A new evocative collection for Glenn and me, we bought our second “ghost” last weekend.  The vendor is a friend and wanted to simply give the thing to us, but that would have diminished its value.  We had to pay him something.

1-car body

We value what others do not.  Perfection?  No.  Complete, complex?  No.  Less is more.  Does it express a time period?  Has it been used, loved?  More a simple mass than anything else, this piece expresses the 1930s, with speed, and the art deco aesthetic very simply.

We have been talking for a year about this topic and how and why “the oval” was used in automobile and truck design in the thirties and the forties.  It makes one think of Eadweard Muybridge and time/motion photography.  And the Futurists in painting and sculpture.


Muybridge did his work first.  In the 1880s he photographed animals and humans in motion, and described movement that could not be isolated by the human eye.  He composed movement as a series of “parts” of a movement, something that could not have been understood without photography.  A whole new idea.  And when there is a new technology, artists want to use it or define it.  The Futurists wanted to capture this motion somehow and place it on a picture plane (which today to us seems odd).


Futurism emerged in Italy early in the twentieth century, although Malevich, above, was Russian.  It dealt with contemporary ideas of the future, and emphasized speed and motion with the new ideas of the automobile and the airplane.  In their images, one can see the influence of a movement in parts, or cells, kind of layered, one cell upon another.

This leads us into the discussion between Glenn and me.  Is an oval meant to be a moving circle?  The Art Deco Society of Palm Beach states that “technology allowed for construction to be built with rounded corners.  In the 30s and 40s, the design of trains, airplanes, ships and automobiles influenced architecture.  Rounded corners made buildings look sleek and fast”.  That was their goal, the new modern “fast”, made up by images of isolated movement.

1-orange truck

Look at this truck and the fenders housing the circle of the wheels.  Were these housings for the tires expanded into ovals, in other words, a repeated circle to express speed?  The fenders could certainly have been concentric circles over the wheels, and have been in other years of truck design.  Was the circle repeated in metal the way the Futurists would do, only not in separate cells, yielding the oval shape?

Autorennen im Grunewald, Berlin

Look at this old German photo found in Wikimedia!  I rest my case.

It seems like a no-brainer to me, but my research is not deep.  Harry?

One thought on “OLD GHOSTS OF MOTION

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