Just because posters were produced at a time when some of the very best designers were working, it doesn’t mean that they were all great design, or even interesting. This thought was brought on by a collection of posters on sale in Lewes next week.
The idea – 20 lots of wartime and post-war HMSO posters – sounds wonderful. The reality is, sadly, rather less appealing. The vast majority of the posters are pictures of tanks, aeroplanes or people fighting. Dramatic, probably effective, but not for me. Even the home front ones are anonymous, and more social history than art:
There are a collection of H.M. Batemans as well,
But to my mind, the best posters are a set of anonymous recruiting posters for the ATS, which I’ve never seen before.
which are a rather nice mix of photomontage and snappy type. If anyone has any info on the designer, do let me know; even the Imperial War Museum have them down as anonymous.
But I still don’t even like these enough to go to the trouble of putting an absentee bid in and then, somehow, getting them transported from Lewes to Crownfolio HQ.
However, they’re still a salutary reminder about the quality of graphic design in the war vs the quantity. I, certainly, have a tendency to imagine a bombed-out London plastered with one beautiful poster after another, all the work of Abram Games, Lewitt-Him or James Fitton. The reality, however, probably looked nothing like that, and most walls were covered with exhortations, pictures of planes, speeches from Churchill and rather average illustrations. The ones we cherish now were the exception, not the rule.
Still, some of them were great. In the course of researching the auction lots, I came across this, a Henrion I’d never seen before.
Now if that comes up for auction, even in the Orkneys, I’ll be making a serious bid.