The cause of this is the catalogue for the new Talisman railwayana auction, which has just arrived in the post,
By far the best thing in the auction is the poster which is part shown on the cover, lot 321.
LNER quad royal pictorial Poster “East Coast Industries served by the LNER”. A dramatic image by Frank H. Mason of a blast furnace in full production. Folds, minor edge tape stains and nicks and two very small corner losses. A superb poster otherwise.
Such a superb poster that I wanted to find a proper illustration of it to post on here. I couldn’t, so this, from the catalogue, is the best I can offer.
While this depiction of a blast furnace has been sold at various times by both Onslows and Christies.
They all date from 1938, so we have ourselves a series here.
There is a fourth one in the NRM collections, although it’s less overtly modern and mechanised than the rest.
There’s also one further poster, a kind of post-script to the series, which is this World War Two effort. It’s also by Mason and was produced just a couple of years later with a very different message, although a somewhat similar aesthetic.
From all of which, two conclusions.
The first is that there is more to Frank Mason’s work than I’ve previously given him credit for. I’ve always known he was good. but somehow never found him interesting. Those top three posters, however, really are triumphs of modernism in the most pernickety sense of the word. Mason isn’t just using a modern sttyle, he is also trying to make these industrial processes heroic and glamorous. And I think he succeeds. (Note also the almost complete absence of people in these posters, the industries are so modern that they practically run themselves. I’ll be coming back to this idea in another post one of these days.)
The second conclusion is that I was wrong about the absence of Northern industry in the visual language of railway posters. Clearly, these places and industries are represented, at least in the period between the late 1920s and World War Two. What instead has happened (as in the very similar case of World War Two posters) is that people later on have chosen not to reproduce, or buy, or sell these posters in any great number. They have in the main not been written into the later narrative. So perhaps it’s not the 1920s and 1930s I should be complaining about at all. It’s us that have chosen to forget the steelworks and the collieries and the Midland s and the North. The attitude is almost understandable now, when they’ve been eviscerated. But perhaps the forgetting was where the problem started to begin? Either that, or it’s the way in which we were persuaded that what happened to these places in the 1980s was OK.