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Bicycles & Automobiles
48 historic posters for freedom on two wheels—or four

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.

This trend continued with the development of automobiles, which provided a similar sense of joyous freedom, but with more power, speed, and possibilities. Having won the battle of the bicycle, women quickly took to the driver’s seat, continuing their pursuit of independence.

44. Victor Bicycles. 1895.
By William H. Bradley (1868-1962)
13 1/4 x 40 3/4 in./33.8 x 103.3 cm
Est: $4,000-$5,000

Bradley produced at least half a dozen designs for this brand of bicycle; this elongated version is quite rare. As always, the floral ornamentation is profuse and meticulously executed, and the width of the border makes it stand out so much stronger. Victor was the brand name of manufacturer A. H. Overman of Chicopee, Massachusetts, who started making bicycles in 1887.

48. The Northampton Cycle Co. ca. 1900.
By Edward Penfield (1866-1925)
28 x 42 in./71.2 x 106.7 cm
Est: $10,000-$12,000

“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). This poster includes Sagot’s stamp on the verso, and is the finest specimen of this image we’ve ever seen, with vivid colors.

49. Cycles Sirius. 1899.
By H. Gray (Henri Boulanger, 1858-1924)
38 7/8 x 55 3/4 in./98.8 x 141.5 cm
Est: $4,000-$5,000

“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).

53. Cycles Hirondelle-St. Étienne. ca. 1900.
By Narcisse Vivien
42 x 54 3/4 in./106.6 x 139 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500

There is not a single cycle in sight, but instead, a sky bursting with innumerable small birds—seen, exquisitely, through the stone aperture of an ancient loggia. “Hirondelle” is French for “swallow,” and since the bird is known for its “speed, grace and dependability,” (Bicycle Posters, p. 10) it became a natural symbol, quite literally, for manufacturer Française d’Armes’ new bike brand. The Hirondelle was France’s first modern cycle, and it became the preferred vehicle for the Parisian cyclists, gaining the reputation of more of a “working” bicycle than a leisure vehicle.

59. Pneu Vélo Michelin. ca. 1913.
By O’Galop (Marius Rossillon, 1867-1946)
31 1/2 x 47 3/4 in./80 x 121.2 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700

“Bibendum’s ride over a rocky road underscores the claim that Michelin tires can withstand even the bumpiest roads. The pictured road marker is a reference to the Petition to Number the Roads, Michelin’s 1912 campaign to bring order to the roadways of France; on March 17, 1913, the nation’s Department of Public Works passed legislation to number every public thoroughfare. By 1926 Michelin was publishing France’s first regional guides, boosting tourism and further helping to coordinate the use of the road network” (Discount, p. 129).

65. Automobiles de Dion Bouton. 1906.
29 3/8 x 40 1/2 in./74.5 x 103 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500

This rare and fanciful design showcases various bicycles and automobiles constructed at Dion Bouton’s Puteaux factory as they compete in a nighttime race to the moon. The artist took his inspiration from Georges Méliès “A Trip to the Moon,” the 1902 experimental science fiction tale that is considered one of the most influential films in cinema history. We can see the same sense for the overtly theatrical and the sublime in this mesmerizing design. The artist’s initials, at lower left, appear to be H. B.

69. Prowodnik-Pneu Columb. 1914.
By Max Schwarzer (1882-1955)
35 1/4 x 49 in./89.7 x 124.4 cm
Est: $5,000-$6,000

This effective design comes from one of the members of the Munich artists’ group “Die Sechs,” an influential graphic studio of its era. Note how the gray of the tires contrasts with the splashes of red and is punctuated by the motorist’s stark black coat.

70. Salmson / 10 HP. 1920.
By René Vincent (1879-1936)
47 x 62 5/8 in./119.4 x 159 cm
Est: $15,000-$20,000

Although it began as an airplane engine company, Salmson quickly brought the prowess of the skies to the common automobile. Launching its first car in 1919 at the Paris Salon, Salmson, like Amilcar, was considered a fashionable, sporty-chic brand possessing both style and power—a sentiment clearly illustrated in one of Vincent’s finest and rarest works.

71. Amilcar. 1924.
By Geo Ham (Georges Hamel, 1900-1972)
45 x 61 in./114.3 x 154.7 cm
Est: $7,000-$9,000

With a race car resembling a spaceship zooming down the track, there can be little doubt that this Amilcar vehicle was built for speed. Ham tilts the perspective and adds a wild splash of colors to make us feel dizzied with graphic and centripetal delight. Amilcar was a company launched by two Paris businessmen, Emil Akar and Joseph Lamy, in 1921. It started with a small car that became progressively larger. The company could not escape the worldwide Depression, however, and went out of business in 1939. Rare!!

72. Foltzer. ca. 1924.
By Marcello Dudovich (1878-1962)
39 1/2 x 53 3/4 in./100 x 136.6 cm
Est: $3,000-$4,000

This lubricating oil is so fantastic that even this stylish donna is jubilant. And while Dudovich certainly loved to place women in his designs, this female driver—in sporting clothes and leather gloves—makes a markedly feminist statement. Foltzer was a small company based in Genoa; their multipurpose Touring Oil could be used on a variety of engines. Rare!

73. Shell / Motor Lubricating Oils. 1926.
By Jean d'Ylen (1866-1938)
77 3/4 x 99 1/4 in./197.5 x 252 cm
Est: $5,000-$6,000

While the image of a mechanical horse was used in other posters for Shell (see Abram Games’ Shell Lubricating Oil; PAI-LXX, 84), and in another one by d’Ylen for the corporation (see Shell, 14), this is by far its finest incarnation. This is a two-sheet poster and rare!

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