(Untitled)

I’ve been thinking a lot about hoarding recently – of various different kinds – which reminded me that this post probably deserved another airing.  Two questions, has any more been written on this subject, and just what is the etymology of a poster hoarding anyway?

 

What do these four posters have in common?

John Burningham for London Transport vintage poster autumn
John Burningham, London Transport, 1961

Andre Amstutz Camping Coaches poster British Railways
Andre Amstutz, British Railways, 1956

Royal Blue Daphne Padden Coach Poster c1957
Daphne Padden, Royal Blue Coaches, c. 1957

McKnight Kauffer for Shell 1934
Edward McKnight Kauffer, Shell, 1934

Well, three out of the four of them are on the walls here, but you’re not really expected to know that.  Perhaps more to the point is that they represent four out of the five areas of ‘collectable’ posters: railways, London Underground, Shell and coach* posters (the fifth for me would be World War Two posters, for what it’s worth).

*This may be wishful thinking on my part, but we do seem to have quite a lot of them now (thanks to Malcolm Guest, mainly) and so they are at very least collectable by us.  Anyone else?

But those four areas also share something more than just being collectable.  In each case the companies they are advertising owned the hoardings that the posters went on.

South Kensington Station January 1938

That’s reasonably obvious for the bus, tube and train stations – but Shell posters were also designed to be displayed on the vans which delivered petrol to the garages.

Shell van displaying poster on side 1925

Now set down like that it doesn’t seem like so much of a blinding revelation.  But it isn’t, as far as I know, something which has been much commented on.  And yet it had a big impact on their posters.

The most obvious example is that all of these companies had a much greater incentive to produce posters than anyone else.  Not only was this in effect a subsidised form of advertising for them, but they also needed to churn them out in order to fill up spaces when they hadn’t sold enough commercial advertising.

Enfield West station with advertising visible

Here’s Enfield West Station in 1934, with a McKnight Kauffer poster for Eno’s Salts clearly visible on the hoardings.

They also continued to produce posters in great numbers later on, when the poster had ceased to be the main medium for advertising, because the spaces were still there and still needed filling.

In addition, there may have been more reason for the companies  to produce ‘artistic’ and possibly also more subtle posters, because this will have a very direct effect on the station environment.  Although this probably worried Frank Pick more than it did the owners of Victoria Coach Station.

Victoria Coach Station 1962

I’ve also read an interesting suggestion that in the early days, London Underground commissioned lots of posters of wide open spaces to counteract the perceived claustrophobia of the tube, but I don’t think there’s any proof of that.

Burnham Beeches walter spradbury 1912
Burnham Beeches, Walter Spradbury 1912

Now originally this was going to be my only point, that all of these people owned their hoardings and so had to invest more in posters and poster design than other companies, which in turn may be one reason why their posters are collectable.  And that this hadn’t really been noted until now.

But then I found a really interesting article by David Watts (insert Jam or Kinks record into your head here as you wish) about pre-war depictions of Yorkshire in railway posters.  It’s an exemplary look at how posters worked and were consumed, rather than just what they looked like, and backed up by a ton of research.  The world of posters could do with a lot more of this kind of rigorousness (not that I’m volunteering to read 200 volumes of railway company internal correspondence, you understand).

One of his points is that the context of railway posters is all-important.  They didn’t need to have pictures of trains on, because they were posted up in stations.  The fact that they were advertising railway travel rather than just the location pictured could be asssumed.

Woodhall Spa vintage railway poster
Andrew Johnson, no date

The same is true of London Transport posters.  They can just say Go to Uxbridge.

Uxbridge London Transport poster Charles Paine, 1921
Charles Paine, 1921

That you’d use the underground to do so is implicit in the fact that the poster is displayed at a tube station.

But, as Watts points out, this contextualisation of the posters has other implications.

…omitting any visual reference to rail travel allowed posters to be detached easily from their ‘mundane commercial purpose’.

So the companies, as I’ve mentioned before, could promote their posters as examples of good design for the masses, and even as fine art, in part because they didn’t need to say Go By Train in large letters at the bottom.

Now Watts argues that this made railway posters at least a rather poor form of advertising.  And he does put forward some evidence that the train companies themselves thought this way by the early to mid 1930s too.  Images of trains, or at least the idea of train travel did become more prominent after then – as in the Tom Purvis that is coming up at Christies next month.

Tom Purvis 193o LNER poster

But he also says – and I think that this is entirely right – that the fact that the posters were semi-detached from their commercial purposes is one of the factors that has made them so collectable.  They exist in a limbo between fine art and outright commercialism, and are so more appealing than an advertisement for Eno’s Fruit Salts or Gilette Razors.

Although it is worth remembering that it’s only because the companies were promoting them as ‘art’ that these posters are available to collect at all.  Shell, Underground and railway posters were all available for sale to the public when they were first produced, so they do survive in attics and collections, while the most commercial billboard posters weren’t and so aren’t.  (I’ve mentioned this in passing before, but really ought to pull together all the sources on this one day, because it’s not said often enough.  Even here.)

But I think there’s also another way in which the context affected railway posters in particular (although the same is probably also true of London Transport and coach posters to some degree as well).  Watts points out how much the railway posters are selling an image of ‘deep’ England, by which he means an archaic, un-modernised and highly rural vision of the countryside.  Now whenever this vision is called up at this time, it is almost always intended as a direct contrast to the modernity, ribbon development and speed of the 1920s and 30s.

Edwin Byatt Vintage railway poster 1940
Edwin Byatt, 1940

But in the railway station, that contrast is always there anyway.  Most of these poster would have been displayed in an urban setting, and even where they were put up at local stations, there was the machinery and bustle of the railway itself.  So the posters are also using their context to suggest that there is an alternative, an escape.  And that’s something else that they don’t need to spell out in words at the bottom.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A sight surprising

I was going to try and say something clever about this auction that’s coming up at Bloomsbury/Dreweatts first thing tomorrow, but there isn’t really much point.  Because what’s coming up – at least the interesting part of it – is a collection of posters designed by Clifford and Rosemary Ellis, and almost every single one of them is a gem.

One or two of their series of different bird habitats for London Transport appear relatively often at auction.

Clifford (1907-1985) & Rosemary (1910-1998) Ellis Wood (Woodpecker) Colour lithographic poster, 1932, printed by Sanders Phillips & Co. Ltd, The Baynard Press, London

But this one is almost entirely new to me, and it’s the best one of all.

Colour lithographic poster, 1932, printed by Sanders Phillips & Co. Ltd, The Bayard Press, London Underground Electric Railways Company Ltd

Of course this has the entirely predictable results that a) I want it and b) it’s too expensive to buy because everyone else is likely to feel the same.

Also for London Transport is this slightly odder image.  I’m not entirely sure what it wants me to do, and I definitely don’t know where it’s suggesting I go.  Except possibly mad.

Clifford (1907-1985) & Rosemary (1910-1998) Ellis Travels in Space on your Doorstep Colour lithographic poster, 1937, printed by Curwen Press 102 x 64cm (40 1/8 x 25 1/4in) Unframed Commission by London Transport

Only slightly less peculiar is this variation on the ‘Shop Early’ posters which suggests that we should shop earlier in the month.  Why?  Can anyone explain?

Clifford (1907-1985) & Rosemary (1910-1998) Ellis It Is Better To Shop Early Colour lithographic poster, 1935, printed by Waterlow & Sons Ltd. London & Dunstable 101 x 63.5cm (39 3/4 x 25in.) Unframed Commission by London Transport

Lovely though they are on their own, the LT posters are just a small slice of what’s on offer.  You could, for example get yourself almost an entire set of Empire Marketing Board posters.  Here are just two of the five, to give you the idea.

Clifford (1907-1985) & Rosemary (1910-1998) Ellis Empire Buying Begins At Home (Tomatoes) Colour lithographic poster, printed by Jordison & Co Ltd, London & Middlesborough 101 x 63cm (39 3/4 x 24 3/4in.) Unframed Commissioned by the Empire Marketing Board.

I have two things to say about these posters.  One is that the latter one is described in the auction catalogue as ‘The Market Stall’ when it is clearly a County Show, and as these are some of my favourite things in the world I will not be gainsaid on that.  Secondly, if you want more info about how the full set fitted together on a billboard, I’ve posted about it not once but twice; and if you’re worried about the ethics of Empire promotion – although these are fairly inoffensive examples – you can find my thoughts here.

That’s not the end of it either.  The Ellises designed posters for Shell, and these are in the auction too.

Clifford (1907-1985) & Rosemary (1910-1998) Ellis Antiquaries Prefer Shell Colour lithographic poster, 1934 , printed by Vincent Brooks, Day & Son Ltd, London 76.5 x 114cm (30 1/8 x 44.5in.) Unframed Commissioned by Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd.

Clifford (1907-1985) & Rosemary (1910-1998) Ellis Angler's Prefer Shell Colour lithographic poster, 1934 76.5 x 114cm (30 1/8 x 44 7/8in.) Unframed Commissioned by Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd.

Along with some more Shell posters.

Clifford (1907-1985) & Rosemary (1910-1998) Ellis Lower Slaughter Colour lithographic poster, 1934 76.5 x 114cm (30 1/8 x 44 7/8in.) Unframed Commissioned by Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd.

Although just for a change there is a – rather wonderful – BP poster as well.

Clifford (1907-1985) & Rosemary (1910-1998) Ellis Whipsnade Zoo By Car Using BP Plus

With a final garnish of GPO posters too, including this one.

Clifford (1907-1985) & Rosemary (1910-1998) Ellis A Miserable reflection, why aren't we on the telephone? Colour lithographic poster , 1935, printed by The General Post Office, GPO

Which I have been forced to mention in despatches before, on account of its slightly deranged title. Why indeed are we not on the telephone.  Except we are.

Clearly I owe the Ellises a proper blog post of their own, and even more now that I have discovered – thanks to a newspaper article about this auction – that they came from Bath, just up the road from Crownfolio HQ.  Here they are in Lansdown, being artists in 1937.

Clifford and Rosemary Ellis in Bath

They’re sitting amongst their work for the British Pavilion at the 1937 Paris Exposition.  I will come back to this, I promise.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Responses

Owls in the kitchen

A mysterious package arrived in the post a few weeks ago.  Unannounced and anonymous, it turned out to be  a small selection of materials about one of my favourite artists and people, Barbara Jones.

There’s a couple of booklets – one a catalogue of an exhibition in Marlborough in 1999, the other a review of her life and works published in the journal of the Private Libraries Association.  (I think my new aspiration may be to own a private library).

But best of all are a pair of cuttings.  One is her obituary from – possibly – a Hampstead newspaper.  (This is very brown as well as fragile, so I’ve scanned it in black and white for easier reading.)

Barbara Jones obituary

Apologies for the slightly insane scale, but I wanted you to be able to read it.

The other, is even better, because it’s an article about Barbara Jones and her immensely quirky and desirable kitchen.  Which of course includes the owl dishwasher, as featured on here (and BBC television) before.  I think this dates from 1966 or so, as she mentioned having just finished Design for Death.

Barbara Jones kitchen newspaper cutting

Click on this and it will get bigger.  Living in an old house, I particularly like her approach to damp patches, which is just to cover them up with plastic daffodils.  It’s an example we can all follow.

I really have no idea who sent me this at all.  The very short note that came with these gems simply says that they were found in the clearing of a relative’s house and otherwise would have been recycled.

Whoever you are, thank you so much for not recycling.  This package has given me an enormous amount of pleasure and I hope that in sharing it, a few more people will be delighted as well.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Responses

It’s no secret

Today’s auctions are of the general railwayana type, which means that I am likely to get distracted by glittering treasures such as ticket inspector’s hat badges, armchairs and, naturally, giant gherkins.

Heinz enamel sign, in shape of gherkin

The sign is 51 inches across, a figure worth bearing in mind before you buy it.  Although I do think it would look rather wonderful above my desk.

This is on offer at Great Western Railwayana, along with a quite extensive selection of posters, none of which, as usual, have estimates.

A brief survey of their last sale reveals them to be not quite as expensive as GCR, unless you are buying very old posters.  Although there were a couple of anomalies, like this 1961 mermaid who went for £380, which was rather more than some ‘conventional’ railway posters.

Kenneth Bromfield Eastbourne railway poster mermaid

While this went for a mind boggling £420.

Poster GPO 'This Is Stanton In The Cotswolds' by R.O. Dunlop RA, 36 x 29 inches.. 1951.

I don’t know what that goes to show really.

To my joy, the new sale includes a Tom Eckersley I’ve never seen before.

Tom Eckersley Railway poster Blackpool

This may not be quite as good, but it is still fun.

Porthcawl Railway poster children on beach 1962

The way prices are going at the moment, it will probably end up as one of the most expensive items in the sale.  Although it might get pipped to the post by this Bromfield from 1963.

Bromfield Kent coast Railway poster 1963

Or even this Bromfield from the very same year.

Bromfield dorset railway poster 1963

As far as I can tell, there aren’t that many railway posters for Dorset at all, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one for Weymouth on its own.  Presumably this is because the civic authorities didn’t want to cough up for a poster campaign.  But I’d love to be corrected if anyone does know of any posters.  (Double points for anything that’s not by Bromfield, as he did do at least two for Swanage, possibly more)

All of those ought to be knocked into a cocked hat, price wise, by this Eckersley, but may well not be.

Eckersley Paignton Railway poster

Such times, my friends, such times.

Other than that, there are various views of town, country and seaside, a handful of bathing beauties and this RM Lander of Bath.

Lander Bath railway poster

Also this piece of wild optimism – just look at those continental parasols –  which looks as though it might be by Lander but at the same time has odd lettering.

Aberdeen railway poster

Can anyone shed any light?

All I have managed to turn up is this, from 1958, which suggests that they had previous for dodgy lettering in Aberdeen, along with an artist who’d set his style very nicely in 1937 and wasn’t about to change for just anyone.

aberdeen2

Apart from railway posters, there are also these three World War Two posters.

careless_talk

I’ve written about the top and bottom posters before, when a set were put up for sale by the family of the artist, Freddie Reeves.  I was surprised to see them then, but this auction puts them a bit more into context, as apparently they have gummed backs and were intended for use inside carriages.  But there are still some interesting questions that need answering here.  Were the Railway companies printing their own propaganda posters, being the main one.  Because if they were, it’s not mentioned in any of the books.  There’s some research there for anyone who wants it.  Just don’t ask me to do it.

Furthermore, there are these coach posters.

Newquay and racing coach posters
Something terrible seems to have happened to Newquay though, but I can’t work out if it’s atomic fallout or acid rain.  Whichever, it’s probably best avoided.

There’s lots more, but you’ll have to go and look for yourself.

Also coming soon is an auction from Transport Auctions of London, but so far they’ve only sent me a PDF with teeny-tiny pictures in, so small that I can barely tell what poster they are talking about, never mind show on here.  So that’ll have to wait for the moment.

 

Posted in auctions, Uncategorized | 1 Response

Two lives

Few things please me more than finding other people writing well about posters and poster people, particularly when it tells me something I didn’t know.  Which means that today I am very happy, because I can point you at not one but two interesting bits of the internet.

'Norwich', BR poster, c 1950sPoster produced for British Railways (BR) to promote rail travel to the city of Norwich, Norfolk. The poster shows a pictorial city view of Norwich's famous characters and buildings. Norwich Cathedral, the Norman castle and the cityÕs many medieval churches are all included. Artwork by Kerry Lee.

A while ago, I mentioned map poster artist Kerry Lee in passing.  This ended up in a conversation with Dick Raines, who has a number of Kerry Lee posters and very easily persuaded me how lovely they are.

Cambridge BR poster by Kerry Lee

Dick got back in contact a few weeks ago to say that he’d found a very good blog post about the life and work of Kerry Lee, on the blog of a small gallery that specialises in maps.

It’s a great piece of proper research, so much that it turned into two posts worth.  And as an added bonus, Kerry Lee seems to have been a really lovely man too.

I won’t regurgitate it all here, because you really should go over and read it on the Bryars and Bryars website, but I do like the fact that he apparently included a small picture of himself, with a dog, in all of his maps.  Here’s their image of just one of these.

Kerry Lee and his dog

Now I want to go and look at every single other poster close up to find out if that’s really true.

More recently, after the poster below came up in an auction, I also promised you a look at the life of the designer Mario Armengol, whose work it is.

Poster British Railways 'Come To Coney Beach, Porthcawl - Britain's Brightest Pleasure Beach' by Mario Armengol 1952, double royal 25in x 50in. Depicts a happy holidaymaker riding the carousel with the beach beyond

It turns out that Armengol was originally Catalan (and now I know that I can see Spanish echoes in the style of the girl on the fairground horse; she has little resemblance to anyone else on a British seaside poster).  After a complicated set of events involving the Spanish Civil War and the French Foreign Legion, he ended up in Britain as a refugee in 1941, then stayed in the country for the rest of his life.

As well as designing the poster above, he was a talented and prolific cartoonist, and worked for the CoI during the 195os, so may well have designed other, anonymous, posters.

Again, I’m not going to say a great deal more than that, because someone – I am guessing a family member – has put together a website of his life and work which includes a comprehensive biography which includes a great deal of information about his rather complex love life.  I can’t improve on that, so why don’t you go over there and read it instead?

Posted in designers | Leave a comment

great expectations

Great Central Railwayana have a new auction coming up on 4th June, and the catalogue is now up on The Salesroom if you want to take a peek.

There are a couple of quite desirable items on there, my favourite probably being this Tom Purvis because – as any regular readers may have worked out – I am somewhat obsessed with the idea of camping coaches.

Railway Posters, Camping Coaches, Purvis, LNER: An LNER quad royal poster, CAMPING COACHES, by Tom Purvis, a classic 1930s
Tom Purvis, 1930s, est. £600-900

That does make it look particularly fun though.

I’m always a sucker for a nice Lander, and there are two good ones up this time round.

Railway Posters, Yorkshire Coast, Lander: A BR(NE) quad royal poster, EXPLORE THE YORKSHIRE COAST, by Lander.
Lander, 1950s, est. £100-200

Railway Posters, Brittany, Lander
Lander, 1950s, est. £100-200

This, meanwhile, is of the same kind of vintage but a) is by someone called Harris about whom I know nothing, and b) isn’t actually a railway poster at all.

Harris Folkstone promotional poster in the sunny south east Folkestone
Harris, est. £80-120

Meanwhile, after years of invisibility, another copy of this has popped up six weeks after the last one.  I will tell you all about Armengol one of these days, I promise.

Railway Posters, Coney Beach, Armengol: A BR(W) double royal poster, CONEY BEACH, PORTHCAWL, by Mario Armengol, 1952
Armengol, 1952, est £150-300

You need to pay attention to this one too, because I also will be writing more about this series in the next week or so.  And it’s rather good to boot.

Railway Posters, Southern England, Langhammer: A BR(S) double royal poster, SOUTHERN ENGLAND, by Langhammer.
Langhammer, c.1960, est £150-300

Meanwhile this one may not be the best bit of design ever, but seeing as it both dates from 1946 and isn’t actually a railway poster, I reckon it’s probably quite rare.

Railway Posters, Butlins, Orr: A Butlins poster, EARLY HOLIDAYS, Luxury Holiday Camps, 1946 Season, by Orr. The size a little less than the usual double royal
Orr, 1946, est. £150-300

Finally, this is worth a mention simply for making explicit the thought process behind so many landscape-depicting railway posters.

Railway Posters, Bredon, Lampitt: A BR(M) double royal poster, OLD WORLD ENGLAND, BREDON, WORCESTERSHIRE, by Ronald Lampitt
Ronald Lampitt, c. late 1950s, est. £100-200.

In an interesting development, Lampitt has his own Twitter account.  Life is a perpetual source of surprise to me.

While all those posters are very lovely, they’re not the most interesting discoveries about this auction.  When I went onto the Great Central site to look at what posters they had, the link, accidentally, took me to the auction just gone past in March.  It took me a few clicks to work out what had happened, which meant that I ended up looking at quite a few sold prices.  And those turned out to be really rather interesting.

Quite a lot of ‘classic’ railway posters went pretty much for their estimates.  I’ve pulled this one out simply as an example.

A BR(W) quad royal poster, GLORIOUS DEVON, by L.A. Wilcox

The estimate was £200-350, and it sold for £260.  All fine and well there.

Here’s another, later example, which went for £360, with a top estimate of £300

A BR(W) quad royal poster, PEMBROKESHIRE, by Leech

I reckon that a good two thirds of the sale went in this way.  A couple came in under and only one failed to sell at all.  A normal day at the auction house.

That is, except for the posters that remained – perhaps ten or fifteen – where the bidding went mental.  Estimates were being smashed all over the place.

Sometimes this can be accounted for by a poster being old and rare.

Hewins Barmouth GWR railway poster
Hewins, est. £400-600, sold for £1,300

While others were design classics of one kind or another.

An LNER double royal poster, EAST COAST FROLICS, THE LOBSTER, by Frank Newbould
Frank Newbould, est. £150-300, sold for £1050

A BR(M) double royal poster, THE LANCASHIRE COAST, by Daphne Padde
Daphne Padden, est. £80-120, sold for £270

This is a really stylistically interesting and unusual poster, and the only example I’ve ever come across of the design at auction, so I can see why it went so high.

A quad royal poster, BLACKPOOL, by Dickens
Dickens, 1960, est. £150-300, sold for £780.

Other posters behaved less explicably.  Why is this seaside poster better than any other?

A BR(M) double royal poster, MORECAMB
Anon, est. £100-200, sold for £460.

These boats don’t look particularly exceptional either, but people seem to want them.

A BR(M) double royal poster, MORECAMBE & HEYSHAM, by A.J. Wilson.
A J Wilson, est £100-200, sold for £500.

There is a theme developing here, which is that posters of the Lancashire coast go for a lot of money.  It’s a good theory, but doesn’t account for everything.

A LNER double royal poster, THREE NEW SHIPS, by Frank Mason, showing the Amsterdam, Prague and Vienna
Frank Mason, est. £150-30o, sold for £540

While nothing at all can account for this.

A LMS quad royal poster, WILLESDEN No.7 BOX, MAIN LINE, EUSTON TO THE NORTH, by Norman Wilkinson, R.I. A dramatic image, part of the, From the LMS Carriage Window Serie
Norman Wilkinson, est. £250-400, sold for £1800

I know, people like pictures of trains, and signal boxes, but I still find it bewildering.

So what have we learned from my trawl through auctions past?  I’m not entirely sure, to be honest.  One interpretation might be that the market is moving upwards a bit.  That’s certainly true from the point of view of the railwayana auctioneers.  Ten or fifteen years ago, posters were a small and rather disregarded sideline for them: now they are bringing in serious money.

But making a generalisation about values as a whole, I’m less sure about.  The other piece of auction news that has come in recently is that Christies are closing down their entire poster department.  On the one hand this, to paraphrase Morrissey, says nothing to me about my life.  I can’t afford the prices, and don’t want most of the posters in their sales.  I’m not even sure it’s a vote of any kind about the market; I suspect this is more about posters being small fry compared to the Very Expensive Art that they would prefer to sell.

So all I am left with is questions?  Are posters getting cheaper or more expensive?  Who’s going to sell the expensive posters now – are they all going to go at Railwayana auctions?  And where will the London Transport Museum get rid of their surplus holdings now?

Any answers, please do type them out in the box below, because I certainly don’t know.

 

Posted in auctions, Uncategorized | 5 Responses