There’s a certain amount of urgency to this post as the next Bloomsbury poster auction is tomorrow (Tuesday).  I do wish I could get a bit more excited about the Bloomsbury Auctions, I really do, as they really ought to be the missing piece of the jigsaw, the auctions which hoover up all the lower-priced pieces of good design which Christies no longer deign to touch.  But somehow, it just doesn’t quite work.

Nonetheless, shall  we get stuck in and see what we can turn up?  Perhaps we should begin with this post-war Shell poster, seeing as I was over in that direction this weekend.

HOOPER, George (1910-1994) YOU CAN BE SURE OF SHELL, Kintbury, Berks  lithographic poster post-war
George Hooper, est £200-300

It’s rather hard to decide where to go next, in part because the poster part of the auction (there are film posters first, but I’m ignoring those) is arranged in alphabetical order of artists.  Which is I admit entirely logical, but does make it hard to construct any kind of narrative out of the whole thing beyond saying that there are posters.   Mind you, I think that if this selection of stuff was arranged in almost any order, it would still feel scattergun, it’s just that kind of sale.

So, here is a poster I like for no good reason other than it’s kitsch and quintessentially 1950s.

Vintage BOAC poster dogs
Anonymous, est. £300-500

So if the bulldog represents Britain, and the poodle Europe, what is the black one up to?  Answers on a postcard please to the usual address.

Meanwhile this one is a classic, and a deserved one too.

GAMES, Abram (1914-1996) SEE BRITAIN BY TRAIN, British Railways  lithographic poster in colours, 1951, printed by The Baynard Press
Abram Games, 1951, est. £200-400

Although by rights that should mean that it is worth more than the dogs, but there you go.

The one feature worth noting is that once again they’ve landed a whole haul of small GPO posters (for the last outbreak, see here).

As last time, they come in lots of ten with only one of each photographed, which isn’t really an enormous lot of use if you are thinking of bidding on them.

BROWNING A POSTAL VIEW OF LONDON, GPO  lithographic poster in colours, c.1950
Browning, 1950, est. £150-250

FARNHILL BY AIR MAIL, GPO  lithographic poster in colours, c.1950
Farnhill, 1950, est. £150-250

ARMENGOL, AT ANY POST OFFICE, GPO  lithographic poster in colours, 1951, printed by J.D.& Co
Armengol, 1951, est. £150-250

This set are definitely not as stellar as the last selection.  Even though there is an Eckersley amongst them, it’s not one of his greats.


ECKERSLEY, Tom (1914-1997 POST OFFICE SERVICES, GPO  lithographic poster in colours, 1952
Tom Eckersley, 1952, est. £150-250

Other than that, however, it is a miscellany.  There are three of Henrion’s posters for Punch – I’ve chosen this one because it is the least frequently seen of them.

FHK Henrion, est. £150-250

They are an interesting case, though, these posters as they appear quite regularly on the market, which leads me to suspect that they must have been sold or given away at some point.  Perhaps a trawl through early 1950s Punch might reveal the answer.

Also available are two very nice London Transport posters by Betty Swanwick.

SWANWICK, Betty (1915-1989) WILD or SAVAGE, London Underground  lithographic poster in colours, printed by Curwen Press,
Betty Swanwick, est. £200-400

SWANWICK, Betty WOOLWICH FERRY  lithographic poster in colours, 1949, printed by Curwen Pres
Betty Swanwick, 1949, est. £300-500

For once I agree with the estimates, as the second one, Woolwich Ferry, is by far the better of the two and would look wonderful on the wall, should any of you be tempted.

There is also further proof that P&O and the Orient Line commissioned a lot of very good design before the war, even if I can’t tell you any more about it than that.

ANONYMOUS ORIENT LINE TO THE MEDITERRANEAN  lithographic poster swallow cruises by 20000 ton steamers
Anonymous, est. £150-250

There’s also a chance once again to appreciate the hallucinogenic colour choices of Percy Drake Brookshaw.

BROOKSHAW, Percy Drake ((1907-1993) YOUR WINDOW OPENS THROUGH COOKS  lithographic poster in colours, c.1950, printed by Jordison & Co.
Percy Drake Brookshaw, c.1950, est. £150-250.

Along with a tram poster.

BROWN, Gregory (1887-1941) HORNIMAN MUSEUM, London Underground  lithographic poster in colours, 1934, printed by Crescens Robinson & Co. Ltd. London
Gregory Brown, 1934, set. £200-400

And that’s basically your lot.

One final thing to say, though, which is I hope you are appreciating this blog post as it is the most expensive one I have ever written.  Half way through, my computer keeled over once again and this time it looks terminal (or at least rather too expensive to repair).  So I have been to the Big Town and come back with a new laptop, all in time to get this piece out before the auction begins tomorrow.  It’s not every blog that gives service like that, you know.

Price Conspiracy

Now, I know I’ve been saying recently that eBay prices are going up and can sometimes be a match for the auction houses these days.  Clearly I am not the only person to have come to this conclusion.

A seller called the design conspiracy (a name just asking for a snarky comeback) has put this poster on.

1928 London Transport poster Austin Cooper golliwog

For £500.

Now it is an Austin Cooper London Transport poster, and it is framed.  But it’s a picture of a golliwog, it’s just not going to happen.  It probably wouldn’t have happened anyway even if it were a picture of an ickle fluffy bunny, but it’s definitely not going to fetch that for a golliwog.  And in case you think I’m being harsh, it’s already failed to sell and been relisted at least once.

However, that is the pricing of a sane person compared to our next offering.

Andrew Hall London Transport poster 1965 Imperial War Museum

This is by Andrew Hall from 1965, it is not framed and it too is on offer for, wait for it, £500.

We bought one on eBay  a few years ago; it cost us £19.99.  I think someone is going to be a bit disappointed here.

Amazingly though, I can top that.  Here is a Terence Cuneo poster (not one of my favourite phrases, I must say).

Terence Cuneo Forth Bridge scottish holidays railway poster

Quite apart from the fact that it seems to have been bolted onto the wall, it’s an odd one.  Come to Scotland for your holidays, it’s trying to say, but the picture is not beaches or promenades but the Forth Road Bridge.  Perhaps the engineering holiday market was bigger than I imagine.

Peculiar though that may be, it’s still overshadowed by the price, which is a truly boggling £3,100.  Has a Cuneo poster ever gone for that kind of money, particularly one with brown sellotape marks on it?  Surely not. (Bidding has actually ended, but I still had to show you anyway).

There are still a few bargains out there, though.  Two of which may be the subjects of my next post.  Watch this space.


Beck again

I’m in the middle of writing a big long post about, well, things, but it’s hard work in the heat, and now Mr Crownfolio has been distracting me with interesting posters. Two to be precise, both of which are coming up for sale in American auctions, and both of which are worth five minutes of your time.

The first is being sold by Swann Auctions, and is noteworthy not because it is the greatest poster ever produced by London Transport during the 1930s – it isn’t – but because it’s a poster by Harry Beck, best known of course for designing the diagrammatic London Transport map.

Harry Beck London Transport poster Chess Valley Rambles 1933

I had no idea he’d produced posters at all, so there you go.  The London Transport Museum collection tells me that he did two others as well.

London Transport poster Cheap return fares, by Harry Beck, 1933

London Transport poster This week in London, by Harry Beck, 1932

Although it does rather appear that he only had one good idea overall.  Well one good poster idea, and then the flash of genius that was the tube map.

A tip, though.  When you are searching the LTM collection, don’t just put ‘Beck’ into the search box, otherwise you will be convinced that he was an unrecognised modernist designer of genius.  The results are muddied you see, because they also include the works of Richard Beck, who is very good, and has been written about on here before.

London Transport is Ever Ready Richard Beck poster

But that’s not all, because the search also brings you those of Maurice Beck, who hasn’t come to my attention until now.  It turns out that he was the photographer for British Vogue in the 1920s, and did a rather nifty line in photographic and photomontage posters as well.

Nothing left to chance, by Maurice Beck, 1930 London Transport poster

London Transport poster Everything ready to all the sports, by Maurice Beck, 1933

Together, though, the works of ‘Beck’ make a rather good modernist collection.

Meanwhile, somewhere out there on the American internet, this is going to be auctioned in September.

Warren Kenton London Transport poster on Greenwich - 1962

Mr Crownfolio partly pointed it out because of the rather, um, excitable write up.

London Transport poster on Greenwich – 1962 Amazing condition, quality and colors ! ! ! Greenwich was early in the space business… Object: Poster Place of origin: Greater London, England (issued) Date: 1962 (issued) Artist/Maker: Kenton, Warren, born 1933 (designer) London Transport Executive (issuer) Materials and Techniques: Colour lithograph Credit Line: Given by the London Transport Board This poster is actually house in the London museum ! Museum number: E.802-1963. Gallery location: Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case Y, shelf 69, box 1 Features the Greenwich Observatory !

It’s in a museum!  It features a building! Wow!

But once you’ve recovered from the hyperbole, it’s actually a rather wonderful poster and further proof of my thesis from just the other day that there are lots of under-recognised London Transport posters out there.

I was going to say that I can’t tell you anything about Warren Kenton, because the whole internet is clogged up with an astrologer of the same name.  Except it turns out that he’s one and the same person.  He designed one fantastic poster, then did a quite comprehensive career swerve and became a Kabbalistic astrologer.  Full biography here if you don’t believe me.


Right, it’s Friday afternoon, so shall we order some posters?

London Trransport poster catalogue 1976

I think that, as we’ve already got versions of the two Carol Barker ones, I’d like to order Foxes by Peter Roberson please.

Peter Roberson Foxes poster  London Transport 1971

Especially as the prices are so low.

London Transport price list 1976- ppster price details

As you may have guessed by now, we will have t o use some form of time travel if we actually want any of these posters sent to us; the catalogue, sadly dates from 1976. It’s a London Transport poster catalogue, detailing all of the reproduction and current posters that they were offering for sale.

There’s more on the other side too, and they’re even better.

London Transport poster catalogue 1976 part two

I’d take pretty much any of these if they were on offer.

It’s also a reminder that there were some very good illustrators still being used in the early 1970s.  We are lucky enough to own the Michael Carlo.

Michael Carlo Kew London Transport poster 1971

But the Graham Clarke one of Chenies is also very fine too.

1969 Graham Clarke Chenies London Transport poster 1971

(Apologies for the image sizes being all over the show today, but I’m not exactly spoiled for choice as these posters are clearly only of interest to me).

The catalogue has come, you won’t be surprised to learn, from Rik Shepherd, whose father kept all kinds of wonderful poster sales memorabilia – there’s a lot more where this came from and I’ll share some more of them on here in due course.

Rik also points out that some of the posters pictured in the catalogue are shown with the ‘This is a Reproduction of a London Transport Poster’ overprinting on them, as discussed on here before.  He and I are currently debating why and when this over-printing happened.  When it’s not so hot and my brain works properly, I’ll try and get our thoughts together and see what you reckon.

Deck the halls

I think it’s about time to get the Christmas decorations out, isn’t it?  Or in this case, the Christmas posters.  I’ve been saving this one for half the year – and that’s not a weird reflection on it, by the way, it’s part of the design.

Raymond McGrath London Transport Christmas poster 1937

This delight is a little 10″ x 15″ London Transport poster, from 1937 which popped up on eBay over the summer.  And that was supposed to be the end of the post, until I decided to try and find out something about Raymond McGrath, who designed it.

Now the London Transport Museum website doesn’t have much information on him, and it appears that this was the only thing he ever did for LT.  But a bit more delving on the web reveals a lot more.  If I am honest it didn’t take that much, McGrath has his own Wikipedia page for heavens sake, and it turns out he was a really interesting chap.

Predominantly, McGrath was an architect and so rather falls out of the scope of this blog, but I’ll give you a brief summary because it’s such a fascinating and, it seems, infrequently told story.  Coming from Australia in 1926, he quickly became one of the pioneers and champions of modernist architecture in Britain.  His first major work was the remodelling of Finella, a house for the Cambridge don Mansfield Forbes (there is a comprehensive and wonderful article about this if you would like to read more), and this got him known, to the extent that he was put in charge  of the remodelling of Broadcasting House in  1931, so at the age of just 27 he was overseeing architects like Wells Coates and Serge Chermayeff.  He also designed a stunning modernist house in Chertsey, St Anne’s Hill House.

Raymond McGrath Hill House chertsey

(This was later owned by Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music, and there is a great discussion of the area’s modernist rock heritage here.)

Despite these works, a combination of the war, a lack of work and his wife’s mental problems led McGrath to take a job in the Dublin Office of Public Works, where he became Principal Architect in 1948, a job he held until the 1960s.  While he did much notable work there, the move meant that he effectively disappeared from the architectural record in Britain.

As the poster shows, McGrath was also a talented artist and draughtsman.   Below is one of the set of drawing about aircraft production that he contributed to the War Artists scheme before he left for Dublin.

Raymond McGrath war artists painting aircraft production

But this piece of his design has to be one of my favourite things, just for its pure modernist quirkiness.

Raymond McGrath aeroplane wallpaper

It has an interesting provenance, apparently.

This elegant design for a wallpaper was only one element in an entire design scheme presented by McGrath for a house called “Rudderbar”, commissioned by a British female pilot of the 1930’s.  It had been conceived as a combination “house and transport hub” having “an aircraft hanger and a garage built alongside domestic quarters surmounted by an observation/control tower”! It was to be built nearby the historic Hanworth Airplane Field, Feltham, Middlesex, England. And all of this in McGrath’s signature Modernist style.

Rather wonderfully, the paper is being reprinted, so you can now buy it to paper your flying room should you wish.  Although McGrath is interesting enough to warrant more of a memorial than even this, I think.

Highs and lows

So, as previously advertised, it’s time to consider the Christies London Transport Sale.  Mostly this boils down to just one thought which is that is was really very expensive, and if things carry on like this we won’t be buying very many posters in the future.  A large chunk of what sold could be put up in support of this proposition, but the prime example has to be the Edward Wadsworth Imperial War Museum poster.

Edward Wadsworth Imperial War Museum poster 1936

£37,250 of your pounds for that, which was the highest price in the sale.  And an awful lot of money for a poster if you ask me.

Other winners include Charles Paine, with these two Boat Race posters going for £25,000 and £10,000 respectively.

Charles Paine (1895-1967)  BOAT RACE  lithograph in colours, 1921 London Transport poster

Charles Paine (1895-1967)  BOAT RACE  lithograph in colours, 1923 London Transport poster

Another popular choice was Andrew Power (aka Sybil Andrews), noted by Mr Crownfolio, who was watching the whole thing go by, as doing particularly well.

Andrew Power (Sybil Andrews, 1898-1992)  WIMBLEDON  lithograph in colours, 1933 London Transport poster

Andrew Power (Sybil Andrews, 1898-1992)  EPSOM SUMMER MEETING  lithograph in colours, 1933 London Transport poster

The top poster went for £25,000, the lower one for £13,000.

I’ve heard from a couple of sources that the London Transport Museum ‘are very pleased’.  Well they would be, wouldn’t they.

I’m not sure if I’m pleased though, and this isn’t just because I might never be buying a poster again (and if I do, the odds are that it won’t be from Christies).  I’m also bothered because I can’t make head nor tail of the results.  There seems to be no pattern at all.

You see I look at this Misha Black/Kraber poster and go, ooh, prices for Modernism are up, given that it reached £5.250.

Misha Black (1910-1977) & Kraber (John Rowland Barker, 1911-1959)  LONDON TRANSPORT AT LONDON'S SERVICE  lithograph in colours, 1947 poster

But then this pair goes for only £625 and blows my theory out of the water.

Laurence Bradshaw (1899-1978)  'IT'S EASY BY GREEN LINE' & 'IT'S QUICK BY UNDERGROUND'  two lithographs in colours, 1935 London Transport posters

I’d like to say that Art Deco is going out of fashion, given that this Marty went for just £1,625, much lower than many posters.

Andre Edouard Marty (1882-1974)  AS WE DANCE AROUND  lithograph in colours, 1931 London Transport poster

But then others are holding their prices – thisDupas, for example fetched £5,625.

Jean Dupas (1882-1964)  THERE'S A TRANSPORT OF JOY AT THE ZOO  lithograph in colours, 1933 poster

I could therefore conclude that people are silly, perhaps, as the Marty posters are much better, but that’s just my opinion and clearly not borne out by actual prices.

The same is even true in the case of individual designers – or pairs.  This Eckersley Lombers was £3,500

Tom Eckersley (1914-1997) & Eric Lombers (1914-1978)  BY BUS TO THE PICTURES TO-NIGHT  lithograph in colours, 1935 poster

But this one went for just £688.

Tom Eckersley (1914-1997) & Eric Lombers (1914-1978)  EPSOM SUMMER MEETING  lithograph in colours, 1938 poster

They’re both teeny-tiny bus posters; admittedly the cheaper one does have mad staring eyes, but I’ve never seen it before, so it’s more interesting.  Isn’t it?

There was the same variation in prices for McKnight Kauffer too, with this 1931 design fetching £12,500.

Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954)  Shop Between 10 & 4  lithograph in colours, 1931

While his Buckingham Palace design of three years later went for just £688, and earlier works fetched even less.

McKNight Kauffer Buckingham Palace London Transport poster 1934

What is it possible to conclude from all this confusion then?  Mostly it looks like people who are considerably richer than me throwing money at posters and seeing what sticks, in a sale where mass hysteria had the upper hand over exhaustion.  A few people have emailed me with examples of posters which sold for way over their ‘usual’ prices in the sale.  One obvious one for me was this pair of Wadsworth designs for the South Kensington Museums, posters which are dear to my heart.

Edward Alexander Wadsworth (1889-1949)  SOUTH KENSINGTON MUSEUMS  two lithographs in colours, 1936 posters

These have been up for auction recently, in good condition, and fetched well under £1,000.  Go, as they say, figure.

Before the sale, I wondered on here whether the London Transport Museum was selling because they thought that the market for this era of posters was at its peak.  I have no idea whether they believed it or not, but the sale would seem to suggest otherwise.  What was also interesting was the number of foreign bids too.  So I don’t think we can call the top of the market yet.

But a different question is whether these prices now set the standard, or whether this sale will be a one-off freak event in which people have paid over the odds because of provenance, over-excitement or whatever.  Interestingly, we won’t have to wait too long to find out.  The next Christies Poster Sale is, to my surprise, on 1 November.  I’ll take a look at that next week.  In the meantime, please put your thoughts on this sale in that nice box beneath.  Thank you.