Rolling Sculpture: Art Deco Automobiles

Rolling Sculpture: Art Deco Cars of the 1930's and '40's

Rolling Sculpture: Art Deco Cars of the 1930’s and ’40’s

Art is typically thought of as paint and paint brushes transforming a blank canvas or a musical on Broadway, but a car? Cars are an means to an end, and yes, some are pretty, but art? Not exactly my first thought but then again, they just don’t make ’em like they used to 80 years ago. If you’ve ever laid eyes on a beautiful sculpture and then saw the cars in the Rolling Sculpture exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art, you’d say yes, that is a beautiful work of art! Like any sculptor bending or carving a material to their imagination, car designers from the 1930’s and ’40’s pushed the modern, clean lines of the Art Deco movement to the edge.

A "New York-style" 1938 Talbot-Lago T-150C-SS Teardrop, one of 12 originally made.

A “New York-style” 1938 Talbot-Lago T-150C-SS Teardrop, one of 12 originally made.

Opulence and a streamlined design were the hallmarks of the Streamline Moderne Art Deco movement in the ’30s and ’40s. Vehicles were no exception. Locomotives, ships, motorcycles, and cars were all styled with sleek, bullet-like shapes. Streamlined shapes were more aerodynamic and their beauty was unmistakeable, even if they weren’t always practical.

1941 Indian Model 441 Motorcycle

1941 Indian Model 441 Motorcycle

Rolling Sculpture: Art Deco Cars of the 1930’s and ’40’s is on display at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. Guys, and yes gals too, this one is for you. Trading paintbrushes and canvases for metal and cutting edge designs, the cars in the exhibit represent the glamour and ingenuity of experimental design.  Most vehicles on display represent one-of-a-kind custom machines or concept cars with only a handful produced and even less remaining today. Like the architecture, fashion, furniture, and jewelry of the time, vehicles took on a modern, fresh look unlike anything seen before.

1936 Stout Scarab - the first minivan - is one I'd actually drive!

1936 Stout Scarab – the first minivan – is one I’d actually drive!

1938 Hispano-Suiza H6B "Xenia"

1938 Hispano-Suiza H6B “Xenia”

1933 Pierce Arrow Silver Arrow

1933 Pierce Arrow Silver Arrow

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1933 Pierce Arrow Silver Arrow

1935 Bugatti Type 57S Aerolithe (Reproduction). Only one was produced and it is unknown as to what happened to the original. The Guild of Automotive Restorers in Ontario, Canada, recreated this Bugatti using techniques and materials from the 1935 creation.

1935 Bugatti Type 57S Aerolithe (Reproduction). Only one was produced and it is unknown as to what happened to the original. The Guild of Automotive Restorers in Ontario, Canada, recreated this Bugatti using techniques and materials from the 1935 creation.

The Arts Deco movement began in France in the 1920’s and spread worldwide. A collection of different styles, this movement was short lived, however, and after WWII the lavish modern period ended.

The Rolling Sculpture exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh is on display until 15 January 2017. The gleaming, elegant designs of these automobiles and motorcycles will rev your engine, whether you are young or old. Any glamour girl wanting to channel her inner Rita Hayworth or Mae West can imagine herself riding off into the sunset with the dashing likes of Gene Kelly or Cary Grant in any one of these cars. I know I did…..

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