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A selection of rare Toulouse-Lautrec cycling posters are up for auction

Joe Robinson
29 Jan 2020

Works celebrating cycling from the late 19th century, these are pretty cool

A selection of vintage cycling posters are set to go up for auction, including two designed by renowned artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Swann Auction Galleries will put a total of seven posters from the later 19th and early 20th century up for bidding on 13th February with some expectede to fetch up to US$12,000.

In a press release the gallery states 'cycling was one of the most popular fin-de-siècle pastimes and a growing sport in the 1890s and first years of the 20th century, particularly in France which coincided with the equally popular and emerging art of poster design, another craze that led members of the public to follow bill poster men in the street to see if they could get hold of a clean copy of a poster before it was stuck to a wall.'

This led to the design of posters for a range of things related to cycling including advertising a race to informing the public about a product, just as adverts work in this day and age, but with a touch more panache.

Two of the posters up for auction were designed by French post-impressionist artist Toulouse-Lautrec. The first was created in 1896 after a commission by British bicycle company Simpson, which was looking to advertise its new bike chains.

Lautrec was inspired to design the poster around British cyclist Jimmy Michael riding with a toothpick between his teeth, something he was noted for doing. Ultimately, Simpson rejected the design as it believed the pedals used in the image were not created properly.

The artist had already created 200 prints of the poster at his own expense with this surviving copy up for sale and estimated to make between $7,000 and $10,000 under the hammer.

The second Lautrec piece was another piece created for Simpson four years on, entitled 'La Chaine Simpson' and is estimated to make $1,000 to $1,500.

The lead item up for auction is Edward Penfield's 'Orient Cycles, Lead the Leaders' design. According to Swann Auction Galleries, this 1895 metre high work is extremely rare for Penfield who usually worked in a much smaller format. This work is expected to go for between $8,000 to $12,000 at auction.

Further posters designed by Adrien Barrere, Eugen Grasset and Walter Thor will also be among the collection, which will be accepting online bidding here two Thursdays from now.

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