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« Bill Kauffman on Arts Subsidies | Main | Art Linkage »

March 26, 2009

Automobile Art by Reuters

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Foreign-made cars began to appear on my radar during the early 1950s -- the odd MG TC here and Jaguar XK-120 there. Along with Volkswagens. By the time I was in high school, VWs were no longer startling sights on Seattle streets and there was a dealership not very far from home.

I used to be a big-time automobile brochure gatherer and still have in my possession lots of sales lit from that era. Sadly, I can't seem to find my VW brochures with those really nice illustrations by Berndt Reuters (1901-1958).

Those illustrations were nice artistically though they distorted reality a little (for more on this, see my post here). And for more on Reuters, look here. This page has a link called "gallery" that sends you to a lot of Reuters' car advertisement illustrations for non-VW brands such as Opel.

Reuters seems to have used watercolor and airbrush. His work reminds me of that by master poster artist Ludwig Hohlwein, who I wrote about here.

Here are examples of Reuters' work.





Above are VW illustrations of the sort I remember.

During World War 2 Reuters was doing work for car companies, but the subject matter was a little different.

Below are some inter-war illustrations for publication covers.




Finally, one more Volkswagen brochure spread.




posted by Donald at March 26, 2009


I see what you mean about the distortion - those VWs seem to be rather more svelte than reality (longer hoods and a different aspect ratio in general).

Posted by: Derek Lowe on March 27, 2009 8:35 AM


Any idea about the provenance of the VW ads? The layout and typography suggest early '50s; the language is English but the one license plate visible is European.

I'm curious because I was under the impression that the VW bug was introduced to the United States by the famous Doyle Dane Bernbach ads. (Photo of lunar landing module. Head: "It's ugly, but it gets you there.")

Not for the British market; the wheel is on the left. Besides, who makes a big play to sell convertibles in the U.K.?

Was this perhaps an earlier, more conventional campaign when a few bugs started being imported, before the big push and the DDB ads?

Posted by: Rick Darby on March 27, 2009 9:05 AM

These are cool posters!

Maybe companies should think about going retro in their advertising departments!

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on March 27, 2009 3:28 PM

Good stuff. The Kraut helmet has lines that echo the car and vice versa.
The Kraut helmet was around before the car. Does anyone know if the look influenced the design of the VW Bug?

Posted by: Fritz on March 27, 2009 3:39 PM

Rick -- Here is my guesswork.

The art was done for German brochures and picked up for VWs American sales effort. In those early days they probably economized by using the German stuff.

The DDB link happened several years after VWs were selling in the USA. Seems to me the first few VWs were brought over in 1949 and the DDB ads didn't appear until 1958 give or take a year or two.

As I mentioned in the posting, I once had some of the sort of lit illustrated. They used this and other materials for several years prior to the "Think Small" campaign.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on March 27, 2009 10:46 PM

Many interesting stories, parts, images etc. about older VWs, can be found at.

Posted by: Stu Slotnick on March 31, 2009 4:00 PM

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