The 1934 GP Season of Paul Chenard’s “Silver Clouds”

It’s almost not fair to refer to Paul Chenard’s “Silver Clouds: The 1934 Grand Prix Season” as a book. A book is generally thought of as a consumer product. Yes, a book can be artfully considered, beautifully designed, lovingly written and illustrated, but when it comes down to it, you think of a book as a mass-produced item: bought, thumbed through, and forgotten on a shelf.

Like a book, Paul’s project, is lovingly researched and written. The design has been carefully measured, the illustrations (oh the illustrations!) are magnificent. But here is where the similarities to a mere book end. This is an art piece. There’s really no other way to think of it. It has all the hallmarks of a hand-crafted, meticulously assembled gallery item. The fact that you can turn from page to page and admire the beautifully reproduced illustrations and pore over the charming summaries of the races and events of the 1934 Grand Prix season is just added benefit. My photos here don’t do it justice at all.

This gives me a dilemma. Ordinarily, I would read through a text like this a handful of times, perhaps study a favorite illustration and then shut it away between automotive volumes. Silver Clouds, though, begs to be displayed.

Paul’s illustration style matches the era so very well. His flowing, lightly-held hand style feels very much in the spirit of the 1934 season. If they were in black and white, they could easily pass for the woodcut illustrations that accompanied newspaper accounts of the early grand prix seasons. They live in a very sweet spot between realism and the ligne claire, almost cartoony, style that so typifies European illustration of the mid-century. The woodcut comparison is even more apt in the biography section, where each entry is accompanied by a small illustration of the subject in something close to the illustration style the Wall Street Journal is famous for.

Brilliantly, those same illustrations accompany the book as a deck of trading cards that evoke the era’s cigarette cards. You can almost imagine them as coveted souvenir purchased trackside at AVUS or the Circuito di Modena. Absolutely marvelous!

In short, I love it. It’s a remarkably beautiful art piece, a passionately written and magnificently crafted primer to the Grand Prix season of 1934. I don’t know how many copies of Silver Clouds Paul has created, but everything about it screams “limited edition”, find out more on his Automobiliart.

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