This good design, it’s just not British

I haven’t finished with the Artist Partners AP2  brochure/catalogue/thingy, not yet.  There’s a large chunk of its content that I’ve been ignoring so far, and that’s the sheer number of foreign designers who are represented in the book.  Designers like Savignac, for example.

Savignac times poster Artist Partners brochure

Or Andre Francois.

Andre Francois shell ad from Artist Partners book

Now in itself, that’s perhaps not so surprising – it’s good for Artist Partners and good for the designers.  But it leads to a couple of interesting thoughts.  The first is that these renowned designers are clearly working for UK agencies and firms as well as in their own country, which I didn’t know.  These two images above aren’t the only examples, the book contains plenty more in black and white.

Here’s Francois working for Mazda, Gillette and Taylor Walkers Ale.

Andre Francois advertising in Artist Partners brochure

Then Jean Colin for WH Smith and Nestle, as well as in French.

Jean Colin from Artist Partners Book

I haven’t turned up any examples of these designs anywhere else, even though all three artists are highly collectable, which once again shows how much our view of these graphics is based on the very partial sample of what has survived.

On top of this, it is also surprising just how many foreign designers there are in AP2.  On top of those who mainly lived and worked abroad, (and the AP book also includes Herbert Leupin, Donald Brun and Saul Bass), several more of those represented are emigres who came over as a result of the war – designers like Hans Unger and George Him.

There’s also Heinz Kurth, who gets a double-page spread in the book and may well belong in this category too.

Heinz Kurth from Artist Partners book

He also did the really excellent photography illustration that I’ve illustrated before (currently pinging its way round the web thanks to Martin Klasch)

Heinz Kurth image for AP2 book

But I can’t seem to find out anything more about his story and whether he actually worked in Britain or not – I’m guessing he did from the AP images, which are pretty much all British.  He did also do this.

Heinz Kurth film poster for Norman Wisdom Just My Luck

which does rather suggest he was based in the UK, and which you could buy if you wanted for just £100,  a bit of a bargain if you ask me.

Which leads me to a further, bigger conclusion, about just how much modernism really was a foreign import  in Britain.  But that’s another thought for another post, not least because there are a few books I need to read before I stick my opinions on the line.  If you’ve got anything to say on this, please do let me know.

  • I have a feeling that the link here is through AGI.
    Not sure about HK though.

    Alliance Graphique was established as an association and network of European designers after WW2. There’s a big book about it all. I’ll check it when I have a moment.

    You should just ask Artist Partners – they’re friendly.


  • Just checking my history of AGI. Although AGI seems quite continental, London was involved almost from the start. In 1952, there was Assembly in London and, in 1956, an exhibition designed by Henrion and organised by Havinden. I suspect that this is where AP recruited Francois, Savignac, Jean Colin and their other “Europeans.”
    Francois turns up again in the 1960s, designing Penguins for Facetti.
    I checked Heinz Kurth and he turns up in Modern Publicity from about 1956 onwards. First with illustration and then with illustration and photography. By the 1960s he’s a straight advertising photographer of the Brian Duffy type.

  • Thanks for that, it’s good to have the extra info. Shame in a way that Heinz Kurth didn’t keep going with the graphics as well, I do rather like that Norman Wisdom poster.

  • Hello there,
    You want to know more about the artist Heinz Kurth?
    If yes, please send me a mail and You are welcome to ask more specifically.
    Heinz Kurth was my father – my mother and Heinz Kurt were divorced in 1949 – my mother was a norwegian and after the divorce she went (together with me as a 3 year old toddler) by boat (steam-boat! named Atle Jarl – my very first memorys at all starts on that journey in february in a fierce winterstorm in the North Sea to Norway.
    Heinz Kurth emigrated thereafter to England, and stayed there (London) for the rest of his life.
    I visited him in summer 1969 and in Chrismas/New Year 1979/1980 in London, where he was living from the beginning of the 50’ies to mid eighties (1986), when he passed away.
    Kind Regards from Rolf Kleppe/Denmark

    P.S. I was born in 1946 (lived in Norway since 1951) and moved with my family in 1964 to Denmark, where I have lived since.
    P.P.S. I certainly DO recognize some of the pictures – they are very typically Heinz Kurth.
    He wrote and illustrated a lot of books:Tides, our Greenhouse, Food on a Grill, Print Techniqes, a book on sailships plus aprox. a number more.
    In 1969 he had just started out making sculptures – at the same time he made commercial things like brochures on many things (like frigi-daires) – for the food on the table, as he said.

  • Dear Rolf,

    Thank you so much for getting in touch, that’s brilliant to be able to put a bit of biography to the designs, which are great. If you have any of his designs, I’d love to see a picture of them.

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