Bicycles and color lithography came into popular use roughly in 1872; by the 1890s, both the poster craze and the bicycle craze were at their heights. Posterists were fascinated by the new bicycles, and manufacturers relied on posters for advertising, forming a mutually beneficial relationship. By the turn of the century, more posters were created for bicycles than any other product. It’s not just the technological innovation that was thrilling; bicycles offered a new form of freedom, especially to women. Poster designers capitalized on this aspect, paving the way for the liberated woman and a form of independence for all.
53 1/4 x 38 1/2 in./135.3 x 97.8 cm
A lithographic masterpiece. Acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest posters, this image of a flame-tressed sylph, propelled among the stars by the Gladiator and its winged pedals, has been appropriated throughout culture ever since its debut in 1895. Shockingly, it remains anonymous, despite the presence of the faint initials LW in the lower right corner. Even in the famed 1896 Reims exhibition, it was attributed to “Anonyme.”
23 3/4 x 17 3/8 in./60.3 x 44.2 cm
Here, in one of the most appealing of Grasset’s posters, atmosphere is paramount. “Of the product, we see barely a handlebar: it is the moody and enigmatic rider who carries the weight of the sale. The twilight effect adds warmth to the image in which type and design are beautifully integrated. Georges Richard was one of quite a number of bicycle manufacturers who were hurriedly adding automobiles as a sideline around the turn of the century; within a few years, the sideline would become the main, or as here, the only product of the company” (Gold, p. 56). This is the rare, smaller format.
37 1/8 x 49 5/8 in./94.3 x 126 cm
A young lady makes the Mercier cycle she hoists in her left hand seem as light as the butterfly she balances on her right. Of course, given her getup—outlandish even by bicycle standards: feathered boater hat, bare bosom, broadly tiger-striped skirt, argyle socks—one might easily overlook the bicycle altogether, but not the poster. Little is known of this artist; there are only two of his posters in the collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale, of which this is not one.
59 x 117 5/8 in./150 x 299 cm
Although repeatedly mentioned in texts on the subject, this three-sheet design by Browne for Swift Cycles was never reproduced, making it—until now—a bit of a mystery. As noted in the October, 1899, issue of The Poster: “Cycling designs have attracted Mr. Browne, and some of his finest work in this line has already appeared in this magazine, namely, the Swift Cycle poster.” Here, he plays up “his power in depicting rollicking fun, and he is master of a long series of humorous types of faces that serve him excellently in this direction” (Rogers, p. 42) within this very design: the prissy prior, lecherous codger, and wide-eyed young beauty. This is the rare larger, three-sheet format.
39 1/4 x 54 5/8 in./99.7 x 138.7 cm
“If any artist could rival Pal when it came to exploring female anatomy in posters, it was multi-talented Gray. A graphic journeyman, he could readily adapt his style to the requirements of different clients with startlingly impressive results. Here, probably (if not unconsciously) somewhat under Pal’s influence, he creates an unabashed rider soaring on her cycle to its namesake—the brightest star in the heavens” (Gold, p. 50).
54 5/8 x 38 in./138.7 x 96.5 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), he worked for 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).
42 1/8 x 58 1/2 in./107 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).
31 1/8 x 46 3/4 in./79.2 x 118.8 cm
As he rounds a bend on his seaside tour, the speeding motorcyclist takes his gaze off the road in order to look the viewer straight in the eye, almost daring anyone to challenge him on the quality of his alabaster ride or his matching sense of fashion. The design makes excellent use of the shape of the rocks, echoing them in the offshore outcropping and even in the clouds puffing about the horizon, all made even more sumptuous with the artist’s magnificent choice of colors. Favre produced a large body of posters between 1927 and 1935, but he didn’t have the consideration to leave us a little bio of some sort.