Walter Thor was one of the turn-of-the-century artists designing posters for car and bicycle companies. Born in Munich, he studied in Paris for a few years and then returned to Germany. Peugeot, like many early car companies, had its origins in the bicycle manufacturing business. Here, in rich colors and with sharp outlining, Thor depicts an aristocratic lady surrounded by her dogs as she cycles toward a music pavilion. Although virtually devoid of Art Nouveau ornamentation, the graceful, winding bicycle path in the background serves to adorn the images much as a plume of smoke might in an image by the Father of Art Nouveau, Alphonse Mucha.
By allowing women the feeling of freedom, mobility, and independence, the bicycle helped to fundamentally transform social relations between the sexes. Not only did the bicycle play a large role in freeing women from the restraints of constricting fashions, it changed the idea of female beauty by dispelling the myths of women’s fragility and helplessness. The early women’s liberation movement found in the bicycle a vehicle for change; as the famous women’s emancipationist Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton proclaimed: “Woman is riding to suffrage on a bicycle.”