When automobiles were first made commercially available, the possibilities for travel seemed endless—and posterists were quick to latch on to this fantastical aspect. In their designs, cars fly high above the streets of Paris, or zoom at unprecedented speeds on race tracks, or idle glamorously as they anticipate their stylish passengers. Whether you’re more of a speed racer or a cruiser without a destination, these posters are sure to transport you to incredible places.
37 3/8 x 50 1/2 in./94.8 x 128.2 cm
In 1902 and 1903, Livemont created several posters for the Automobile Club of France and its exhibitions using elegantly adorned Art Nouveau women as embodiments of the organization as a whole. “Here, the figure is seated on a throne in front of the Grand Palais exhibition hall, drenched in roses and hints of an international throng come to admire progress” (Gold, p. 56). She has a flywheel for a halo—a witty nod to Mucha’s goddesses—and her foot rests upon an engine block. Cyclists adorn her throne in a gesture to the history of transport manufacture.
36 3/8 x 50 5/8 in./92.4 x 128.6 cm
“An 1898 poster by Georges Gaudy announces the Course Bruxelles, an auto race sponsored by the Automobile Club of Belgium. Painter, magazine illustrator, accomplished cyclist, and race car driver—Gaudy put Father Time behind the wheel of a fast-moving auto, his cloak, snowy hair, and beard whipped by the wind… Gaudy seems to be suggesting that modern speed alters the traditional notion of time” (Automobile & Culture, p. 37-39).
47 1/4 x 80 5/8 in./120 x 205 cm
She’s got a ticket to ride, and the perfect ensemble to boot: a massive fur coat and aviator goggles should do the job while zooming high above the Grand Palais, where the program indicates the event was held. Picard’s design for the 1906 Auto Show conjures elements of a fairy tale or a fantastic dream: the lights of Paris all aglow, the engine’s smoke an opalescent blur, and a lush red Bayard cruising high above the rooftops. This is a two-sheet poster.
31 7/8 x 15 7/8 in./81 x 40.2 cm
With the death of Ernest Montaut in 1909, his printer, Théodule Mabileau, continued to produce sporting prints with several artists who had been part of the Montaut studio, including Henri Rudaux. This maquette—though its purpose is mysterious—perseveres as a total charmer. A cigar-puffing Bibendum waves his palm at contenders of the 1911 Grand Prix race, who are rendered in hazy pastel hues against a wash of sunset-filtered landscape. But the question remains: what was the artist preparing for? The image appears not to have been used as one of the many published sporting prints which Mabileau printed and which was his specialty.
28 3/4 x 42 7/8 in./30.2 x 109 cm
This is arguably the greatest image ever produced for Mercedes—Schreiber’s design plays marvelously with elements of both Art Nouveau and the Arts & Crafts movement, creating a dynamic depth of field peppered with elegantly attired ladies and gentlemen. The highlight, though, is of course the car: a model as stylish as it is finely crafted.
14 3/4 x 22 5/8 in./37.5 x 57.5 cm
This extremely rare and euphoric lithograph for Mercedes-Benz France is captioned “To have the Benz,” which is clearly this girl’s biggest dream. The detail is exquisite, right down to the leopard print on the upper heel of her pumps. The artist’s signature is indistinct and indecipherable.
46 x 61 1/8 in./116.7 x 155.4 cm
This arresting Art Deco design presents the gleaming Delahaye vehicle emerging out of the dark into a Technicolor future; the silhouette rising from behind symbolizes the thoroughbred qualities of this fine automobile. There are several artists named Fell listed in various reference books who could have created this distinguished work, but the absence of initials or first name prevents us from making a positive identification.
44 1/4 x 60 1/8 in./120.5 x 152.7 cm
René Vincent virtually invented auto advertising for the moneyed elite, with an elegant and precise line extending from the machinery to the women he drew. In this ad, as in so many since, we can see the wealthy couple leading the children to the back seats in the new family sedan. “See all Ford agents for the latest Ford creation: new line, elegance and indisputable chic, refined comfort, and mechanical improvements for all models.” The bright burst of golden leaves, matching the wife’s coat, supplants an exhaust plume with clever placement. Together with the Racing Green of the car, it’s a superb visual shorthand for “top-down fun from Spring to Fall.” Strikingly, this French advertisement doesn’t name the car; we suspect it’s the 1928 Model A Convertible.
39 1/2 x 25 1/2 in./100.3 x 65 cm
The forward-thinking Pierce-Arrow car company received a sharp Art Deco treatment by Louis for this 1929 promotion. Their cars were considered to be some of the most prestigious luxury cars available, and they received plenty of high-status backers: President Howard Taft made it the official car of the White House in 1909, and Hollywood stars and foreign royalty were quick to jump on the trend. The company’s ads were always elegant and attention-grabbing, but Louis created a more contemporary image for them with his stunning silver metallic design.
33 1/4 x 47 in./84.5 x 119.3 cm
AVUS—the Automobile Traffic & Training Road—opened in 1921, and is the oldest controlled access highway in Europe. It was also frequently used as a race track through World War II. This poster announces the last race held there until 1951—and it marks the first and only time that Germany’s Silver Arrows used the track.
33 x 44 in./84 x 111.7 cm
In this poster for the BMW Museum’s exhibition, a Dietrich mannequin poses on a car, and everything is outlined in vibrant neon highlights in assorted colors. Kieser, Germany’s top post-war posterist and one of the world’s best, could always be relied upon to come up with startling ideas. He has had one-man exhibitions of his posters in many countries, from Lincoln Center in New York to the poster museum in Essen, Germany. He continues to produce fine posters after retiring as a professor of visual communications at the Wuppertal College.
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