Pause

This post is basically me waving the white flag of surrender for the next week or so while the house move finally takes place.  But instead of a white flag I thought I would offer you a pale poster instead.

Vintage Post Office Savings Bank poster Combs pre war

I know this isn’t in the best condition ever, but it’s interesting enough to be worth looking at anyway.  I know precisely nothing about it (the Post Office Savings Bank posters aren’t archived on line yet) except that it is good and that I don’t think I’ve seen very many pre-war POSB posters before now, if indeed any.  Oh and the signature says, I think, Coombs, but I am none the wiser for that either.

I’m hoping to be back within a week, not least because the Onslows catalogue for the December sale is now up.  But perhaps you could all go and have a look and crowd-source some opinions for me in the meantime.

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Food is Necessary

Once again, people have been sending me things.  To be more precise, they’ve been sending pictures of things.  Which is a shame, as I would have very much liked to get this in the post.

Hans Unger mosaic of London photo by MIchael Sand

Michael Sand got in contact with me.  His parents were friends of Hans Unger’s in London in the 196os, and so he made them this lovely mosaic of their house in 1965.  I love this, I think it’s my favourite of any of his mosaics that I’ve seen, so thank you to Michael for telling me about it and then letting me show you the photograph.

That’s not all, either.  Suzanne Emerson’s parents were friends of Royston Cooper in the 1960s and 1970s, and so she now owns two of Royston’s paintings.

Royston cooper original painting

Royston Cooper original painting

Apparently she and her mum called the first one drips and the second one eggs.  There’s also a limited edition lithograph too.

Original Royston Cooper lithograph

She asked me about them, but I am well outside of what I know about here, so I thought I’d put them up on the blog and see if you lot can help.  Suzanne is also thinking about selling them, so if anyone has any knowledge of or interest in them, please do let me know in the comments and I will pass your details on.

Because I outed myself in a recent post as being utterly ignorant about film posters, I have also – very kindly – been sent an entire book on the subject.  So once I have moved house (have I mentioned this yet?), I shall read it and then I will know.  Watch out.

Finally, since we’re all here, an interesting heap of posters have come up on eBay, all from the one seller.

Abram Games wasted food is another ship lost World war two propaganda poster

Abram Games talk kills world war two poster propaganda

That’s interesting as in the sense of totally bemusing, because I do not know how someone ends up with three Abram Games posters (there is also the Damp Ruins Ammunition one which I have seen more often than these two), and then two GPO posters from the 1960s?  Most odd.  I am hoping that the Talk Kills one is in focus in real life,  I’m sure it must be.

GPO stamps in books poster from ebay 1960

Most confounding.  But I shall watch the prices with interest.

We are, finally, moving house next week, and chaos will almost certainly loom large.  So if Quad Royal falls short of its customary standards of service, I apologise.  Back to normal very soon.  I hope.

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Mrs Housewife on Display

There are some things I haven’t been telling you recently, and it’s time to fess up.

The biggest omission is the Bloomsbury Auctions sale which happened last week. Now this wasn’t the most exciting collection of posters I have ever seen in one place, but there was one significant exception. This was three lots, right at the end, all by Dorrit Dekk.  Each one was a total treasure trove, with a whole range of posters in, not just one.

Dorrit Dekk wireless licence GPO poster 1940s

Dorrit Dekk Home makers poster Post office savings bank

What’s more, they were estimated at £200-300 per lot which, with at least ten posters each time, was looking like a total bargain.  Hence my silence.

Dorrit Dekk staggered holidays World War Two home front propaganda poster

As the sale went on, we got more and more excited, because nothing seemed to be selling for over its estimate, and quite a few things were falling below that (the contrast with Christies is not something that you need me to explain).  So by the time we got to the three Dekk lots our hopes were high.

Dorrit Dekk Love Post Office Savings Banks poster 1960s

But they were rapidly dashed to the ground again.  They all went for well over their estimates, £420 in two cases and a whopping £550 for the one with all of the travel posters in.

Dorrit Dekk orient line travel poster

Dorrit Dekk France travel poster

Bah.  I hope whoever got them likes them.

The second thing I missed was for the rather more practical reason that I only got about 48 hours notice of the sale, but it’s still interesting enough to draw your attention to after the event.  Lot 247 at 1818 Auctioneers in Cumbria at the start of this week was a set of World War Two Home Front propaganda posters, How Mrs Housewife Saves Fuel For Battle.

Mrs Housewife Saves Fuel World War Two Propaganda poster home front

Mrs Housewife Saves Fuel World War Two Propaganda poster home front pair

Mrs Housewife Saves Fuel World War Two Propaganda poster home front

There were thirteen in total, which would have been worth a mention on its own as it’s pretty rare for a whole set to turn up like this.  But also included were these title banners.

Mrs Housewife Saves Fuel for battle title posters for set world war two propaganda

Now I’ve never actually seen something like that before, and I was immediately reminded of this.

Beverley Pick wartime poster display stand from display presentation book

These are Beverley Pick’s travelling poster displays for the Ministry of Information, which I’ve blogged about before.  And what I think came up for auction was a set of posters designed for exactly this kind of display.  Which is a rare thing indeed.  I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if those posters were by Pick himself, either; I’ve seen that kind of brickwork effect on other designs of his.

By way of atonement for these past sins, please have a couple of things which are coming up for auction in the future and so you’re able to buy.  Of which the most interesting is this rather lovely London Transport poster which is being sold by Wooley and Wallis in Salisbury next week.

Leith Poster 1928 London Transport Never Mind the Weather

It’s by a rather mysterious Leith, and seems to be the only poster that he or she ever designed for London Transport.  It has an estimate of just £100-200 if you fancy it, and why shouldn’t you, it’s very appropriate for the season.

Meanwhile in Chippenham a collection of rather ordinary advertising posters has turned up.

Goodyear tyres for farmers advertising posters

I was going to call them pedestrian, but given that half of them are for tyres, that would just be silly.

Goodyear deluxe tyres advertising poster

Still, worth mentioning simply to remind ourselves once again that by no means all past advertising was great.

Motor Homes poster

And quite a lot of it was really rather ordinary.

Finally, this isn’t a poster and it is in a Christies sale with the word Old Master in the title, so it’s definitely unaffordable.  It’s by Lill Tschudi and dates from 1933.

Lilli Tschudi Sticking Up Posters 1933

But it’s people sticking up posters, and the work behind the paper is always worth remembering.

 

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Hit the North

Today this poster is your starter for ten.

The question is, what’s so unusual about it?  (Other, that is, than it’s Manchester Piccadilly Station looking quite spruce; I regularly used to get the last train home from there in the early 80s, and it was a dump.  Always)

The answer is that it’s a railway poster depicting Manchester.  They are rarities indeed, don’t you know.  As are posters of Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham too.  Although I did manage to find Perry Barr looking quite bucolic in 1928.

But generally the point remains: should you happen to map the world by railway poster, the industrial heartlands of Britain are pretty much invisible.  I can only find one exception and that’s this Norman Wilkinson poster of the Manchester Ship Canal.

Now I put this point to Mr Crownfolio, and he looked at me as though I was in pursuit of the blindingly obvious to no apparent purpose.  I can see where he is coming from with this.  Birmingham, Manchester and their ilk are not pretty, they are not by the seaside: in short they are places that you come from rather than travel to.  So why would the railway companies want to make posters of them?

But this is a point which is actually worth making, so bear with me.  Because there were several series of railway posters which could quite easily have taken in points in the industrial north.  Like Norman Wilkinson’s depictions of schools, for example.

Or indeed they could have been included in the endless series of churches and cathedrals.  Liverpool alone gets a chance here, and twice – posters by Fred Taylor and Keith Elleston respectively.

But Liverpool is, in all probability, a special case.  Having only been built a decade before, Giles Gilbert Scott’s cathedral was a modern marvel, built just ten years before, as well as simply a landmark to be visited.

Why this matters beyond just northern pride is that the railway posters are reflecting an important part of British culture.  When we think of Britain, it is a southern landscape we see in our mind’s eye.  Perhaps the most potent representation of it ever made is Frank Newbould’s wartime poster for ABCA.

Frank Newbould Your Britain Fight For It Now ww2 propaganda poster army ABCA

And of course Newbould is a railway poster artist, so he knows exactly what he’s doing there.  This isn’t just a piece of countryside you want to visit, it’s a landscape that you need to believe in.

The writer and academic David Matless has called this vision of the countryside ‘Deep England’, and I have mentioned this idea before in passing.  Matless articulates the idea in a very good book called Landscape and Englishness, which I will revisit one day in a post  when my copy finally re-emerges from storage.  To summarise a subtle and well-documented argument in the meantime, Deep England is a version of Britain which has its greatest potency between the wars, and one of its many uses is to represent an eternal image of Britain to set against the forces of modernity and change.  And this timeless country is very firmly based in the south.

Somerset Railway poster Frank Sherwin c1930

 

All of which adds some additional reasons why railway posters don’t mention the North.  Yes, it might not be somewhere you want to go to, but it is also, in a wider sense, not somewhere you want to see either.  Because railway posters weren’t just about suggesting you travel to a different place by train.  As David Watts suggests in his very interesting essay (discussed on here in the post I have already linked to above), they also rely for their impact on the implicit contrast between the bucolic idea that they represent, and the forces of modern industrialism, in the form of the railway, which surrounds them.  So sticking a picture of Mancunian cotton mills in there simply doesn’t work.

Although this does go some way towards explaining a small sub-genre of northern and midlands posters, which are designed to celebrate the modernisation of the railways.

Because of course it’s fine to mention these cities if you are actually enthusing about industry.  The Manchester Piccadilly poster at the top probably fits into this category too (these tend, as a rule, to be post-war).

All of which is not only important because of what it tells us about railway poster design and prevailing British culture.  To flip it on its head, it also reveals a great deal about why people like railway posters.  As I’ve said before, railway posters are a refuge, a form of Safe Art in a world of abstraction and conceptualism. But there’s more to the railway poster than simply nice old-fashioned landscapes.  By omitting the problematic north and Midlands, these images also tap into some of our deeper feelings about Britain and what we want to see.  No wonder they are so popular.

Devon. From Christies. Pretty but dull

Now, some of you may be on the side of Mr Crownfolio and thinking that this is still, to some degree, a statement of the blindingly obvious.  But I think it matters now.  Because one thing that has been bothering me for some time is that the North has disappeared from our consciousness, taking Birmingham and Stoke with it on the way.  Back when I was a teenager and travelling in and out of Piccadilly Station, there was a very definite sense of their being a Northern culture and sensibility, taking in everything from The Smiths to Boys from the Blackstuff and all points in between.  Hell, I was proud to come from the North, even if they wouldn’t let me belong there.

But where is that now?  I can’t seem to discover its like anywhere.  Eighty years after its supposed heyday, Deep England has finally triumphed.  We all think like southerners, act like southerners and see like southerners.  And thus a whole swathe of Britain and its history has been made invisible.

This isn’t healthy.  But it also isn’t true.  We can’t help our railway posters, we probably can’t even help liking them.  But we can pay attention to what we see elsewhere.  For a whole set of reasons, both social and political and just sensible, we need to make sure that we look at the whole of the country, not just the easy, prosperous, reassuring parts.  So beware the lure of the deep landscape.  By all means look at it; but make sure it isn’t the only thing you see.

Two small addenda to that.  The first is that one of the very many wonderful things about the Olympics Opening Ceremony was the fact that it took a long hard look at Britain’s industrial heartlands, and what’s more saw something to celebrate as well as fear.  Something that makes us British.

The second is a bit of a tangent but still worth noting, and that’s the way in which the north still has – or certainly had last time I looked – its own very distinctive visuals.  Fifty years after the railway posters, Factory Records set the style which made Manchester look different.

Hacienda first birthday flyer factory records

I was very surprised to arrive in London and discover that not everything worth finding out about happened in sans serif.  Or that the clubs were nowhere near as interesting.

hacienda 5th Birthday flyer

But this is worthy of a whole post of its own on another day.  In the meantime, don’t forget the factories.

Factory records logo

 

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Printed

These are exciting times here at Quad Royal.  Because as well as going on about posters at great length (a service which will, of course, continue) we’ve also got something to sell.  Prints of Daphne Padden designs to be precise.  Take a look at this.

Daphne Padden original gardener screen print for sale

And while I’m here, this too.

Daphne Padden London screen print for sale

Rather good, aren’t they?  I like them really quite a lot.

They are both original screenprints (none of your giclee or laser printer nonsense over here, oh no) done by our friends at I Dress Myself on lovely quality paper using eco-friendly water based inks.  And the designs are, as far as I can tell, completely unseen until now.

The backstory to all this goes back a couple of years now, to when we bought a couple of great piles of material from Daphne Padden’s estate. As I wrote at the time, this wasn’t only made up of posters but also a small number of full size designs which had been made by collaging cut tissue paper.  You might recognise this one.

Daphne Padden original collage gardener

The glue has rather browned, but you can’t really blame it after fifty or more years.

Every single person we showed them too said, oh but they are wonderful, you must do something with them, until eventually we gave in.  And so now, after much to-ing and fro-ing over copyright and so on, we have.

Daphne Padden gardener print to buy

There will be a couple more print designs coming in the new year and also, excitingly, some tea towels too.

Now what with moving house and so on I really didn’t want to be selling them right now.  But it is Christmas, and you are the loyal readers of Quad Royal, so I thought you should at least have a chance to buy them before the grand New Year launch.  What’s more, you can have them at a price of just £35 each – so at least £10 cheaper than they will be in the shops.  (Postage is £3.50 for up to five at a time.)

Daphne Padden London print to buy

Oh and they’re 30cm x 40cm in size.

Another result of the move and the general chaos that my life is in at the moment, is that I don’t have a shop front or anything useful like that yet.  So if you want to buy a print, or two, or how ever many you like, then the way to do it for now is to send a note via the contact form with your name, address and your order.  I will get back to you with an invoice which you can pay via either Paypal or bank transfer.   If that all seems a bit terrifying and you prefer just pressing buttons to order something, I will also list them on eBay next week.  Or you could just put a comment below and I’ll email you.

Right, that’s the slightly technical bit over with, shall I tell you a bit more about the back story?  One of the issues with the copyright was that we needed to work out what these designs actually were, because if they had been produced for a company, then the rights would still belong to that company.  The conclusion I eventually came to – and I’d be interested to hear any other thoughts on this – is that these were unused designs.

This is partly because I simply couldn’t match any of these collages to a known design, whether for a poster or otherwise.  Then, when I thought about it a bit more, I realised that these were probably the final designs that got sent over to the lithographers for printing.  At which stage I imagine that they got inky, battered and finally screwed up and thrown in the bin.  Which means, I am guessing, that the ones which survived are ones which didn’t get printed for whatever reason.

The upshot of this, incidentally, is that copyright rests with the RSPCA, as beneficiaries of Daphne Padden’s estate, so they will be getting money from the print sales.  In the New Year, we’ll also be producing some larger limited edition prints for the benefit of the RSPCA, and also for Oxfam, who owned some more of the designs too.  And as the originals will, we hope, be coming to rest in the Brighton Design Archive, we’ll do a print for them too.  But that’s next year.  When I’ve moved house.

 

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Mounting prices

Another day, another post, and once more we’re back on the subject of auctions.  This is partly because I am so occupied with cleaning floorboards and painting walls that I haven’t had time to write the big post on The North that I want to write.  But it’s also because the blighters just keep on coming.

Although today it is not a new auction but the Christies’ sale just gone, which I can’t ignore for two reasons.  One is that the prices were insanely high, again, and the other is that it gives me a chance to be smug.  But you’ll have to wait until the end for that.  First, the prices.

The Christies’ results page offers you the ability to sort by price achieved, an opportunity I couldn’t resist.  The first few are either Russian or Mucha (a name which, for reasons too complicated to explain, is always pronounced in my head as Muuu-ka in a broad Lancastrian accent).

The first British showing is this LNER poster by Andrew Johnson, which fetched a mindboggling £11,250.

Andrew Johnson North Berwick LNER golf poster 1930

Clearly people who play golf and collect posters have more money than they know what to do with, a point which explains the next stop on our journey too.

Reginald E. Higgins (1877-1933)  ST. ANDREWS  lithograph in colours, c.1925

That fetched only just short of £10,000 too.

After that, it gets more interesting though (I’m ignoring lots of film posters along the way because I don’t understand them, apologies if this is annoying).  We’ll zip past the Cassandres and the Cuneos, along with the job lot of Fougasse posters that fetched £5,000, and stop at these two, which both fetched £3,500.

David Klein (1918-2005)  NEW YORK FLY TWA  offset lithograph in colours, c.1960

Charles Shephard (1892-)  THE GOLDEN ARROW, PULLMAN  lithograph in colours, 1931

Either way – for a David Klein or for a purely graphical 1930s railway poster – that’s quite a lot of money.  It’s also worth noting that most of the posters that I picked out in advance of the sale were not the ones which fetched the highest prices.  That’s good news, idiosyncratic taste means that I may yet still be able to buy posters.

But not for long.  Some of the big surprises were further down the rankings, like this Abram Games which fetched £2,000 (and I did actually single out).

Abram Games (1914-1996) JERSEY lithograph in colours, 1951 poster

But even more surprising is this Reginald Mount, which also went for the very same amount.

Reginald Mount (1906-1979) STAGGERED HOLIDAYS HELP EVERYBODY offset lithograph in colours, c.1951

Now what on earth is going on here?  The Games I can accept, it’s a classic design by a classic designer and prices probably are going up (well they certainly are if Christies is having anything to do with it).  But the Mount?  I am utterly bewildered.  It’s not so many years ago that Mr Crownfolio and I were at Onslows, hoovering up job lots of Mount/Evans posters for £20 or £30 a go, posters which I believe came from Eileen Evans’ own archives.  It’s not even his nicest design – if that’s worth £2,000, what’s a reasonable price for this then?

Mount Evans vintage waste paper salvage poster propagandas world war two

Or this?

Mount Evans vintage save gas and electricity post war propaganda poster austerity

Answers on the usual electronic postcard please.

I am, however, preparing to eat my own words.  Back in the day, when this blog first started. I wrote about how Christies had increased their minimum lot price.  I thought that this was a bad thing for the market in artists like Eckersley and Games (I hadn’t even considered Reginald Mount in there) as without the Christies prices, the value would fall.  And for a year or two it looked as though I’d called it correctly.  But now, well, I stand corrected, and surprised to boot.  Will it last though?  We will have to wait and see.

Further down the listings though is this Eckersley Lombers.

Tom Eckersley (1914-1997) & Eric Lombers (1914-1978)  SCIENTISTS PREFER SHELL  lithograph in colours, 1938

One thousand two hundred and fifty pounds worth of Eckersley Lombers to you at Christies prices.  But rather pleasingly, not to us, as we’ve just bought a copy on eBay.

Eckersley Lombers Shell poster from eBay

It’s not framed, it needs a bit of smoothing out, and it’s still the most expensive poster we’ve ever bought.  But it’s wonderfully bright and comes with a rather pleasing sense of having beaten the system.  You can’t get that at Christies these days.

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