It’s easy to take automobiles 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 voiturettes to the Art Deco era.
13 3/4 x 19 in./35 x 48.2 cm
This is the very first poster to introduce the Michelin Man to the world. In 1894, while attending the Universal and Colonial Exposition in Lyon, Edouard and André Michelin noticed a stack of tires that resembled a figure without arms. Four years later, they met with O’Galop, who showed them a rejected image intended for a Munich brewery of a large figure raising a glass of beer and quoting the phrase from Horace: “Nunc est bibendum” (Now let’s drink). André suggested to create a figure made from tires, and thus, Bibendum was born. But instead of toasting with beer, he raises a goblet overflowing with nails, broken glass, and other road debris, insinuating that Michelin tires can withstand dangerous obstacles on the road. For the next fifteen years, this image was used to promote Michelin tires; further iterations included new products on the table. Rare!!
54 3/4 x 78 in./139 x 198.2 cm
A winged seraph carries laurels of triumph in the slipstream beside a hungry red speedster, which is being flung through the wind by two determined, begoggled drivers—a fitting introduction to the 1907 Milan Auto Show. It’s one of the most magnificent posters by Metlicovitz, who managed—with no formal training—to grow from a successful portraitist to the technical director of the famous Ricordi printing house, becoming one of Italy’s greatest poster artists in the process. This is a two-sheet poster. Rare!
33 1/8 x 44 7/8 in./84.2 x 114 cm
Without a doubt, this is one of Mangold’s finest designs: it brilliantly exemplifies the dark fantasies of power, speed, and sexuality so often associated with the car industry. Founded in 1906, SAFIR was a shortened version of the Swiss Automobile Factory. While the poster is extraordinary, the company itself only stayed in production through 1910, with only a few dozen cars ever produced under its name. Rare!
45 5/8 x 61 7/8 in./116 x 157.2 cm
In a remarkably Penfield-esque fashion, this anonymous artist delivers a stately and serene image for Renault. The company’s persuasion to upper-class clientele is gracefully elucidated with the use of an inset frame, two elegant greyhounds on the lawn, flowering groves in the background, and the stylish woman gracefully stepping into her waiting car. This is the larger format.
61 1/4 x 45 1/4 in./155.5 x 115 cm
Apparently compassion is not a priority when it comes to properly outfitting one’s vehicle. Instead of helping their fellow motorist out of the froggy situation he has landed in, these two jokesters, who wisely chose Durandol anti-skid tires, seem content to revel in his misfortune. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, and the cartoonish charm of the poster is delightful. Célos designed several automobile and bicycle posters at the turn of the century, frequently adding Art Nouveau touches to his designs, as exhibited in the lovely water’s edge irises seen here.
41 3/8 x 59 in./105 x 150 cm
You’d think that President Carnot could have found a more dignified way of parading himself before the excited residents of this rustic town than to be chauffeured about by a military official on what, by today’s standards, would be considered rather precarious transport. But upon introduction, these demi-cars, tricycles, and quadrocycles gained nearly instant popularity, and became commonplace sights on European roadways until after World War I. Automoto began operations in 1901 in St. Etienne, Loire, under the name Chavanet, Gros, Pichard & Cie.
31 1/8 x 37 3/4 in./79 x 96 cm
This is the only known copy of Hohlwein’s triumphant introduction to the 1914 Mercedes 28/95. This artwork does not appear in any book of Germany’s most famous posterist; we do not know of another copy in any collection the world over. For Mercedes’ most exclusive, most powerful auto model of 1914, Hohlwein took the cabriolet’s top down, allowing our eyes to rise from the form of the car to the craggy, sublime Alps to which the driver is pointing: “Up there! We shall take it up there!” It’s a clever allusion to the 28/95’s innovative engine, with its overhead camshaft and valves arranged in a V-position—a design copied from the Daimler DF-80 aircraft engine. While Hohlwein created two other Mercedes ads in 1914 (for different models), the outbreak of the Great War sharply curtailed production of the 28/95 and, we suspect, suspended distribution of Hohlwein’s poster. It’s quite possibly unique.
39 x 54 3/4 in./99 x 139 cm
Having already designed successful tire advertisements for Pirelli and Dunlop, it was only natural that Michelin would come knocking on Dudovich’s door. And although his Pirelli designs featured lovely women riding inside the tire, for Michelin there was no question as to who the central figure should be: Bibendum, of course! Transported from his native France, Dudovich offers him a map of Italy for his tire-bouncing travels. And with his iconic cigar firmly clenched and a scarf flapping in the wind, Bibendum is all set for his journey. Extremely rare!
46 3/8 x 61 7/8 in./117.7 x 157.2 cm
Full speed ahead! Geo Ham’s vivacious design for Donnet is a graphic Art Deco wonder. From the Bauhaus-style factory below, the newest make of Donnet springs forth, multiplying and zooming through the air. Founded in 1914, the Parisian auto manufacturer got its start with patrol flying boats for the French Navy before transitioning into passenger vehicles. The model seen here is likely the Zedel G2 Torpedo.
38 x 27 in./96.5 x 68.5 cm
Rudolf Warnecke (1905-1994)
First held in 1926, the Hohnstein Rennen was an advanced automobile race featuring steep climbs and sharp turns. After taking a break in 1928 and again in 1931, the race returned for its fourth incarnation on September 18, 1932. In this thrilling design by Warnecke, we are face-to-grill with a Maserati Tipo 26M—a limited-production model only produced between 1930 and 1932.
46 7/8 x 62 1/2 in./119 x 158.9 cm
The blue streak of the car zooms through the numerals representing previous models, which effectively works to denote the Peugeot’s development and creates a striking visual effect.
31 1/2 x 46 7/8 in./80 x 119 cm
While the race would become dominated by the successes of the Alfa Romeo team, with Guy Moll in the winning car, Ham’s pastel-hued design for the 1934 Monaco Grand Prix features Lord Howe (the 5th Earl Howe, Francis Richard Henry Penn Curzon) pulling ahead in his Maserati.