You’ve probably heard that old raconteurs’ adage that says “never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”
There has always been an element of that applied by the artists who have created some of the most coveted and collectible motorsports posters over the decades.
Back in an era nearly a century before the information age was even a concept and action photography barely existed, talented artists were relied upon to create the promotional material that would attract crowds to premier motorsport events. And these artisans of the easel were not about to let the facts of motorsport get in the way of their visual story.
The reality of the period was that horrendous crashes and often fiery deaths were commonplace, but the visual depiction was the antithesis of this. Instead, artists would let their collective imaginations roam free, and create visions of pure, brilliant fantasy. In this parallel promotional world, cars would race with barely a hand span between them, their long bonnets bending and thrusting for the impending turn, drivers locked in the fixed stare of men born immortal.
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By the early ’60s, the imagery had developed a greater sophistication. The sense of slight caricature had gone, replaced by a more avant-garde depiction. Duelling open-wheelers on a circuit banking boldly rendered in the colours of the host country’s flag, for example. What didn’t change was our emotive response to the imagery, and in many cases, the collectability of the work.
Perhaps the late Jacques Grelley, a French-born Le Mans driver turned memorabilia expert and historian, captured it best when he made this observation about the subject: “I can display the history of auto racing in posters. If I take only 10 posters, one for every 10 years from 1900 to 1990, you will have a visual understanding of the evolution of motorsport.”
Flick through the gallery (above) and get lost in the magic of motorsport posters