That’s Shell, that was

I really wish I hadn’t started this post now.  It was meant to be a simple one about stuff on eBay, and now it’s gone and turned into a mystery.

The beginning was this poster, which ended two days ago.  Along with a confession.

Shell Poster Long Man of Wilmington Denis Constanduros

Which is that I didn’t actually mention it while it was on sale, on the off-chance that it went un-noticed and we could pick it up for a pittance.  Some chance – six bidders and twenty bids pushed it up to £412.  I almost wish that we’d gone that high.

So, piqued, I started investigating Denis Constanduros.  It turns out that he also did this rather lovely rendering of Llanthony Abbey (one of my favourite places anyway) for Shell.

Denis Constanduros Llanthony Abbey Shell poster

As well as this Farmers Prefer Shell poster too.  Which, although very pretty, I find a bit odd because looks as though someone’s just being eaten by the machinery.

Denis Constanduros Farmers Prefer Shell poster

But that’s about it.   His only artistic remains seem to be those three Shell posters, all probably pre-war.  So what’s the problem, you say?

Well there’s also a Denis Constanduros who wrote a 1940s radio serial called ‘At the Luscombes’ about West Country village life (by coincidence, set no more than ten or so miles from here, in a place I drive through quite regularly).  Who then – unless there’s a third Denis Constanduros which I have to say seems pretty unlikely – worked throughout the 1960s and 70s on adapting classic books for television, particularly Jane Austen.  That Denis Constanduros died in 1978.  But is it all the same one?  Did he just do a few posters and then go off into writing, in the style of an earlier Patrick Tilley?  I do not have the foggiest idea, the internet is just confusing me and the Shell Poster Book says nothing at all.  Can anyone else shed any light?

I’m bothered not just because it’s not making sense and so needs sorting out, but also because these three posters are all really rather good.  They’re very much of their late-1930s period, but in a good way, with echoes of Ravilious in the style and colours.  And also in the subject matter of course; Ravilious wasn’t just a painter of chalk hills, but also drew the Long Man himself too.

Eric Ravilious the Long Man of Wilmington

So it seems a pity that Constanduros never painted much more than his Shell posters.  But then, if it was him who went on to write ‘At the Luscombes” and adapt classic novels for television, his journey was very much that of his times.  Before the war, the poster was king.  But afterwards, the new, shiny, exciting broadcast media took all the glory; if you had the talent for it, who wouldn’t have made the switch.  Posters were no longer the place for a smart young man to be any more, there were new and more exciting furrows to plough.

One final note, and that’s the price.  Its not remarkable for itself – it’s a fine poster and well worth the money.  But it is remarkable for having been achieved where it was – I can’t remember having seen a poster match the price it would have reached at a specialist poster auction on eBay before.   Not that many of that quality turn up, but still, it’s an interesting precedent.  (I can’t be bothered to do the maths, but I wonder how the eBay selling fees compare to  Christies charges.  Not that well, I should have thought…)

And, having said that these things don’t turn up very often, there in fact a couple more classics out there right now.  This Henrion,

HEnrion 1950s London Transport poster as seen on our walls

And this John Bainbridge too.

John Bainbridge 1950s London Transport poster

They’re both from the same seller, and it will be interesting to see how they go.

The Bainbridge, meanwhile, is also being offered by Sotherans at the moment.  for £895.  If eBay can scale those heights, that really would be a turn up for the books.

This entry was posted in eBay and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

6 Comments

  1. Duncan
    Posted December 4, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I have just bought in auction a book by a Denis Constanduros. It is a biography of his Grandfather published in 1948, and includes illustrations (almost in the style of Edward Ardizzone) by the author . Don’t know if that helps unravel the mystery a little bit, or merely add to it.

  2. Posted June 19, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    utterly brilliant. hugely enjoyable. thank you so much for displaying such wonderful art from a much loved era of british life.

  3. crownfolio
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Glad to be of service. I must write some more about Shell one of these days.

  4. MissMax
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    This will shed a little more light on your mystery!
    http://collection.britishcouncil.org/collection/artist/5/17670

  5. crownfolio
    Posted July 30, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Thank you very much, I didn’t know he was represented there.

    I have done some more digging on him subsequent to this post, and you can find out a lot more about him in these two posts:

    http://vintageposterblog.com/2010/11/05/commentary/

    http://vintageposterblog.com/2011/05/27/back-again/

    I really must get round to indexing this blog one of these days.

  6. Danna Jackson
    Posted February 19, 2016 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    Following up on Duncan’s remarks, Slightly Foxed is selling reprints of Denis Constanduros’s dual biographies of his grandfather and father; its titled MY GRANDFATHER & FATHER, DEAR FATHER, and is described in SF’s winter 2015 catalogue.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*
*