In 1933, Chicago, Illinois hosted the A Century of International Progress Exposition, an event that celebrated the centennial of the region’s history incorporation as a town. The exposition took on the label of Chicago World’s Fair with a directive of showcasing the technological advances that had taken place and were to come. The motto of that 1993 year-long event, ‘Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Adapts,’ was a signal of hope for a world living at the end of the Great Depression, a world of men and women struggling to find work, to support themselves and a growing family — a people simply striving to stay one step ahead of an inevitable beggar’s death.
Alongside a rainbow-colored stream of buildings, futurist modern homes, dream cars, and architectural advancements, a standout of modern achievement was the appearance of the German rigid airship Graf Zeppelin. The airship had a short life span from its first flight in 1928 to becoming scrap metal in 1940 under the rule of Hitler’s Third Reich. The airship had many impressive trips including a single journey to the artic, traveling the Middle East, before briefly becoming a mail carrier from Germany to Brazil until it was commandeered as part of the Nazi’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.
The Graf Zeppelin circled the grounds of the exposition, landing for twenty-five minutes, before heading off to Akron and then back to Germany. Amidst the Great Depression, the Graf Zeppelin, and the exposition itself, was to be a look towards a more prosperous future for the entire world. A behemoth in the sky, taking a crew of 36 to make its flight possible, it could only take an additional 24 passengers. The ultimate luxury in a time of scarcity.
To honor the exposition and the lauded Graf Zeppelin, Belgian illustrator Laurent Durieux teamed up with the Ford Craftsman Studio to release a series of limited-edition screenprints that show the event as spectacle — the wide-eyed beauty of the impossible happening above you. Durieux’s poster Chicago Zeppelin places the viewer within the scene, taken back to 1933 — we are witness to the upcoming seismic shift of industry. Durieux expands the borders of that moment, as it hovers above, and in it is the weight of progress the Graf Zeppelin represents. Durieux is a master of condensed cinema, showing the breadth of an entire narrative in a single frame. Here, he hones in on the Graf Zeppelin and the vibrant future it inspires at the time. It is a beast in the sky, a lumbering giant gracefully maneuvering above the continents. It is beyond nation, it is beyond religious belief — Durieux shows the world’s rapture with a new way of being, Valhalla aloft.