off with the French flag. In races that were often marred with crashes and more than half the riders failing to finish, Letourner also sports a bandage on his right arm. In the photograph below from one of those many victories Alfred poses on the left with his riding partner DeBaets.
Later in Letourner’s career when he reached the peak of his power he went on to break the bicycle paced speed record, conducted behind a car in Bakersfield, CA, onboard the Schwinn Paramount bike where he clocked a speed of 108.92mph, still wearing his famous red jersey. So Hopper had no idea who he was painting. Just a rider in a red jersey jersey that caught his eye who was staring off into the distance.
More images after the break…
Categories: Classic / Riders