The one that got away

CofE_Poster-final2

In early 2016 I was contacted by the organiser of the Concours of Elegance inviting me to create a poster for that year’s event. This is one of the most prestigious annual gatherings for classic car enthusiasts to display some of the world’s finest vehicles, which in that year was to be held at Windsor Castle.

The brief was quite loose, the only requirement being that it should feature the magnificent Vittorio Jano designed 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 and a 1937 Talbot Lago T150C SS, known as the ‘Teardrop’. This was designed by the Italian Giuseppe Figoni, who also designed the 1935 Delahaye 135 chassis.

Windsor-Castle-2016In this instance it was the influence of the American poster designer Edward McKnight Kauffer that I chose to guide me through the design. Although I was very pleased with this bold new direction, it proved to be a mistake, as my illustration was rejected. But at least, I did get paid, which for a jobbing commercial artist like myself, is the main thing. The organiser chose, instead, to use the Charles Avalon design on the left. Oh, well, you can’t win them all, as I believe they say.

You can see other examples of my poster work at: https://www.newvintageposters.com/

Alfa Romeo 1936 Mille Miglia poster

Alfa-Romeo-1936-Mille-Miglia-poster

3-AlfasAfter a year of sabre rattling between Italy and Ethiopia, Mussolini’s army invaded Ethiopia in October 1934, prompting the League of Nations to impose sanctions against Italy. As a consequence, the country found itself suffering severe shortages in many areas, including fuel.

But the Italian motor racing authorities were determined not to let a small matter like international condemnation and lack of fuel stand in the way of running an important event like the Mille Miglia. To calm any public opposition, they devised special categories for cars running on wood, charcoal and a mixture of coal and petrol, called ‘carbonella’. Only one of these cars, a Fiat 508 Balilla Gas, would complete the race, and that crossed the finishing line eighteen hours after the race winner, being obliged to weave through regular traffic by that time. As a result of a great deal of nationalist fervour and International boycott, only one non-Italian car, an Aston Martin, entered the race. This plucky Brit lined up against twenty-three Alfa Romeos, twenty-five Fiats, four Maseratis and a Lancia.

The three works cars entered by Scuderia 1936-Alfa_romeo-75Ferrari comprised of the new 8C 2900A Roadsters, which were purpose built by Alfa Romeo to race and win at Mille Miglia, and were driven by Count Antonio Brivio with mechanic Carlo Ongaro in car number 75, Carlo Maria Pintacuda with Stefani in 79, and Giuseppe Farina with Meazza in 82.
These three cars battled for supremacy throughout the thousand-mile route, with the lead changing hands frequently, although Pintacuda was later slowed by a malfunctioning carburettor and subsequently delayed by thirty minutes for repairs. Farina now took the lead with only seventy seconds separating these three magnificent cars after six hundred gruelling miles.

Brivio finally caught and overtook Farina just outside of Perugia, and clung onto the lead for the remaining four hundred miles to narrowly win by just thirty seconds. Pintacuda managed to recover, despite his delay, to finish in third position, just thirty minutes behind Farina.

The following year Alfa repeated their success in taking the first three places at Mille Miglia, an achievement that prompted the company to produce a road-going version, the 8C 2900B. This new model made the claim of being the fastest production vehicle in the world with a top speed of 110 mph and many of them were raced.

You can find out more about this poster HERE.

A. M. Cassandre and the modern French poster

Cassandre

A. M. Cassandre was born Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron in Ukraine to French parents on 24 January 1901. Although his father’s business as a wine importer required him to remain in Russia, the young Adolphe was schooled in France. In 1915 the family moved to France, and after a brief spell attending the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris (he walked out after just one hour), he enrolled at the independent studio of Lucien Simon, and then the Académie Julian.

L'Intransigeant         In Paris, the young Mouron fell under the influence of the avant-garde artists working in Paris, publicising through posters forthcoming cultural events, without concession to commercialism or popular taste of the time.

To finance his studies, Mouron took a job with the printing firm of Hachard et Compagnie, where he appears to have learned his craft, albeit through turning out fairly mediocre, routine work. In time he would produce some of his best loved work with Hachard, including ground-breaking designs for the French railway catering company, Wagons Lits.

In 1922 he set up his first studio in Montparnasse and began receiving poster commissions, for which he adopted the pseudonym, A. M. Cassandre. He quickly gained recognition, and with the poster ‘Au Bucheron’ (the lumberjack), created for a furniture store and designed to run in the Métro stations, he won first prize at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs.AuBucheron

His success enabled him, in 1930, to set up his own advertising agency, Alliance Graphique, with the poster illustrator Charles Loupot, and a young printer’s representative, Maurice Moyrand. Moyrand was influential and had many useful contacts, and through his dynamism the project prospered and soon picked up a number of high-profile clients. Sadly, in September 1934, Moyrand was killed in an automobile accident, and without his leadership, Alliance Graphique limped on for another year, and then closed. But this period saw the creation of what is widely acknowledged as some of his best poster work.LeRouteBleu

It was his audacious use of elements drawn from cubism and surrealism, two avant garde art movements yet to become fully accepted in the minds of the French public, that gave his best poster designs a startling visual impact, new to commercial art of the time. Always exploring and a readiness to experiment with juxtapositions of line and form that might put the viewer at some discomfort, or otherwise charm them with a subtle wit, gave his work an enduring appeal. A certain bravery was required by his clients in commissioning new designs, that’s for sure.

In 1929, after meeting the type founder Charles Peignot, Cassandre tried his hand at designing typefaces, beginning with the upper-case display face that he named Bifur. It never quite caught on, despite Piegnot’s promotional efforts, but undaunted, Cassandre pressed on the following year to design his next typeface, Acier. This met with the same response as Bifur. However, his third attempt, after many years of research and experimentation, produced Peignot, a commercial success as well as an enduring type design.

He made a number of trips to the United States between 1936, when the Museum of Modern Art mounted an exhibition of his posters, and 1939. Whilst in the States he produced many covers for Harper’s Bazaar, as well as commissions from advertising agencies for the Ford Motor Company among others.

A short spell of military service followed his return to France, then he turned his creative resources to easel painting (with limited success) and stage design.

His final years were spent in relative poverty complicated by bouts of depression, until, on June 17 1968 in his apartment on the Avenue Rene-Coty in Paris, he took his own life.

Dubonnet

A. M. Cassandre and the New Vintage Posters logo

Masthead

For anybody interested in the niceties of these things, let me talk you through the process of arriving at the design of our new logo. I do like to renew it from time to time, just to keep me on my toes as much as anything.

The previous design, I felt, had served me well but had served its time, and the new website required a fresh appearance.

The art deco period of the nineteen twenties and thirties offers an abundance of possibilities in type design, and these are integral, along with the illustration, to the overall graphic composition of the advertising posters of the period.

From the start of the process I was tempted to use Gill Sans, one of my all-time favourite fonts designed by the English artist, sculptor, designer and sexual deviant Eric Gill. But I use this font many times in my promotional material, and I wanted to keep the website graphics distinctive.

French-lawn-tennis-poster       Eventually I turned to A. M. Cassandre, quite possibly the finest type designer of the early twentieth century. The text that I settled on, after a considerable amount of trawling through my library of Art Deco graphic books, came from a poster promoting the Grand Fortnight of International Lawn-Tennis in 1932. This is a wonderfully simple airbrush illustration, pared down to its essentials, with the drawing and text, which was almost certainly also hand-drawn, taking equal billing. Perfect.

I scanned the text area and opened a Photoshop file, creating a separate layer for each letter. I drew each letter using the pen tool (and I do favour Photoshop over Adobe Illustrator for this purpose), then I simply filled each letter with colour before arranging and spacing the line of text. I needed to create a couple of (simple) letters, but basically they were all there for me.

For the new website, I wanted a grey and black line of type to emphasise the colours of the posters, which I think has proven a success. Well, I like it anyway.

You can see it in use HERE

1933 Monaco Grand Prix Bugatti Poster

Bugatti Type 51 Monaco poster

1933 Monaco Grand Prix Bugatti poster. The 1933 Monaco Grand Prix, the third race of the season, proved to be as dramatic as its reputation promised.

From the outset, there was no love lost between fellow Italians Achille Varzi and Tazio

Monaco-1933-grid-start
The start of the race. L to R: Varzi (Bugatti), Chiron (Alfa Romeo) and Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo).

Nuvolari, and it came as no surprise when, throughout the race, the lead position switched constantly between these two arch rivals. Nuvolari led for sixty-six, and Varzi for thirty-four of the scheduled one hundred laps, frequently driving side-by-side and often touching wheels.

Then, on the ninety-ninth and penultimate lap, Nuvolari’s Alfa Romeo ‘Monza’ dramatically burst into flames when a piston broke due to over-revving. In attempting to push his car over the finish line he used outside assistance and was subsequently disqualified, leaving Varzi in the Bugatti Type 51 as victor, with team-mate René Dreyfus, also in a Type 51, taking third position. The Alfa Romeo ‘Monza’, driven by Italian driver Baconin Borzacchini, took second place on the podium.

This Monaco event was the first Grand Prix where starting positions were decided by practice time rather than the previous method of balloting; Varzi taking pole and Nuvolari in fourth place on the grid.

This poster celebrates one of the rare victories for the Type 51 machine during its four-year career, and marks the beginning of the decline in Team Bugatti’s dominance of motor sports events.

You can view this poster in my website HERE

tazio-monaco-1933
Nuvolari pushes his stricken Alfa Romeo home.

Ferrari 1953 Mille Miglia Poster

Ferrari Mille Miglia art deco poster

enzo-ferrariEnzo Ferrari began his motorsport career as a driver with the Alfa Romeo team in 1920 and retired from driving in 1932 following the birth of his son Dino. He would now concentrate on management and the development of his racing team, Scuderia Ferrari, within Alfa. In 1939, after a falling-out with Alfa boss Ugo Gobbato, Ferrari left to build his own factory, but it wasn’t until after the war in 1947 that Enzo formed the racing team that we know today.

The team’s first major victory came in 1949 with the 24 hours of Le Mans race, and further successes quickly followed. But it was always his main aim to defeat the still dominant Alfas.

In 1953 Ferrari entered the newly built 340 MMMarzotto in the high-profile Mille Miglia endurance race, with the Italian driver Giannino Marzotto behind the wheel, to take on the Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 driven by the Argentinian, Juan Fangio. Surviving a couple of crashes during the race and being forced to cut a hole in the bonnet of the car to add oil after the bonnet jammed, Marzotto carried on and eventually overtook Fangio’s crippled Alfa to win the race.

Whenever I formulate a composition for a Mille Miglia poster, I like to place the drama in the open countryside to concentrate on the cars and the headline text, as posters are supposed to do. Many paintings that attempt to recreate the race will feature cars racing through the towns and villages of Northern Italy, but I find this a distraction from the immediacy of my posters.

programme-textWhilst I would dearly love to claim the full credit for the beautiful design of the headline text in this poster, I need to confess that I redrew it from this image (pictured left), albeit tiny and very low resolution, which I believe appeared on the original programme cover for this event. So at least, I know it is authentic.

You can view this poster in our shop HERE.

 

 

 

Geo Ham, The Prince of Speed.

Geo Ham, The Prince of Speed. George Hamel, better known as Geo Ham, was one of the most well known and best loved of the poster illustrators between the wars, and an enormous influence on my own work. His Monaco posters from the thirties and forties are probably his best known work, and are still among the most popular of the reproduction vintage motor racing poster market. Original prints of these posters sell through major auction houses and fetch prices of tens of thousands of pounds. The image featured above for the 1934 Monaco Grand Prix told the viewer everything they need to know at a glance: the simple, well designed text gave the event and date, and the illustration showed the sun blushed elegance of the Grand Casino, the tranquillity of the Mediterranean and the dynamic, thundering power and speed of the approaching racing cars. Thrilling.

Hamel was born in the medieval French town of Laval, in the Loire Valley, on 18 September 1900. His passion for speed probably began when he was eleven years old and he witnessed an aeroplane landing close to the town. Then just two years later he saw a race organized for cars and motorcycles in Laval, and he was hooked for life. At the age of eighteen George Hamel moved to Paris and attended the Ecole Nationale des Arts Décoratifs, and two years later he had an illustration published on the front cover of the car magazine ‘Omnia’ which he signed with his new pseudonym Geo Ham.

He began getting his illustrations and fine art published on a regular basis by 1923, particularly in the magazine L’Illustration, and by the 1930s was already established as the finest in his field. He was also a prolific book illustrator and worked as a press reporter on motor racing events and aeronautic displays. Geo Ham was commissioned to create the now iconic Art Deco paintings, prints and posters for the Monaco Grand Prix, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and many other prestigious European Races. A highlight of his life was competing in the 1934 Le Mans race in a 2 litre Derby L8, and although fuel problems forced his withdrawal, the experience only added to his passion for racing art.

Geo Ham continued to illustrate cars, planes and motorcycles well into the early 1960s. But by this time photography began to replace painting as the illustration of choice among advertisers and publishers, and gradually the name of Geo Ham “The Prince of Speed” became forgotten.

He died in June 1972, and only twelve people attended his funeral.

His influence on my own work can be clearly seen in the Alfa Romeo Le Mans poster here, the Alfa Romeo 2300 poster here, the Bentley Le Mans poster here, and The Bugatti Type 51 Monaco poster here.