Sunday, December 13, 2009

CHARLES BURKI: NORTONS IN GRAPHITE

Contributed by John de Kruif:

"Charles Burki was born in 1909 in Indonesia (a "Nederlands Indie"). From a very young age he combined excellent skills as an illustrator with a strong preference for technical subjects. When he settled in Holland in the middle of the 1930s, motorcycles were his favorite subject. He made many illustrations for the Dutch motorcycle magazine "Motor", like the one below (that must be a Norton M20 and a translation is not required!).



It will not come as a surprise that he spent his earnings on fast motorcycles and in 1935 he bought an M30 International. Used solo for two years it was then hitched to a Steib sidecar; that's his wife Sophia in the chair.


In 1942 Charles was captured by the the Japanese and he spent three years in prison camps in Indonesia and Japan. He survived two dramatic events in captivity; first, when the boat he was travelling on was sunk by a torpedo...and then, on the 9th of august 1945, he survived the blast of the "Fat Man" atomic bomb that destroyed Nagasaki, from a distance of less than 2000 meters from ground zero!

The drawings below were made in the Fukuoka 14 prison camp in Nagasaki on pieces of scrap paper that he had found. Obviously, they were made from memory [POW artwork and writing have been collected in exhibitions and books such as 'Flywheel' - pd'o].





After the war, Charles continued to make a living drawing illustrations for companies such as Philips, Fokker and DAF, and off course for "Motor" magazine; he died in 1994. Read more in the excellent book 'Charles Burki' (the Artist and His Motorcycles) by Vincent Denters (1997, Thoth...below)."

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

I just wanted to say thanks for such a wonderful blog. I am relatively new to vintage motorcycling and as of today to blogging. I will freely admit that in my first post I listed you as one of my inspirations. Motorcycling has opened a whole new world for me and has provided me with countless hours of enjoyment, camaraderie, and challenges. The experience has been both a bit intimidating and enlightening but what fun! Thanks again.

Regards,
Chris Hutson

Anonymous said...

Hello!
I've been enjoying The Vintagent for the past two years and have turned several of my friends onto your blog.  I feel like saying, "Long time listener, first time caller."

My boyfriend is a Norton maniac and I have been trying to find the book about Charles Burki that was highlighted in the Dec. 13 post.  Do you have any advice, suggestions, leads for me?  I think it would be an awesome, although late, gift for Christmas.  Any help would be appreciated!!

Thanks so much!!
Diana

Anonymous said...

Dear Vintagent,

I read with great interest your short bio on Charles Burki. I’d like to point out a small grammatical error in the section below:

“In 1942 Charles was captured by the the Japanese and he spent three years in prison camps in Indonesia and Japan. Miraculously, he first survived when the boat he was travelling on was sunk by a torpedo. Then, on the 9th of august 1945, he survived the blast of the "Fat Man" atomic bomb that destroyed Nagasaki from a distance of less than 2000 meters.”

It’s not clear if you mean that the bomb destroyed Nagasaki from a distance of less than 2000 meters or if you meant that Charles survived the blast from a distance of less than 2000 meters. The bomb exploded at about 470 meters AGL.

I think it’s probably the latter, and a more appropriate wording would be something like: “On the 9th of August 1945, Charles survived the blast of the “Fat Man” atomic bomb that destroyed Nagasaki, even though he was less than 2000 meter from ground zero.”

Also there are two “the” words in the first sentence. Other than that your site is well crafted.

Thanks, Tom Kreyche
Seattle Washington USA

The Vintagent said...

Hi Tom,
thanks for the note. This was a guest post from a non-native English speaker...at the time I put such posts in 'warts and all', but have since begun heavily editing submissions! Hadn't got to the 'back catalog' yet...but have just clarified John's words.
all the best, Paul

John said...

Sometimes second hand editions of this book can be bought here: http://www.boekwinkeltjes.nl/s/?q=Charles+Burki.+De+kunst+van+het+motorrijden&t=1&n=1 Perhaps it is difficult to order for non Dutch speaking persons, but if you are looking for this book it is an opportunity.