A life between tradition and modernity: Nicolas Draeger has dedicated himself to the art of lithography and loves motorcycles. For the hundredth birthday of the BMW Group, he produced a reprint of a BMW poster motif and gave it to Fred Jakobs, head of the BMW archive in Munich.
A machine steeped in tradition.
Astonishingly quiet, the eight-tonne printing machine clatters along with the rhythm of days gone by. Cog wheels ceaselessly intermesh with one another, rollers roll smoothly over the paper – everything moves in a purely mechanical way. The smell of ink hangs in the air. Nicolas Draeger is a master of the rare handicraft of lithography.
In his studio Éditions Anthèse, located in the French commune of Montrouge to the south of Paris, Nicolas produces reproductions of artists such as Henri Matisse or Egon Schiele and creates entire books. To mark the one hundredth anniversary of BMW, he has produced an elaborate reprint of an original poster from 1929.
This is not by chance. Nicolas unites his passions in his lithographical creations; he has a soft spot for machines – including those on two wheels. So it's no wonder that not only hundred-year-old printing machines such as those of manufacturer Marinoni Voirin can be found in his workshop, but also motorcycles with the blue and white logo.
He is the proud owner of several BMW motorcycles: "I have a K for travelling, and a GS for having fun and meeting people. I climb atop my R nineT when I meet friends in the café." A BMW R 60/6 is parked right next to the GS in his studio. There's no doubt that Nicolas combines his hobby with his profession. This is why he has reprinted the lithography of Henry Ehlers for BMW Motorrad.
When the time came to hand over his reprint, he even sought contact with BMW and set out on the long journey to Munich in order to present the makers of his favourite motorcycles with a gift. The Frenchman put a lot of thought into his choice for the motif of the lithography. "The fastest motorcycle in the world!" – this message decorates the lower section of the almost 90-year-old design.
It is the time of the first BMW world records, when Ernst Henne hurtled over country roads at 216 km/h using a supercharger, in Ingolstadt just north of Munich on 19 September 1929. Five colours, three letters, and one rider on an R 63: Nicolas brings BMW history back to life in his now rare art form. A touch of nostalgia. In the BMW archive, the sight of a 1934 R 2 gets his heart beating faster as well.
It takes almost five days to complete the reprint and it represents a real challenge for the lithographer. First, he must adopt the design of the original motif. "Each colour has its own design," says the Frenchman. The design work alone takes two days. The machines print two colours per day onto paper. They cannot do any more than this, because the colours must dry so that they do not run or mix.
"My hands are my most important tool. This begins right from selecting the paper: I can feel whether it is the right kind or not. But I also need a good eye in order to be able to match the colour precisely. All my senses are focused," says Nicolas.
Why has the Frenchman devoted himself to an almost forgotten handicraft? Nicolas’ ancestors were lithographers too, and he is now the sixth generation to practise the profession. Although his grandfather sold the printing house and his father had nothing to do with the business, Nicolas nevertheless found his way back to this old art form. What particularly fascinates him is the fact that he is able to reproduce the colours of a lithography true to the original. And he performs each and every movement in precisely the same way as his ancestors and countless artists in the 20th century. He is only satisfied when the print quality meets his high standards. The only way to increase this feeling is to share his art with an audience. "When visitors come and marvel at my work, this gives me great satisfaction." But in the course of his work not every moment is so satisfactory. If his day is not going well, he needs to distract himself. He turns his attention to his motorcycles, tinkers a little and looks after them. "After this, I can return to my printing machines relaxed once more."
The delights of two wheels.
If the weather is nice, he delivers his printed artwork to customers on his motorcycle – most of his clients are in Paris. "When traffic is bad, it's not a good idea to drive a car into town." At the weekend though Nicolas can really ride his motorcycle just for the pure pleasure of it. On Friday evening, Nicolas often climbs on his GS and rides towards the south of France with friends.
He has more then enough room for his luggage on the Enduro. On his journeys, he sometimes races down back roads beyond the asphalt of the highway. Only on Sunday evening does he turn north again.
Along narrow streets, through small towns, whenever Nicolas is on the road, travelling on the motorcycle is a great adventure for him. "I love motorcycling for one simple reason: as soon as I stop with the bike, people are curious and I get to talking to them." He enjoys it most when he has company and can share his impressions with friends along the way. Apropos sharing: if Nicolas comes across other GS riders, he knows that they share the same values and attitudes as him. For him this is the "Spirit of GS".
It started with a yearning.
Nicolas inherited his ancestors' enthusiasm for lithography and motorcycles. His father travelled a lot with a BMW. And he still does today. At the age of 82, he still rides his motorcycle through Paris. "When I was younger, I would gaze longingly at his motorcycles," Nicolas recalls. Today, he walks into his studio, breathes in the smell of ink and rejoices over his profession and his bikes. And then the yearnings are satisfied.