Bentley 1928 Le Mans Poster

Bentley 1928 Le Mans poster
This Bentley 1928 Le Mans poster celebrates team Bentley’s second Le Mans 24 hours victory, and the first of three consecutive victories for Woolf Barnato.

 

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Bernard Rubin (left) and Woolf Barnato, after the race.

The sixth Grand Prix d’Endurance over the Sarthe circuit at Le Mans was won by a 4 ½ litre Bentley, driven by Woolf Barnato and Australian-born co-driver Bernard Rubin, covering 1,658 miles at a record average speed for the course of 69.11 m.p.h. This gave Bentley back-to-back victories, after their triumph at the 1927 event, and was the first of a trio of consecutive successes for Bentley owner/driver Woolf Barnato.

The race produced a thrilling Anglo-American duel as Bentley were challenged by the eight-cylinder Stutz, driven by Édouard Brisson and Robert Bloch. But despite trading positions constantly through the night, the Bentley crossed the finish line six laps ahead of the Stutz, who averaged 66.42 m.p.h. But it was touch-and-go for both cars; the Bentley suffering from radiator leaks and overheating, and the Stutz losing its gears.

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Woolf Barnato’s Bentley ahead of Édouard Brisson’s Stutz.

Millionaire Woolf Barnato began to dabble in motor sport, alongside his many sporting interests, in 1920 and having become seriously impressed with his three-litre Bentley, he bought the company in 1926. After paying off its debts, he invested cash to develop more powerful machines, and W. O. Bentley found himself with sufficient funding to design and engineer a new generation of cars.

His enthusiasm for the marque and love of fast driving continued until he was obliged to announce, in July 1931, that he could no longer support the company and a receiver was called in. The Great Depression had hit the sales of high-end automobiles, and so, in a sealed bid of £125,000, Rolls-Royce took over the company, and their racing days were over.

I have been intending to draw a new Bentley Le Mans poster for some time, mostly because I find the brief racing life of the company and the fantastically romantic lives of their drivers so compelling.

I began drawing the car several months ago, with no particular idea as to the final design of the poster. But I did want to create a follow-up to the 1930 Bentley Le Mans poster I have linked below. Then I decided to place the car in a dawn setting, to further emphasise the gruelling 24 hour aspect of the event. Plus, I find the colours in this poster rather lovely.

For the text, I turned to a type style I have been working on for a year or more. This new hand drawn font is my own original design, and one that I intend to develop further.

You can view this poster HERE

You might also like to see the Bentley 1930 Le Mans poster HERE

 

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The Art Deco wedding poster

The popularity of the vintage wedding is such an exciting recent development, and earlier this year my good friends Emma and James enjoyed what was unquestionably the wedding of the year, and to celebrate the event I produced this poster in their honour. It is a fusion of the two characters from my Martini posters featured in a couple of earlier posts here and here, but for this new incarnation I have changed the Martini glass to champagne glasses, slipped wedding rings onto their fingers and put a smile on their lovely faces.

I intend to produce bespoke versions of this idea, maybe taking in the Bal De La Couture design as well, as a celebratory product in the near future, and make it available for next year’s brides and grooms to order. I shall probably create a new category on the website exclusively for vintage wedding posters and cards. I’m sure there must be a demand out there somewhere. Please watch this space.

Batiste Madalena: forgotten master of the movie poster.

Batiste Madalena was an American illustrator who enjoyed just four years in the sun between 1924 and 1928 before disappearing into obscurity, only to have his work rediscovered forty-five years later by a Californian documentary film maker.

In 1924 Italian born Madalena was studying art at the Mechanics Institute, later to become the Rochester Institute of Technology, at a time when a talent scout for the inventor and photographic manufacturer George Eastman was searching for an artist to produce posters to promote the silent movies soon to be shown at his newly built 3,000 seat Eastman Theatre in Rochester, New York. Clearly Eastman was very persuasive because this extraordinarily talented young man abandoned his art classes to work exclusively for the Eastman Theatre, without assistants, creating eight posters a week for four years at $4.50 per poster.

George Eastman disliked the publicity material that was sent from the studios, so Madalena’s brief was to produce these hand-painted posters every week, each one different and measuring 44” x 22” to fit the eight glass covered display cases around the main entrance to the theatre. The posters were to be simple and striking enough to be seen from the trolley cars stopping across the road from the theatre at the major intersection of Main and Gibbs. Batiste said, “The trolley was pretty far away, so the posters had to be big, not fancy and finicky. The point was to get people to cross the street and stop for a while at the Eastman.” He worked from black and white publicity photographs supplied by the movie studios, without sight of the movie itself, producing posters in bold, invented colours with beautifully realised hand-lettered titling. Then in 1928 Mr. Eastman sold his theatre to the Paramount-Publix chain and Madalena was dumped along with his artworks.

It was only by pure chance one evening when he was cycling home in the rain from the YMCA past the rear of the theatre, that Batiste saw all of his original paintings thrown out for the garbage collectors. Devastated and angry he attempted to salvage as many as he could, but being gouache on art board the rain had taken its toll and most of the 1400 pictures were totally destroyed. But he managed to get 225 of the artworks home and he and his wife worked most of the night trying to dry what remained of four years work, which he stored away in his attic for safe keeping.

In 1973 his daughter entered a number of the pictures in a local art show being held in the lobby of the Lincoln Rochester Trust Company on East Main Street, and by chance film maker Steven Katten, during a break in a nearby convention he was attending, happened to wander in and was struck by the superb quality of these pictures. Six years later he and his lawyer wife Judith bought the entire collection along with the copyright. Over the subsequent thirty years they managed to get the work shown in galleries throughout California, then across America and finally, in 2008, twenty years after the artist’s death, getting a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and Batiste Madalena’s reputation was established. You can view a short YouTube film giving the background to the MOMA exhibition here.

But what might have been?

At art school Madalena was clearly a free thinking student, and an admirer of the graphic design work of such great European modernists as Ludwig Hohlwein (see the 1913 Kaffee Hag poster on the left) and Lucian Bernhard (see the 1914 Bosch spark plugs poster below), who were working in Germany before the First World War. This must have been quite unusual when one considers that his principal tutor at the Mechanics Institute was the very conservative and influential advertising artist J. C. Leyendecker, who set the style for American commercial illustration for decades to come, and was a major influence on the work of Norman Rockwell.

In 1924 Madalena won a scholarship to the very liberal Art Students League of New York, a relatively new establishment reflecting many young artists’ dissatisfaction with the conservative instruction offered by other schools. One of the leading lecturers here at the time was the great American muralist Thomas Hart Benton, and among its students were Barnett Newman, Adolph Gottlieb and later Jackson Pollock. But before he could take his place at the Art Students League the very persuasive approach from George Eastman manifested itself and Madalena turned his back on further study, choosing instead to take up Eastman’s offer.

The posters that Madalena went on to produce for Eastman showed a remarkable understanding of the modernist principles of the European art deco movement, which was itself only just beginning to gel as a unified group in 1925, the year of the huge Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris. This same year Madalena produced a poster for the movie ‘The Thundering Herd’ (shown on the left) which was pure art deco, a style that was cutting edge modern and almost completely unheard of in America. Indeed when the United States were invited by the organisers to contribute a pavilion at the Paris exhibition they declined, Herbert Hoover explaining that this was because there was no modern art in America.

There is, of course, no way of telling what might have happened had he taken up his scholarship at the Art Students League, but consider the contrast in fortunes between Madalena and Edward McKnight Kauffer.

Born Edward Kauffer in Montana he moved to San Francisco at the age of twenty to work in a bookstore and study art at the California School of Design between 1910 and 1912. By some chance a professor at the University of Utah, Joseph McKnight became aware of Kauffer’s work, sponsored him and paid to send him to Paris for further study. (In gratitude Kauffer took his sponsor’s name as a middle name). After two years study Kauffer moved to London where he remained for most of his career producing what have become some of the most famous and well-loved posters of the twentieth century for clients like Shell and the London Underground (see 1930 poster on the right).

On such matters of chance are lives turned. What if? What if Madalena had gone to New York to study art in 1924? What if he’d not cycled past the back of the Eastman theatre on that rainy night in 1928? What if Steven Katten hadn’t wandered into the lobby of the Lincoln Rochester Trust Company in 1973? So we have a small part of Batiste Madalena’s output, and for that we should be thankful. But I for one cannot help thinking of what could have been.

1928 Aston Martin International poster

I’ve always seen this poster as a very English design, and I have stolen the headline from that quintessentially English novel ‘The Wind In The Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame, published in 1908. In this passage from chapter two Toad is trying to persuade (or perhaps coerce) Ratty and Mole to join him in an adventure in his latest acquisition, a gipsy caravan. He stands proudly in the stable-yard at Toad Hall and declares, “Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that’s always changing!” But he will soon be abandoning the caravan in a ditch, having just been driven off the road “with a blast of wind and a whirl of sound” by a speeding automobile, and by the end of the chapter Toad has “ordered a large and very expensive motor-car.”

In this Aston Martin poster I have illustrated, in a very English style, a more gentle approach to motoring pleasure than that envisaged by Toad, but at the same time creating an image evoking the freedom of the open road, something very close to Mr Toad’s heart.

For further details of this and other posters in my collection please navigate here.