Bicycle Posters
90 posters from the dawn of the bike craze to modern innovations

This year, our bicycle poster collection is both the largest and the best selection we’ve ever offered. There are rarities and beloved masterpieces, as well as exemplary works by Bradley, Mucha, Pal, Penfield, Toulouse-Lautrec, and more. These works illuminate an important historical development: the simultaneous rise of the bicycle and the poster, which naturally converged. “Poster artists were fascinated by the new bicycles, and bicycle manufacturers relied on the poster heavily for their marketing, both on the walls of the city and in the shops of their agents. By the turn of the century, more posters were created for bicycles than any other product” (Bicycle Posters, p. 3). Throughout these posters, women abound, both as muse and agent of independence—the bicycle, after all, offered an important vehicle on the path of women’s liberation. Many designs depict your average ladies riding solo or together, which was actually quite radical early on. But other designs embrace the mythic, employing fierce and seductive goddesses to not only attract male riders, but to underscore the idea of female empowerment. Of course, bike races and their winners were also important advertising tools, and posterists made great use of them. We hope you enjoy the ride.

18. Victor Bicycles / Overman Wheel Co. 1896.
Artist: William H. Bradley (1868-1962)
39 1/4 x 60 3/4 in./99.7 x 154.3 cm
Est: $20,000-$25,000

Known for his love of intricate patterns based on nature and the work of Art Nouveau bad boy Aubrey Beardsley, Bradley does not shy away from giving a heavy nod to both in this painstakingly detailed design. With its rhythmic variety and organic flow of line, it’s obvious why it is considered one of the greatest examples of American poster art. As for the product itself, the Victor bicycle was launched by A.H. Overman in 1887, and was among the first to include wheels of matching height (as opposed to the velocipede which had a higher front wheel). Here, Bradley promotes the Torino-based Italian distributor of the brand.

26. L'Etendard Français. 1891.
Artist: Jules Chéret (1836-1932)
33 1/2 x 47 7/8 in./85 x 121.5 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500

This is one of just two bicycle posters Chéret created during his career of 50 years. L’Etendard Français was a small manufacturer of bicycles and tricycles, sold primarily out of Paris. Its name translates as “banner,” hence the cyclist holding her country’s flag as well as wearing patriotic colors. Here, the company is offering a payment plan of fifty francs down and twenty-five per month thereafter; however, we are not told how many months it will take to pay off our new bicycle.

37. Phébus.  ca. 1898.
Artist: H. Gray (Henri Boulanger, 1858-1924)
38 1/4 x 55 3/8 in./97.4 x 141.7 cm
Est: $4,000-$5,000

Bikes seem to have brought out the most vivid imagination in posterists of the Belle Epoque, and this is a fine example of it: an angel, brilliantly lit by the rays emanating from the brand name, frolicking with the bicycle’s wheel in deep blue space. Gray started out as an illustrator and caricaturist; his work for such magazines as Le Boulevardier, Le Boudoir and Paris Illustré was signed with the nom-de-plume “Grivois.” His diverse output also included menus, catalogues, and costumes for the famous Paris music halls. He naturally joined in the poster mania of the 1890s under yet a new name, Gray. Some of his most imaginative—and indeed otherworldly—works were for bicycles.

47. Falcon.  ca. 1894.
Artist: Pal (Jean de Paléologue, 1860-1942)
40 5/8 x 56 5/8 in./103.2 x 144 cm
Est: $3,500-$4,000

“…Pal, like Lautrec and other poster artists influenced by their classical academic training, used classical symbols, such as goddesses, in their advertising. Women dominate his posters, and they tend to be much sexier than Chéret’s girls” (Bicycle Posters, p. 6). Along with Bixton, Falcon was one of two brands which formed the Franco-American Bicycle Company. This is one of Pal’s finest cycling designs: the sky a tempestuous mix of burgundy, peach, and navy, while the mythical rider brandishes a pure, beaming falcon, illuminating the otherwise ominous road ahead. Interestingly, Pal often omitted the spokes of the wheel—while difficult to replicate, the exclusion also alludes to the bicycle’s capacity for speed.

55. Orient Cycles.  ca. 1895.
Artist: Edward Penfield (1866-1925)
28 x 42 1/8 in./71 x 107 cm
Est: $14,000-$17,000

Best known for his Harper’s series, this is one of three spectacular bicycle posters produced by Penfield in a larger format. It’s not just the size: they “show the true genius of the artist. In these and other posters, Penfield can be compared most favorably to Lautrec—his figures are at once introspective and yet powerful, gathering their impact from a delicate balance in composition and the use of wide areas of flat colors” (Bicycle Posters, p. 10).

61. Cycle Michael. 1896.
Artist: Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
49 7/8 x 35 in./126.7 x 88.8 cm
Est: $8,000-$10,000

“A friend of Paul Bernard (later known as Tristan), who was then director of the Buffalo (Neuilly) and Seine (Levallois) velodromes, [Toulouse-Lautrec] would install his squat frame in the infield, from where he would miss nothing of the cycling spectacle. Louis Bouglé, known as Spoke, commissioned a poster to launch the Simpson chain—the reverse of the almost omnipresent system with teeth meshing into holes in the chain set. This remarkable first draft—200 copies of which were apparently printed unlettered—represented the diminutive Welsh prodigy Jimmy Michael slipstreaming during a training session, a toothpick clenched between his teeth, as was common practice at the time to help with swallowing and breathing during exertion. But Spoke turned the design down, on the ground that Lautrec didn’t know how to draw a bicycle!” (Handlebars/Joystick, p. 50). Feinblatt points out that “a great number of these were destroyed by fire,” making it one of his rarest posters today (Wagner, p. 30).

65. Cycles Perfecta. 1902.
Artist: Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939)
41 1/2 x 60 3/4 in./105.5 x 154.2 cm
Est: $17,000-$20,000

“It is clear that Mucha understood well the principles of selling not the object itself, but the feeling that is associated with it. Here, he is barely showing a piece of the bicycle… but as to the pleasure of riding, this sylph has it all over any dreary mechanical details. Airily she caresses the machine, her windblown hair embodying motion and a restless spirit, a vision of idle loveliness and a perfect Mucha maiden. Her gaze at us is straight and direct, not flirtatious but inviting and challenging, daring us to take her on in a race… Mucha finally had a perfect subject that justified hair in motion, and he took full advantage of it, giving her the most dizzying configurations of his famous ‘macaroni’ [hair]. The Perfecta was an English brand bicycle, which makes this one of the very few Mucha posters for an English client. It was also sold in France” (Rennert/Weill, p. 294). This is the larger format.

68. Pierce Racer.  ca. 1903.
Artist: Anonymous
36 1/8 x 51 3/4 in./91.7 x 131.6 cm
Est: $4,000-$5,000

Indiana-born Frank Louis Kramer was an American gold medal cyclist and 16-time consecutive winner of national championships from 1901-1916. Though our anonymous artist has depicted him as rosy-cheeked and boyish, he would have been about 23 years old at the time of this particular victory. Kramer was an avid supporter and rider of Buffalo, New York’s Pierce-Arrow cycles. The innovative company was quick to develop lightweight bicycles with shock absorbers and a chainless drive system—all of which surely helped Kramer zoom towards championship. Rare!!

Live auction begins October 27, 2019 at 11am EDT
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In-gallery viewing October 11 to 26 (daily 11am-6pm)

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