Ahead of his time

This may be the only blog post I ever write in praise of estate agents, particularly as we’re thinking of selling our house and so will be dealing with them on a regular basis.  But here goes.

We had one round today for a look, and he was clearly a very nice man because he spent as much time staring at the posters on the walls as at the house itself.

He was also very perceptive.  After a long hard look at this Henrion, he pointed out that it really was pop art before its time.

Henrion London Transport poster 1956 Changing of the Guard

Or at least completely of its time.  The LT poster is from 1956.  Which is exactly the same year as Richard Hamilton’s iconic collage, Just What Is It that Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? (I use iconic here in the technical sense, meaning over-represented and over-cited to the point of tiredness, if not actually cliche).

Richard Hamilton Just What Is It that Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? 1956

Yes, there are other things going on with the Henrion too.  Its angles and sense of speed owe a lot to Rodchenko et al, while its raiding and reworking of Victorian imagery was part of a wider trend in the fifties.  But it’s still as genuinely weird as the Hamilton, if not stranger.

Adrian Shaughnessy writes of Henrion, much later on, that

despite his work with government departments and giant corporations, despite his OBE, and despite his eminence within post-war British design, he retained a radical sensibility.

Which, again, is spot on.  The whole series of three posters that he produced for London Transport in 1956 are peculiar, not least because theu’re a series which don’t match.  Every time I see this poster, I am convinced that it was designed in about 1972, if not later.

F H K Henrion Hampton Court London Transport poster 1956

Here are a couple more strange ones from his earlier wartime work.

Henrion GPO vintage wartime poster

Henrion GPO telephone vintage WW2 poster

And a reminder that he could also do cute.

Henrion post early

All of which means that Henrion deserves rather more credit than he ever gets.  He designed the British Leyland logo too,

British Leyland logo henrion

And, while we’re here, let’s have a cheer for visually literate estate agents too.  Let’s hope he can sell houses as well.

  • Henrion was involved, from very early on, with the ICA. The Institute of Contemporary Art was formed, in 1946, by Peter Gregory, Roland Penrose, Herbert Read and Peter Watson (and others). Each of these personalities contributed to the rich mix of art and ideas around the table.
    Peter Gregory was the MD of Lund Humphries and had been a mentor to McKnight Kauffer, and others, during the 1930s. He was certainly sensitive to the significance of graphic design.
    In the early 1950s, the ICA was instrumental in hosting, and advancing, the critical discussion of popular culture. Lawrence Alloway, from the Independent Group, led the discussions. The link between these ideas and a specific form of art and design practice (RCA) helped drive the pop art explosion of the 1960s.
    Henrion was definitely part of all this.

  • The estate agent was clearly even more perceptive than I had realised. I think he’s wasted on houses.

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