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Automobiles & Aviation
50 designs for transportive liberation

It’s easy to take automobiles and aviation for granted today; they’ve become a part of the fabric of life. But when they were first developed, they opened up the floodgates not only for travel, but for curiosity, possibility, and a newfound feeling of unencumbered freedom. These designs trace that history, beginning with the earliest air meets and automotive models up to modern-day escapades.

57. Cottereau / Dijon. 1902.
By Jack Abeille (1873-1949)
45 1/4 x 61 1/2 in./115 x 156.3 cm
Est: $2,500-$3,000

Here, both of Cottereau’s vehicular options are given a promotional share: the bike acts as the preferred ride of a solo excursionist, while the open-air sedan allows for a family affair. Abeille was an illustrator known primarily for his numerous contributions to French humor magazines.

60. “Bayard.” 1908.
By Weiluc (Lucien-Henri Weil, 1873-1947)
62 x 47 1/4 in./157.5 x 120.2 cm
Est: $2,500-$3,000

Clément was a hugely successful bicycle brand in France in the late 1800s, but in 1903, one of the family scions, Adolphe Clément, set up an auto workshop in the town of Mezieres. There is a statue in the town of Bayard of a legendary knight who supposedly saved the city from an invasion in the 16th century, and Clément chose to name his car after him. He operated the factory until 1922. Weiluc quite frequently took a humorous approach to posters for clients who appreciated it; here, he makes the Bayard fly through the air with the greatest of ease, narrowly escaping an oncoming train.

64. Int. Eifelrennen. ca. 1936.
By Alfred Hierl
23 x 33 3/4 in./58.5 x 86 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500

The Eifelrennen, an annual motor race, was first organized in 1922, before the Nürburgring was even built. This oversight was madness. At that time, the race—incredibly enough—allowed all types of vehicles on the track at the same time: cars, motorbikes, and even bikes with supporting engines. The unpaved track was muddy in the rain, fatal accidents occurred, and spectator stands collapsed. As a result, the Nürburgring was constructed in 1927, and has since become hallowed ground for racing enthusiasts. Since then, racing has been separated by vehicle type, but Hierl’s brilliant composition blurs the distinction as a sedan, a racer, and a motorbike lean into one of the Nürburgring’s 174 curves.

67. Shell Oil & Petrol / For Quick Starting. 1930.
By Vic
45 x 30 in./114.2 x 76.2 cm
Est: $3,000-$4,000

Vic’s good-natured artistry and Art Deco sensibilities deliver a promotional coup for “Quick-Starting” Shell. It’s rare to find a design that’s as stylish as it is humorous, but Vic definitely delivers on both accounts. And while the frieze-like line of chauffeurs and limousines is wonderfully snazzy, it’s their shared look of surprise—coupled with the now-vacant parking place and the tread marks of the rapidly departing vehicle—that’s absolutely priceless.

267. Gran Premio d’Europa / Fiat. 1923.
By Plinio Codognato (1878-1940)
38 3/8 x 54 3/4 in./97.5 x 139.2 cm
Est: $70,000-$90,000

A concentrated distillation of focus and determination give off the distinct impression that the poster—initially created for “Illustrazione Italiano”—could, under the right conditions, jet from the page into our reality with little to no effort whatsoever. The image was also used to promote Fiat’s success at the first running of the European Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza (see, Piloti, p. 49). Won by Italian racer Carlo Salmano, the Grand Prix at this point in time was created as an honorific title that rotated from country to country; it became a stand-alone event in 1983, most frequently held at the Nürburgring. Codognato was one of the best Italian graphic artists of the 20th century, creating about 150 first-rate posters for commercial products, theatre, and sporting events. He is best known for his work for Fiat, Pirelli, Campari, and Cinzano, as well as his auto racing posters. All his work is charged with motion that gives it a unique intensity.

333. Automobile Club de France. 1903.
By Privat Livemont (1861-1936)
39 x 50 7/8 in./99 x 129.2 cm
Est: $8,000-$10,000

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.

73. Ligue Nationale Aérienne. 1908.
By M. De Linière
19 3/4 x 30 in./50.2 x 76.2 cm
Est: $4,000-$5,000

The French National Air League was founded in Paris on September 2, 1908. Its sole purpose was to make France the global center of aviation—a direct response to the recent birth of the German Air League, formed by Count Zeppelin. A variety of early aircraft, including a Blériot, are seen hovering above France, illuminating the country on a globe with their spotlights. But off in the distance we see one of Zeppelin’s creations, doing likewise for Germany amidst approaching dark clouds. If that were not warning enough, the text below warns of the thousand members already in Germany’s Air League, an enrollment which the French must beat. It’s quite possibly the first French airplane poster ever printed!

74. Première Exposition Locomotion Aérienne / Grand Palais. 1909.
By Ernest Montaut (1879-1909)
45 5/8 x 62 7/8 in./116 x 159.6 cm
Est: $8,000-$10,000

“On the heels of the Rheims meeting… a memorable exhibition was opened to the public at the Grand Palais in Paris. Apart from a small collection previously shown at the 1908 Automobile Salon, this was the first time that aeroplanes representing the principal French manufacturers were assembled under one roof. Machines that had actually taken part in the Rheims meeting were included so that interested persons who had not been able to attend could obtain a close-up view of the Antoinette, Wright, Henry Farman biplanes, Louis Bréguet, and the diminutive Demoiselle constructed by Alberto Santos-Dumont. In the place of honor was Blériot’s Model XI with which he had conquered the English Channel. The huge public response left no doubt that the show would become a well-attended annual feature. The arresting poster by Montaut, the same artist who had memorialized the meeting at Reims (see Grand Semaine d’Aviation, PAI-LXXVIII, 75), portrays in the foreground a primeval figure—seeming to be a blacksmith whose trade is hopelessly outmoded—gesturing toward those marvels in the sky. The Aviation Salon introduced by France was soon imitated in other countries, giving rise to a series of posters on the same subject” (Looping the Loop, p. 43-44).

86. TWA / Africa. ca. 1955.
By David Klein (1918-2005)
25 x 40 in./63.5 x 101.6 cm
Est: $1,700-$2,000

Z is for Zippy. Klein is best known for his destination advertisements on behalf of TWA in the 1950s and ’60s: his typography, coloration, and aesthetics were both defined by, and helped define, American style of the period. To express the idea that TWA knows Africa A to Z, he creates a hypnotic convocation of zebras in the tall Serengeti grass: a classic example of mid-century Modern design.

90. Swissair / Philippines. 1972.
By Georg Gerster (1928-2019)
25 1/4 x 40 in./64 x 101.6 cm
Est: $600-$800

For the Philippines, Gerster shows us a constellation of water lily groves floating off the coastline. In all, he contributed to Swissair’s advertising for two decades with his striking aerial photography. Design credit is given to Emil Schulthess and Hans Frei.

94. VARIG / Exotic Amazon.
23 7/8 x 39 3/8 in./60.6 x 100 cm
Est: $800-$1,000

Wild pink flamingos basking among the lily pads provide a convincing argument to hop aboard VARIG and visit the Amazon. VARIG, or the Rio Grandean Airways, was Brazil’s first airline, founded in 1927; from 1965 to 1990, it was the country’s leading airline, and essentially the only international one. Behind our bathing birds, we can glimpse a Lockheed L-1049 Constellation.

95. Lufthansa / New York. ca. 1970.
23 1/2 x 33 1/8 in./59.5 x 84 cm
Est: $1,200-$1,500

For international travelers in the late 20th century, these glimmering city lights sufficed to immediately evoke New York City. The iconic Twin Towers at the center draw us straight into lower Manhattan, where the lights of the Financial District capture and reflect the brilliant sunset. This poster by an anonymous designer is a dazzling testament to a New York that was.

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