- 26 3/4 x 38 3/4 inches (68 x 98 1/2 cm)
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The son of a rich public notary, Maurice Biais was a socialite and a dandy on the Parisian scene, as well as a talented artist. In 1911, he married the performer Jane Avril, with whom he had a doomed, short-lived union. He designed numerous illustrations, graphics and posters including one for La Maison Moderne, for whom he also designed decorative objects. Here, much in the style of Sem (Georges Goursat), he captures a scene between races at a track. This was a work that was exhibited in New York City in 1901 at “the little gallery of Williams on Fifth Avenue, near Thirty-seventh street,” as part of an exhibition of the artist’s work. The New York Times art critic reviewing the show on October 19, 1901, describes a “long frieze-like picture called ‘Champs de Course’ . . . it is a procession of thin race horses mounted by jockeys; the faces of the latter are caricatures. Perhaps the underlying idea is a design for wall paper to be placed in the houses and fine stables of lovers of the turf” (New York Times, October 19, 1901).
The airplane in this object realism poster is a Fokker D.VII which was Germany’s most successful World War I fighter. It was capable of flying at 125 mph at an altitude of 15,000 feet.
Artist Gustav Otto was born into the business of high-performance engine manufacture–his father was Nickolaus Otto, the German engineer who developed the precursor to the internal combustion engine. Gustav started his career tinkering with autos and motorcycles, but after getting his pilot’s license in 1910, he concentrated on airplanes. His early successes in design brought him contracts with the German air force, but problems with politics and production eventually caused him to sell out to a consortium. The company continued through World War I, when the terms of surrender forced a return to automobile and motorcycle production. The company became BMW in 1922, which it has remained to the present day.