Nearly a century of designs prove the freedom of traveling on two wheels. 8 posters from the Tour de France span 80 years of the historic race; two are hand-signed by Greg LeMond.
54 1/4 x 38 3/4 in./137.7 x 98.5 cm
Known mostly for his humorous drawings, Lunel, a native of Paris, worked for numerous magazines, starting with Tout Paris. After La Vie Moderne (1879), La Vie Militaire (1883), Paris-Illustré (1884), and La Revue Illustré (1885) came ten years with Le Courrier Français. His designs show up even in exotic publications such as Le Moustique in Africa and Pick Me Up in London. This excellent poster, featuring an interplanetary tandem ride, is way ahead of its time, as Maindron saw straight off: “This poster is well done; peddling with verve, on a bicycle which must be perfection itself, two riders carried away by an uncommon intensity have left the earth and find themselves in the middle of the starry sky” (p. 87). A version of the poster, with the design slightly altered and without the address lower right, also exists.
43 x 59 3/8 in./109.3 x 151 cm
This lesser-known ad for Cycles Sirius by H. Gray positions the bicycle manufacturer as a fine artist, much to the delight of the quartet of women who have come to inspect his newest masterpiece.
54 7/8 x 39 3/4 in./139.5 x 101 cm
This charming design has us imagine that we’re trailing this stylish family of four on their bicycles and tandem bike. Though Fernel includes the word “automobiles,” the design is devoid of them; Georges Richard was just gearing up automotive production at this point.
42 1/4 x 58 1/2 in./107.3 x 148.6 cm
“The voluptuous beauty in ecstasy expresses the feeling of unrestrained freedom which the bicycle could bring into a 19th-century woman’s life. Now able to cover distances under their own power, women felt there was a whole new frontier opening to them, as indeed there was. Pal gives the euphoria palpable substance” (Gold, p. 48). While most printings of this poster feature a dark navy sky throughout the background, this one boasts a lovely color gradient that is rarely seen!
42 1/4 x 57 3/8 in./107.3 x 145.8 cm
“Déesse” (Goddess) was a name used in France by the British bicycle manufacturer Rudge. For it, Pal gives us a bold and startling image, with a virtually nude nymph holding a bike aloft for an admiring crowd. As befits a goddess, she not only rules over the Paris skyline, but over the entire world, as evidenced by the international make-up of the awestruck populace below.
27 1/8 x 40 3/4 in./69 x 103.6 cm
“This beautiful poster for Northampton bicycles well illustrates the impact and power of this masterful artist. It is more the sure power of a revving engine than of actual movement; there is so much self-assurance in both content and style that one does not need proof of speed or even mobility. The composition, design, and color are so perfect here that it’s one of the few posters of which it may be said that to move one line or change one shade would be unimaginable” (Bicycle Posters, p. 11). Rare!
36 3/4 x 51 1/2 in./93.4 x 131 cm
While exhibiting her independence and physical strength, this liberated woman has yet to overcome one particular struggle: the darn dress, which women were practically required to wear, even while bicycling. Luckily, manufacturers found a savvy compromise in the drop-frame safety bicycle, which allowed the ladies to ride with ease while still fulfilling their expectations for modesty.
29 3/8 x 42 1/8 in./74.7 x 107 cm
Majestic goddesses are no strangers to the world of tires, and this anonymous artist has fully embraced mythological beauty in this design for Dunlop. Drawing on Greek costume and Mucha’s spaghetti hair, our lady of the tires rises up powerfully above the Parisian commune of Argenteuil, where the Dunlop factories can be seen in the distance.
22 7/8 x 31 1/8 in./58 x 79 cm
Using photomontage, this poster simultaneously promotes Belgian cyclist Philippe Thys, Peugeot bicycles, and Dunlop tires. Thys was the first cyclist to win the Tour de France 3 times: in 1913, 1914, and 1920; these last two wins were on the Peugeot team. Thys’ career was cut dramatically short with the outbreak of World War I. The French cyclist and sports journalist Henri Desgrange wrote, “France is not unaware that, without the war, the crack rider from Anderlecht would be celebrating not his third Tour, but his fifth or sixth.”
27 3/8 x 39 1/4 in./69.5 x 99.6 cm
While early Tour de France posters made great use of photomontage, this contemporary poster has brought us into the digital age. Greg LeMond—considered by many to be the greatest American cyclist of all time—is seen swerving into his third Tour de France win. This earned him a place among the ranks of just seven cyclists to win three or more Tours. This image promotes the Italian bicycle company, Campagnolo, and is hand-signed by LeMond.
32 1/4 x 47 1/8 in./81.8 x 119.8 cm
Nizzoli’s arresting Art Deco design with a phantom-like motorcycle rider emphasizes both power and comfort, as the fashionable passenger can easily put on her lipstick during the ride. Nizzoli was a most versatile artist: painter, decorator, textile designer, and posterist. Many of his posters were for automobile companies. In 1938 he joined Olivetti and was responsible for some of their finest designs in the 1940s and 1950s. He produced a monograph on the firm in 1968.