Design Inspiration: The Light Blue Check Sock by Fortis Green
The Fortis Green 'Beeman' light blue check sock is based on illustrator Géo Ham’s Art Deco poster for the 1937 Monaco Grand Prix. The Art Deco era was an age of travel and transportation, where travel by train, plane, ocean liner and automobile was a high-class extravagance and luxury cars became style classics of the age.
Geo Ham's Art Deco poster for the 1937 Monaco Grand Prix
Simultaneously, an obsession with speed and technological development saw race records being constantly challenged and broken. An artistic outpouring followed the machine age developments in transport, with advertising for shipping lines, airlines, railways, and automobile companies leaving us a legacy of the best design of the 20th century.
French painter and illustrator Géo Ham (short for Georges Hamel) is now widely regarded for producing some of the best automobile posters of the era. Born in Laval, France in 1900, Hamel demonstrated illustration skills from a very young age. His inspiration came from two events early in his life: First in 1911, when a biplane piloted by a local politician tossing out leaflets flew over Georges’ city, and landed there. Then in 1913, a race for motorcycles and cars was organized right in Laval. These two events hypnotised young Georges and fired up his passion for both speed and sketching.
At the age of 18 Hamel moved to Paris enrolling in the National School of Decorative Arts (Art Deco), and by the time he was 20, drew his first cover illustration for French car magazine Omnia under the pseudonym of ‘Geo Ham’. He began getting his illustrations and fine art published on a regular basis by 1923, and by the 1930s was already established as the finest in his field. From 1927 to 1940, his work was featured in France’s leading pictorial magazine, L'illustration. In the 1930s and 50s Ham was commissioned to create the now iconic Art Deco paintings, prints and posters for the Monaco Grand Prix, the 24 Hours of Le Mans among other prestigious European Races. A highlight of his life was competing in the 1934 Le Mans race in a 2 litre Derby, and although fuel problems forced him to withdrawal, the experience only added to his passion for racing art.
The principality of Monaco held its first Grand Prix in 1929. The Monaco Grand Prix was organised by Antony Noghes, president of the Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM). The race through the streets of the Principality was a phenomenal success and the ACM still run the Monaco Formula One event into the present day.
The 1937 race was the last Monaco Grand Prix before the outbreak of World War II. Held on the 8th of August, this, the 8th annual race on the city circuit was dominated by Mercedes-Benz driver Manfred von Brauchitsch, with German cars and drivers ultimately taking out first through to 5th place. The outbreak of WWII signified the end of the Art Deco era and the end of the Grand Prix de Monaco for more than ten years.
Artist Géo Ham continued to illustrate cars, planes and motorcycles well into the early 1960s. He passed away in 1972.