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.
By Ernest Montaut (1879-1909)
A master at visually expressing speed, Montaut depicts the moment when “Heath” pulls ahead of the “fastest train in the world.” Rocks bouncing off the tires as he hugs a sharp curve, Michelin proves it makes the most durable and reliable tires on the market: if they can withstand Heath’s driving, you’ll have a breeze. This is the larger format.
By Walter Thor (1870-1929)
In the early days of motoring, winning a race was virtually a prerequisite to finding a market for a new make of car. Here, Darracq draws attention to its recent triumphs, including a hard-fought first place in the Vanderbilt Cup race on October 14, 1905, with Victor Hemery at the wheel. The design itself is quite remarkable: a calm, steady driver contrasts against the wild sparks bursting off the front wheels, proving that anyone can tame this most fierce of vehicles.
Rochet & Schneider, an early French automobile manufacturer in business from 1894 until 1934, were chassis builders who used a Benz motor in their new automobile. Though their cars lacked a certain amount of design originality—they were somewhat derivative of existing Peugeot and Panhard models—they quickly earned a reputation as powerful, well-made vehicles that tended to outlast many of their competitors. And this anonymous design appears to back up this assessment: nothing flashy, nothing groundbreaking, but simply a quality machine for the no-nonsense motorist.
By Alexis Kow (Alexei Kogeynikov,1901-1978)
For this French Riviera rival to the Grand Prix in nearby Monaco, Kow gives us a sky-blue Peugeot roaring out of a bright blue Mediterranean seascape. As an upper-class Russian child, he was sent to Lausanne at the age of seven to learn French. The 1917 revolution wiped out his family’s fortune and made him a permanent émigré. At 19, he found a job as a draftsman for a small car maker, which led to his career as one of the greatest designers of automobile advertising.
By A. M. Cassandre (Adolphe Mouron, 1901-1968) & Charles Loupot (1892-1962)
Provenance: Estate of Charles Loupot
Two icons of French poster design teamed up to create this preparatory work for Renault. Using the same simple sans-serif typeface that the company employs today, the two artists added the French tricolor and a bold star to represent the brand. The Alliance Graphique logo is shown in the upper right corner, and the artists’ initials (LC) are included. On the verso is a copy of the trademark registration.
By Ottomar Anton (1895-1976)
Launched in 1897, the Berlin Motor Show was hosted annually (with a pause during World War I) until 1939, the year of this maquette. This 29th edition of the event saw the introduction of the Volkswagen Beetle and amassed a whopping 825,000 visitors. The exposition was then suspended during World War II. Although another poster was ultimately chosen to announce the event, Anton’s preparatory work is a powerful evocation of German automobile manufacturing.
By Victor Mignot (1872-1944)
The girls are having a heyday with their bicycles and automobiles at the Cyclodrome in Brussels. The soft wisps of smoke and curving lettering add a sense of giddy relaxation to the joyful scene. In August, 1900, The Poster commented that Mignot “Is an expert in matters relating to sport… He brought out a bicycle and motor-car poster for ‘Le Cyclodrome,’ the composition of which is decidedly clever, although the lettering is perhaps a trifle too prominent. It must be said that Mignot’s strange lettering is one of the most striking factors in the artist’s works; it calls the attention of the passer-by as effectively as the design itself.”
By Alejandro de Riquer (1856-1920)
“Starting in 1897, [Riquer’s] posters took on a fully decorative and modernist aspect. They are flat, the female character that appears in them hardly stands out from the background of the mosaic. The influence of Mucha is evident, but de Riquer does not reach the Byzantinism of the Czech, he is less mannered… Salon Pedal [is] perhaps his masterpiece… This extremely original and daring composition, with a very long format is undoubtedly inspired by Japanese kakemonos [or hanging scrolls]: he combines the aesthetics of Japanese xylography based on planes of both graphics and colors but applies the typical modernist floral decoration. For once, the female type is not Pre-Raphaelite, but of very Spanish finesse” (Artes Gráficas, p. 152). Rare!
By Francisco Tamagno (1851-1933)
Tamagno was very fond of this sassy female. We’ve seen her climb mountaintops, beat out trains, and best her male companions—all with a flippant but elegant kiss-off to those she’s left in the dust. But here, for the first time, she’s edging out not only an automobile, but a Wright airplane as well! She’s the very picture of feminine empowerment, made all the more lovely with a golden autumnal sunset.
By A. G.
For the fourth edition of the Tortona Motorcycle Circuit, this unknown artist provides us with a serene motorist cruising at top speeds around the track.