At last, something which looks remarkably like a full-on poster auction at Dreweatts/Bloomsbury in a couple of weeks time, even if it has been achieved by the now-standard cutting and shunting of posters and film posters into one big, mis-matched sale. Still, there are enough delights in the first half to entertain us, such as this frankly wonderful French poster from 1967.
It’s foreign, so I’m afraid I don’t have anything to say apart from how lovely it is, and also how distant the image is from my own experiences of camping. I may be making the mistake of doing it in Britain of course.
Probably the most surprising item in the sale is this Ronald Searle poster for Lemon Hart and Lamb’s Navy Rum.
It’s an example of that rare thing, a British commercial poster. I’ve never fully got to the bottom of why so few of these survive in comparison to the continent, where commercial posters, selling products, are the mainstay of their auctions. Even this sale has managed to dig out several examples, of which this is just one.
I can think of several reasons why this disparity between Britain and the Continent might happen, of which the main one is poster sizes. Whenever we see commercial posters of the 1950s and 1960s in the UK, they are most often in giant billboard formats. I’ve posted various pictures of these on Quad Royal over the years, but this image gives you the general idea.
In contrast I used to think that Continental posters were made, more, for the kind of poster-display pillar that you still find all over Paris, which, I have discovered in the course of writing this, are called Morris columns.
Or Colonnes Morris if you are one of the people in that picture. The result of them, though is that posters mostly survive in a format which people can display on the walls of their houses (I wrote before about buying a billboard poster, it’s not an experiment I propose to repeat).
The problem with this is that commercial posters were made in the same convenient sizes in the UK, for display on London Transport and the railways. The posters of Notting Hill Gate are the best demonstration of this.
As well as LT’s own posters, there are commercial advertisements as well.
If the French wine poster is sale-worthy, then so is the Pepsodent. Yet these British examples very rarely turn up in auctions. The differences must be cultural rather than practical, and I suspect are to do with reasons which means that the posters were never saved in the first place. I will mull these thoughts over further another day.
Meanwhile, there is an auction to attend to. You will be pleased to hear that it contains many of the usual suspects including Lewitt-Him airline designs, Guinness posters, and the two ARP wartime posters that are contractually obliged to be sold at least twice a year. Here’s the Pat Keely one, you can guess the other.
If you do want to know more about them (along with my theories about why so many survive), it’s all here.
There are also a range of London Transport posters, most of which I like rather than love, the one exception being this clean and slightly chilling piece of Proper Modernism by Richard Beck.
Unusually, there are quite a few of these lovely, small (cheap, frameable) panel posters in the sale, including this fantastic Zero, where modernism is starting to shade into surrealism and romanticism, both movements that would come to a stuttering halt at the war. Although the lettering managed to wait and make a delayed return in the early 1950s.
Or you could go for this Eckerley-Lombers.
Both the last two posters come with four other panel posters in the lot and an estimate of £100-150. And they’ll fit on your walls. What’s not to like.
I have always been interested in Beath, mainly for the reason that he produces a classic species of clean-lined modernism and I know nothing whatsoever about him, although the catalogue tells me that his middle names are Myles and Fleming.
In addition, this extremely atypical and early James Fitton is worth noting, if not loving.
Elsewhere, out of a small selection of railway posters, my preference is for this Stanislaus Brien, which is bonkers and about as close as railway posters get to modern art in the 1930s.
It also features people wearing their best clothes on the beach, which is one of my recurring obsessions.
Finally, your best bet for a slightly damaged bargain is this Union Castle Line travel poster, which is like the offspring of Daphne Padden and Harry Stevens.
The auction has it down as anonymous, but I’m pretty sure that the torn top right corner reads Hass. Whatever, it’s a great design and not one I’ve ever seen before, which is always pleasing.