Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

This French artist, aviator and race driver perfectly captured and expressed the Diesel Era spirit.

A range of opinions*:

  • "The most remarkable painter of the motoring world" (L'Automobiliste, Editions Maeght, December 1985)
  • "Among the poster artists of the interwar period, Géo Ham comes at the top of the pile and has remained influential for many years since then" (Jean Durry, Le Sport et l'Affiche, 1988)
  • "Géo Ham is as much a sculptor as an artist ... The skills he has shown in the Art Déco posters advertising car races or rallies are unmatched: aircraft or racing cars bearing down on onlookers make your head spin" (Hervé Poulain, Automobiles Classiques n°47, dec. 1991.)

Chronological markers:

  • Georges Hamel was born in Laval (Mayenne) on the 18 th of September 1900, and was brought up in a family with great feeling for artistic & technical developments of a new century full of promise. It was in his native town when he was 11 that he had a moment of revelation of the beauty of aeroplanes, when a pilot, Allard, flew over Laval.

  • Two years later, the sight and sound of racing cars driven in Laval by G. Boileau (Peugeot) and E. Friedrich (Bugatti) - to mention only the most prestigious - filled the thirteen-year-old with wonder. Straightaway, young Georges took to his paintbrushes and covered the back of postcards published by his father with fine gouache. At school, at that same time his first prizes in art classes testified to his gifts, which his later career fully justified.

  • In 1918, he passed the entrance examination for the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs and went up to Paris.
  • Under the name Géo Ham, his posters advertising motor races and air shows brightened up many city walls. Simultaneously, his watercolours and gouaches livened up the books he illustrated. Besides, his skills as a designer were put to good use in the drawings of motorcycles, automobiles and advertising vans. Last but not least, his work as a press reporter shows how involved he was in the motoring scene.

  • However, after World War II, in spite of his substantial assignments as a designer, the "prince of speed" gradually fell into almost total oblivion, a victim to the new technology of colour photography.

  • He died in 1972 after a surgical operation. Only a dozen people attended his funeral.
  • To make up for that situation an enthusiastic team of admirers was formed, sought to give Géo Ham the place he deserved and put his name back on top of the bill. Actually, this short article was borrowed from their website.

And a bit more:

Duels between automobiles and aircraft, trains and cars were among the most important subjects of Géo Ham artwork.

His images of motorcycles are perfect.

As well as his trains:

... and flying boats.

He drove a Bugatti T40:

His anthropomorphic drawings could provide an inspiration for Boris Artzybasheff:

His 1935 sketch was a source of famous controversy: after the Paris Show where the Figoni & Falaschi-styled Delahaye Torpedo Cabriolet had been presented, Géo Ham sued Joseph Figoni as he believed it was direct copy of a car depicted in one of his paintings**.

Eventually an agreement was reached and some cars have the Geo Ham plaque just in front of the rear fender.

(Photo by RichardOwen @ Flickr)



* Les Amis de Géo Ham,

** Supercars

More Géo Ham artwork @ my Flickr photostream

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Comment by Blake "Blakesby" Canham-Bennett on December 6, 2011 at 10:39pm

Very beautiful.

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