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From parachutes to Pan Am, these designs for aircraft illustrate the rich history of taking to the skies.
24 5/8 x 39 5/8 in./62.6 x 100.7 cm
A Blériot monoplane and a Wright-style biplane jockey for position as they zing around the far pylon in an aerial competition billed as “England’s First Aviation Races” in the skies above the South Yorkshire hamlet with a rich tradition in both aviation and racing. Seeing as passenger flight hadn’t quite yet become a common practice, there was no better way to take in the sight of man claiming a little slice of the stratosphere than by rail—The Great Northern Railway, to be precise. If only Mother Nature would have cooperated: “Plagued by bad weather, the amount of flying done was far from impressive. Several of the trophies were withheld for lack of competition. There were arguments and recriminations, and the financial loss was considerable… [The poster] printed for the Great Northern Railway to publicize its special train service… is impressively simple. With its frontal view of a white-winged Blériot pursued by a biplane in a sky of limitless blue, the Doncaster poster stands today as a model of power and purity of line” (Looping the Loop, p. 51).
38 3/4 x 76 3/8 in./98.3 x 194 cm
Mazza’s official promotion for Verona’s first major air meet is truly a tour de force. Set against a perfectly cloudless sky, we see the statue that adorns the grave of Cangrande della Scala, Verona’s ruler from 1311 to 1329; he was also the leading patron of poet Dante Alighieri. Above him, we glimpse two of the competing aircraft: a Blériot and a Voisin; an Antoinette was also flown in the events. The meet boasted 200,000 lire in prize money for the daily races, though a lack of entrants in the international speed contest meant that 40,000 lire were never awarded. Competitors included Paulhan, Efimoff, Duray, Chavez, Molon, Küller, and Cataneo—the only Italian flier. Though the event was considered a financial failure, it was touted as a success for early aviation. This is a two-sheet poster—and rare!
25 3/8 x 39 1/4 in./64.4 x 99.7 cm
Carlu, a master of geometry and Art Deco design, flexes his Futurist muscle in this design for the Compagnie Aérienne Française. The dynamic typography and abstracted plane soaring above the globe was also used for the company’s logo, which was displayed on brochures, posters, and tail fins through the 1930s. “For the CAF poster, Carlu seems to have taken the aerial camera as his inspiration. The white airplane resembles an aerial camera. Take a step backward and the tail of the airplane becomes the shutter opening the lens. It focuses on a view of the French post-World War I sphere of influence, represented by the map below it. CAF’s great contribution to aviation history was producing aerial photographs for cartographers, industrialists, and city planners” (Fly Now, p. 39).
25 1/8 x 39 7/8 in./63.7 x 101.2 cm
In 1955, Castle’s design was surely a charmer—but from today’s vantage point, we can see that he conceptualized touch-screen tourism long before the advent of iPads. But the notion of convenient world travel rings abundantly clear in any era. British European Airways was a state-owned airline established in 1946; it offered mostly domestic and short-haul flights. In 1974, the company merged with British Overseas Airways to form, simply, British Airways.
24 1/4 x 39 1/4 in./61.5 x 99.7 cm
Villemot promotes Air France flights to South America with bright, saturated hues and a celebration of contrasts: a centuries-old church beside cosmopolitan high-rises; locals in traditional dress meet a passerby in a tank top while two llamas look on. South America first appeared in Air France posters in 1936; eventually, designs like Villemot’s formed “a superimposition of visions and stereotypes that offer in the end a contrasting image of this continent, not all that far from reality…” (Air France/Dream, p. 129).
28 1/2 x 42 in./72.2 x 106.7 cm
Despite the constant reproduction of this image on blogs and online shops, no record seems to exist of the artist’s name. But the reason for its popularity is clear: the image is bold, striking, and transfixing. The woman alone is a vision with her angular face and long eyelashes—and the Ankara fabric she wears simply adds to her allure. The repetition of pattern in the text below further references Pan Am’s groovier 1960s aesthetic.
24 7/8 x 40 1/8 in./63.2 x 102 cm
Not to be confused with the car of the same name produced today, the Citroën C4 was only on the market from 1928 to 1930. Influenced by American automobile design at the time, both the C4 and the C6 were meant to replace the Type A and B models from prior years. Its most distinguishing feature was the third door on the rear.
25 x 40 1/8 in./63.4 x 102 cm
A patriotic explosion of fireworks lights up the night sky above the Capitol Building in this invitation to visit Washington, DC.
24 1/8 x 39 in./61.2 x 99 cm
Georget produced a number of playful Cezanne-inspired designs for Air France, often employing bold geometric shapes and bright punches of color. But while most of his images include national landmarks or cultural symbols, he takes a simple tongue-in-cheek bent for California: an overhead stage light is the only signifier we need to connote the star-studded glamour of Hollywood.