Another excellent poster book from the Antiques Collectors' Club. Though not a proper series, the two previous books covered railways and liners with the same editorial format as this title: one poster a page (ten of them are spread wide) and an illustrated essay to the seven chapters. The posters are really divided into two sections, first are posters for the many car companies from 1891 to 1945, the second part looks at posters for racing, car shows and accessories.
Art, now over a hundred years old, used for selling cars back then seemed to feature a lot of females, not as you would expect as passengers but driving . Page ten has a painting for De Dion-Bouton cars with a lady in charge of what is really a motorised horseless carriage, this was in 1890 long before complete female emancipation. It's not until the twenties that the ladies become passengers in a male driven car, least according to the art featured here. Because this was a new form of travel there are plenty of posters for small manufacturers who eventually fell by the wayside leaving today's well-known marques, for example: Fiat, Citroen, Ford, Chrysler.
I found it fascinating to follow the changing style of art from the turn of the twentieth century where the posters used paintings and the typography was a kind of afterthought to be dropped into an empty space. Two decades later a much more graphic style had evolved with strong coloured shapes and bold type. On page eighty-one is a stunning 1930 poster for Bugatti designed by Rene Vincent showing a black upright shape with a speeding car breaking out of the top of the poster and just the company name in big letters across the bottom.
The speeding vehicle was obviously a strong selling point in the second section of posters about racing. Plenty of scope for artists to show cars at an angle with elliptical wheels and speed-lines everywhere. The book's cover uses a 1947 Marseilles Grand Prix painting by Andre Bermond. This racing section has the most recent posters in the book, three from 1968 to 1970, two feature Daytona races days and other is for Porsche with a head shot of Steve McQueen, fortunately these three only occupy a spread because I thought they clashed with all the wonderfully exuberant historical posters throughout the book. The car shows and accessory pages only show work up to 1950.
Like the railway and ocean liner poster books this one has an clean, elegant presentation with enough white space on each spread to enhance the feel of the art. I think it's worth saying that all the posters come from a French collection and so they reflect European styles of art and design. Emmanuel Lopez has created the perfect historical look back for car lovers.
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No doubt that this is a beautiful book with great reproductions however I must say I was somewhat disappointed that this was not so much a book detailing the history of the best examples of automobile posters so much as it was predominantly the presentation of two private collections - this could perhaps be fleshed out more in the Amazon description. That said there is still plenty to marvel at and it is definitely a great reference for those interested in the worlds of cars and design colliding, though not without omissions.
EDIT: as I find myself coming back to this book time and time again I feel my initial words were off the mark. Instead of reviewing what this book was not, I should have reviewed what this book was: it is beautiful, full stop.
This ia a beautiful book but it only gets four stars from me; the reason being that over 90% of the posters depicted are French. There are a few Italian, one or two (I do mean one or two) English and American posters, a very few Belgian. It is such a Franco-centric view of the automotive industry that it's almost funny. Is the author French? I don't know but may he should change his name to Lopez-Chauvin. Most of the posters seem to be from his own collection so this presumably is why the subject matter is so laughably one-sided. The posters are lovely, the book is lovely and it must be admitted that some of the posters are likely to have been used in other countries with other languages but potential purchasers should be aware of the gaps in subject matter. In this book Ford, amongst many others, didn't exist. Rolls? Bentley? Cadillac? Morris?