“I think that cars are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals; I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object.” – Roland Barthes, Mythologies, 1957
“And suddenly I realized that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension.” – Ayrton Senna
36 1/4 x 50 1/8 in./92 x 127.2 cm
This magnificent artwork heightens and extends the motifs of Paris’s first two auto expos – raising the event to mythical status. Our Goddess of the Gears sits high upon her throne; the chair-back is an enormous gear-wheel which creates the illusion of a Mucha-like halo around the Gear-Goddess’s head. She’s gesturing to the sponsors of the affair; at her feet, flowers trail down to ancient plates adorned with crankshafts and combustion chambers; a mosaic floor (gesturing to Mucha as much as to Byzantium) gives us sailboats; in the distance, the Grand Palais awaits. This is the smaller format of the poster.
61 3/4 x 43 3/8 in./157 x 110 cm
Meunier had the sensibility of a graphic-novel illustrator, but graphic novels didn’t exist in the 19th century so he became a posterist instead. This delightful work is a classic example: a comic confrontation between old and new – animal and auto – on a one-lane bridge to the 20th century. Note the donkey, who’s licking the headlamp with love: the perfect touch.
19 5/8 x 27 3/8 in./50 x 69.5 cm
Vanderhem, who started out as a caricaturist, captures a slice-of-life portrait of a young, wealthy post-war couple and their touring-car. The lovely wife chats with the innkeeper, while hubby coolly lights a smoke, as the chauffeur pulls up. The suitcase bears stickers for the Grand Hotel, Marseille and the Hotel Metropol, Lyon, among others. The Spyker Brothers became, in 1898, the first Dutch car-makers, but this ad comes toward their last hurrah; the company folded in 1926.
24 1/4 x 38 3/8 in./61.6 x 97.5 cm
Superb geometries abstract the Fourth Dimension for the annual auto show in Brussels, which by 1965 had expanded to include everything on two and four wheels. The star of the show that year was the Ferrari Pininfarina 275 GTS convertible two-seater.
25 7/8 x 37 5/8 in./65.7 x 95.7 cm
Some actors chew the scenery. Ramel’s Ferrari, here, is basically devouring the asphalt in this intense design that makes you want to eat up the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix, tires and all. The vantage point, of chin-upon-the-ground, was deliberate – “The course had been given a new surface and several corners had been widened to make it safer. . .This enabled Maurice Trintignant, driving a Ferrari 625, to win, becoming the first driver to cover the 100 laps in less than three hours,” breaking a speed record set in 1937 (Crouse, p. 42).