New Vintage Posters: As Seen On TV.

TheAuctionHouse

Here’s a funny thing. I was watching the second episode of the Channel 4 documentary programme ‘The Auction House’ last night, filmed at Lots Road auctions in Chelsea, and there on the wall, to my great surprise, were three of my posters. I was quite curious to discover how the sale went, so I rang Lots Road Auction House and spoke to Nick Carter, the senior auctioneer for paintings and rugs. He told me that they had sold for between £150.00 and £250.00 on the day. Not a bad investment for somebody, I’d say.

Please allow me to add that stuff gets put into auctions all the time, I am aware of this. The reason I was quite pleased with this event was that Lots Road Auction House prides itself in being very selective about the items they accept (although I’m not so sure about the sofa in the foreground), and this particular sale distinguished itself by being what the boss Roger Ross described as ‘fewer and better’ as part of his plan to increase profits.

You can view this very entertaining episode until March 24 on Channel 4 On Demand here.

You can find more details of the three posters featured in the TV programme here: Bentley poster, Alfa Romeo poster and Aston Martin poster.

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 Ferrari Mille Miglia here, the Bentley Le Mans poster here, and The Bugatti Type 51 Monaco poster here.

1930 Le Mans and the fabulous Bentley Boys.

The Le Mans race of 1930 was Bentley’s fourth successive win, and the last in which the company would compete. After catastrophic financial losses following the 1929 Wall Street crash, and the subsequent collapse in the luxury car market, Bentley pulled out of competitive motor racing and under the burden of increasing company debts, sold out to Rolls Royce in 1931. But their brief racing history had been a glorious one.

In the 1930 event Woolf Barnato was seeking his third successive win in three starts, (he remains the only driver with a 100% record of wins to starts at Le Mans) this time partnered by Glen Kidston. These men, two of the most notorious of the Bentley Boys, were most remarkable characters. Prodigiously wealthy Barnato was the heir to a fortune gained in the Kimberly diamond mines in South Africa, and an all round sportsman, excelling in just about every sport that took his interest. He won prizes in power-boat racing, was a keen amateur boxer, horseman, athlete and even kept wicket for Surrey cricket club. The 24-hour champagne fuelled parties that he hosted at his country house in Surrey became legendary.

But fast driving at the wheel of a Bentley was his real joy. On one occasion in March 1930 he accepted a bet to race the famous Blue Train from Cannes to Calais, but upped the stakes by saying that he could reach his London club before the train arrived at Calais. Setting off from the bar of The Carlton Hotel at 6pm he arrived at the port of Boulogne in time for the 11.30am sailing to Folkstone and reached The Conservative Club in St James’s at around 3.30pm, 4 minutes before the train arrived at Calais, winning his bet.

Glen Kidston was possibly even wealthier than Barnato, his riches coming from shipping and banking, and was a born adventurer, narrowly escaping death on several occasions, including motor boat and motor cycle crashes. As a naval officer in the First World War he survived being torpedoed three times, and as a submariner survived running his vessel aground in the North Sea. In 1929 he was the sole survivor when a commercial airliner crashed en route from Croydon to Amsterdam, suffering severe burns. In April 1931 Kidston set off on a record breaking solo flight from Netheravon airfield in Wiltshire to Capetown, South Africa, completing the journey in just 6½ days in his own specially adapted Lockheed Vega monoplane, averaging 131 mph. However, his luck ran out on the return trip when, only a year after his Le Mans triumph, his borrowed de Havilland Puss Moth broke up in mid-air while flying through a dust storm over the Drakensberg mountains, and Glen Kidston was killed.

These two daredevil romantic heroes lived sadly short lives, but packed into those years adventures that us mere mortals can only dream of. Oh, and did I mention that they were both dashingly handsome?

You can find further details of this poster here, and please take a few seconds to share this page with your friends on your chosen social network. Thank you.