Him and Her

Do you want to see one of my birthday presents?  Or at least the illustrations contained within.

Zuleika dobson illustration George Him

The book is Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm – for a change it is a book I’ve always intended to read –  and the illustrations are by George Him. So of course they are wonderful. As is Mr Crownfolio, who gave it to me.

Zuleika Dobson illustration George Him

The book itself, however, is less easy to classify.  It’s published by the Heritage Press (who even write about their edition here), but with a slip case that makes it look like something issued by the Folio Society, which is why I haven’t bothered to show it on here.  Why bother when I can fill the page with illustrations like these instead?

Zuleika Dobson illustration George Him

Puzzle one is that the book does not appear on the bibliography on the George Him website.  None of which matters, but is all a bit odd.

Zuleika Dobson illustration George Him

A further mystery is that when you have a look at the Wikpedia page on Zuleika Dobson (should you, say, happen to be Googling that book along with George Him), the illustration is of a 1961 Penguin Classics version of the book, cover design also by George Him.

Zuleika Dobson Penguin Lewitt Him cover

There must have been a craze for both the book and Him round about them.  Understandable, but still a bit peculiar.

Zuleika Dobson illustration George Him

All of which does rather frustrate my googling though and means that I may never be able to find out exactly what this copy is doing and why.  But never mind, because it is absolutely delightful to look at.

Zuleika Dobson illustration George Him

(There are loads more illustrations, by the way, but I didn’t want to crush my lovely copy on the scanner. Sorry about that.)

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Add To Cart

I could quite happily just give you this single picture and consider it a complete post, because it’s just fantastic

Barbara Jones Out in the Hall 1960

What I’m showing you here is a three and half metre long mural by Barbara Jones called ‘Out in the Hall’ from 1962.  I have no idea what it was painted for – although given that it was still in her studio in 2010 she may just have produced it for her own pleasure – but it was displayed in a Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition called Mural Art Today in 1962.

The truly extraordinary thing about it, though is that it is for sale through Liss Fine Art.  There’s a button on the page which just says ‘Add to Cart’.  I’m so tempted. The only drawback is that it costs £12,000, which means we’d have to choose between a bear on a yellow background and a functioning kitchen.  I took this vote to Twitter, where the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of the bear.  I’m not entirely convinced yet though.

To be honest, that one mural would be quite enough for me, but there is much, much more where that came from too.  Because Liss have organised an exhibition called British Murals & Decorative Painting 1910 – 1970, and what’s on display, and in many cases on offer, is really quite extraordinary.

Highlight – simply for the fact that it still exists in any shape or form at all – is the John Piper mural called ‘The Englishman’s Home’, which he designed for the exterior of the Homes and Gardens Pavilion at the Festival of Britain.

John PIper Festival of Britain homes and gardens pavilion mural

Here it is in situ, with a bin.

John Piper mural in situ festival of britain

Amazingly, this too is for sale, although for ‘Price on Request’, which I always translate as, ‘if you have to ask, you can’t afford it’.  I imagine they’d also want to vet you too, if only to make sure that you actually had the space to keep over sixteen metres of John Piper under proper conditions.  But that really ought to be in a museum, don’t you think?  Is there a campaign to get it for the V&A do you know?  And if not, shall we start one?

While we all consider that, there are other gems to eye up too.  This Edward Bawden was produced for the SS Oronsay in 1951, but is now in a private collection.

Edward Bawden SS Oronsay Mural 1951

Or this Claude Francis Barry, produced for nobody knows quite what or why during the war but unbelievably evocative.

Claude Francis Barry wartime london mural

I could go on almost indefinitely until I reproduced the entire collection, but I won’t, for a few reasons.

The first is that there is, I think a lot more to say about these works and right now I don’t know enough to say it.  A book has come out to accompany the exhibition and I think I’m going to need to absorb that first before I come to any definite conclusions.

But there is definitely something interesting going on here that hasn’t really been described properly before, and to me it looks like a graphic and representational style which is half way between fine art and posters.  This Mary Adshead could nearly come from a Shell poster of some kind.

Mary Adshead English Holiday puncture

It was intended to be one of eleven designs, but I’ll let the catalogue tell you the history of the piece, because it’s rather wonderful:

The Puncture and The Village Inn were two of eleven scenes in the series An English Holiday, commissioned by the British-Canadian business tycoon and politician Lord Beaverbrook, early in 1928, for the dining room at Calvin Lodge, Newmarket. The commission for An English Holiday was withdrawn by Lord Beaverbrook in August 1928, apparently after the intervention of his friend Lady Diana Cooper who felt that Beaverbrook would quarrel with most of the people (his friends and acquaintances) who served as the models for the scheme.

These murals also, perhaps, let us into another way of discovering a very British strand of art, one which stands so far outside the mainstream of continental modernism that it hasn’t properly been described yet.

There’s a good reason, too, for why very little of this has been described.  A note in the catalogue estimates that at least 90% of the murals of the period have been destroyed.  Barbara Jones, for example, produced at least 29, of which only two are known to be still extant.  The other one is in the exhibition too – produced for the International Labour Exhibition in Turin in 1961.

Barbara Jones International Labour Exhibition 1961

Price on request.  Sigh.

Finally, I don’t have time to think about this now because the exhibition isn’t on that long – only until 9th March, so you do really need to go and see it while you can.  As do I.

Posted in designers, exhibitions | 5 Responses

Modern Tendencies

Reader request day today on Quad Royal.  This isn’t something I often do, but Paul Durham has asked for some help from you lot.  He’s trying to find as many images as he can of the posters that were issued by Heals for their exhibitions in the Mansard Gallery.  This was right at the top of the Heals Building in Tottenham Court Road, and they held exhibitions there from 1917 until the late 1970s.

It’s an interesting request on several fronts: partly because the posters are good and aren’t something I have ever covered on here until now, and partly because it doesn’t seem that anyone really knows how many there are and who designed them. Not even Heals can say for sure exactly which exhibitions were held there.  So we can, perhaps, add to the sum total of human knowledge.  Here’s one I dug up that was auctioned at Onslows a few years ago, by Rhoda Dawson, and for one of their less assertively modern exhibitions.

Rhoda Dawson flower paintings heals mansard gallery

There’s also the fact that I’m sympathetic to anyone in the grip of a completist collecting mania.  These things need to be encouraged.  So let’s see what we can do to help.

Paul has sent me a few over as starters.  This is by McKnight Kauffer from 1918, and is the earliest one he’s managed to track down so far.

McKnight Kauffer London Group Mansard Gallery 1917

There were earlier exhibitions though.  The second one ever, Poster Pictures, in June 1917, displayed the original paintings for many London Transport posters, in aid of prisoners of war in Germany.  Which is very interesting as it proves that the dissemination of posters as art wasn’t just limited to what LT themselves put on show.

When I first read about the Mansard Gallery, I thought, oh, art exhibitions at the top of Heals, fair enough.  But actually the idea was a bit more interesting than it initially sounds, being as it was part of the great between-the-wars project of making everyone like elitist art.  (I’ve posted about this so often that I simply can’t put all the links on; one day I must index this monster).

Obviously the Mansard Gallery held art exhibitions, it’s what galleries do, after all.  But the aim of having them in a furniture store – and of displaying the art in the first place – was to persuade people buying furnishings that they might benefit from art work as part of the house decorations and how it may work within the home.   That’s another McKnight Kauffer below, by the way, from 1918 this time.

McKnight Kauffer Mansard Gallery London Group 1918

Part of me thinks this is all a bit, ‘books do furnish a room’, but that’s probably unfair.  Not least because Heals really did want to persuade you that art would improve your home.  So much did they want to persuade people of this, that there was not merely a gallery up in the top of the building, but also the Mansard Flat, which was furnished to the very apex of Heals taste, and was used to show how art might work in a domestic setting. Which then makes sense of a picture I have seen (but don’t ask me where) of a McKnight Kauffer London Underground poster being used in a Heals furnishing display.  I wish I could find that, as it would tie up all the loose ends quite neatly.

Heals Mansard Gallery posters

But as you can see from the posters above, the demarcations were nothing like as neat as that; just as art crept into the furniture displays, so did furniture make its way into the gallery.  I’d be intrigued to know what furniture too, presumably the stuff that was a bit too advanced to actually sell to the English, even in London.  That’s what seems to be on display here; it’s another poster by Rhoda Dawson, from the same lot at Onslows.

Heals Mansard Gallery Modern tendencies poster 1928

But of course these divisions aren’t so neat and tidy outside of the gallery either, because Heal’s also produced rather good posters for their furniture as well as the gallery.  These are rather outside our remit, but then they are so good that I can’t leave them out entirely.

Heals contemporary furniture 1950s poster

They’re also quite liberally scattered over the web as Heals produced reproductions a few years ago.  How did that pass me by?

That however is by the by.  Can anyone point me, and more to the purpose Paul, at any more.  I have a feeling that there will be more lurking in books and catalogues than there will be out there on the net, so if you know of any, please do let me know.  For myself, because I’m interested now, if there are any pictures of the exhibitions, please send them along too.


Here’s another one, by William Roberts, which Martin Steenson found in McKnight Kauffer’s Art of the Poster.

William Roberts Mansard Gallery poster from McKnight Kauffer art of the poster


Thank you for that one.

Posted in exhibitions, other | 11 Responses

Love and money

A proper post is brewing and will follow tomorrow, but this is just a brief appearance to let you know that all your Valentines poster needs are solved.

Dorrit Dekk post office savings bank love poster

I’ve mentioned this Dorrit Dekk poster before, and now it has appeared on eBay, not once but twice.  It ought to go really, it’s just the kind of thing that would sell for a lot more in the right kind of shop, even if it is mounted on some kind of board.

While we’re on the subject of eBay, can I also just remind you that the Quad Royal Daphne Padden prints are also now available on that esteemed shopping site.

Daphne Padden gardener print to buy

They’re very competitively priced, especially when compared with this little gem.

New milton vintage british railways poster

The auction has ended, but until last week it has been on offer for £1,350.  A figure which completely boggled my mind because in the auction at which we bought the Eckersley last week, a copy of this went for, I think, about £300.

Now normally, I would laugh and point, saying that this hasn’t even been restored and how much do you expect me to pay for a frame?  But that’s not going to work here.  For one thing, the auction has been ended because the item is no longer available, which I suspect means they have sold it.  More tellingly than that, they received a Best Offer on it of £1,200.  Really, truly I do wish I had the sheer gall to be a dealer.  I’d make a fortune.  But I have no such ability in me, so you’re all safe.

All of which means that I can make no comment on their one remaining poster, except to say that if you would like to buy this Norman Wilkinson poster for £1,850, you know where you can go.

Norman Wilkinson Harrow School LNER poster

Meanwhile, for those of us without the best part of two grand burning a hole in their pockets, this National Savings poster of Shipping through the Ages currently has no bids at just £3.99.

National Savings shipping through the ages not pretty poster

Or this slightly more appealing example of the National Savings genre could be yours for £6.99

National Savings Club poster

Or we could all just give up and collect thimbles.

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Line tint screen

Given how much this blog loves Ashley Havinden and his immaculate 1930s style, it’s a wonder that this book has been sitting next to my desk for so long without any comment here.

Ashley Havinden Line drawing for reproduction cover

Or at least that’s what I thought until I actually picked it up this morning.  Mr Havinden may have been a very dapper gentleman with a wonderfully fluid style, but the king of interesting prose he is not.  What’s more there are nothing like enough of his drawings in the book either.  To be fair this is because he is a very generous author who spends much of his time praising other people’s work, but I still can’t help being disappointed.  This GPO delight is pretty much the only one which isn’t already on the cover,

Ashley Havinden GPO press advertisement dove

With apologies for the slightly dodgy scan.

The book also does what it sets out to do very well, which is teach an aspiring illustrator how to create good drawings which will reproduce well in newspapers and magazines.  So I am now much better informed about print technology of the 1930s (the book was originally published in 1933, but my copy, interestingly, was reprinted in 1941, so the subject was thought worthy of some very limited wartime paper).

In particular, I know now what scraperboard art is (I’d come across it in the Artist Partners brochure, where it has a whole section of its own, but had no idea what was actually involved).

Ashley Havinden scraperboard illustration

If you’re also wondering, it’s a chalk covered paper.  To quote our guide and instructor,

The advantage of this paper is that one can paint on it with black ink and with the use of a scalpel knife or sharp penknife white lines can then be scratched across the part covered with black ink.

Quite apart from just doing it because it looks good, apparently the real purpose of this is to create something which looks like a woodcut but can be reproduced more easily and without the trouble of having to make a woodcut in the first place.  So now I know.

But the other really interesting aspect of the book is that it is a reminder that the advertising and graphic design of the period wasn’t all about posters, far from it.  A great deal of artist and agency time would have been spent on the central subject of Havinden’s book, black and white print advertising in newspapers and magazines.

Ashley Havinden Marsh's York Ham Ad

That ad isn’t from the book by the way, but borrowed from Mikey Ashworth’s photostream, which I am starting to believe is the repository of all graphic design in the world.

I don’t have any peace-time figures to hand, but certainly during the war the biggest chunk of the Ministry of Food’s budget wasn’t spent on posters or even nicely-designed leaflets.  Rather it went on press advertising.

Ministry of Food Food facts press advertisement Carrots

What’s more these images reached people all across the country who would rarely see an advertising hoarding and might never come across a London Transport poster.  For much of Britain, this is what the design of the times would have looked like, before, during and after the Second World War.

It’s not like these adverts have disappeared without trace either; read any edition of Modern Publicity or Designers in Britain and good press ads are singled out just like the posters (albeit in a form which is so blurry as to be impossible to reproduce on the blog).  But nowadays we skip over them.  They are ephemeral, yellowing – and perhaps more to the point they don’t frame nicely and look good on the wall.

All of which means that artists like Ashley Havinden, who mostly drew for newspaper and magazine advertising and did very few actual posters, tend to get forgotten when we are writing the graphic history of the period.  Havinden mentions others in the book too, like Robb, W.G. Easton and De Lavererie.

De lavererie illustration havinden book

There’s also a section on Barnett Freedman too.  He’s not exactly forgotten, but the drawings that Havinden has chosen are just the kind of work that does disappear.

Barnett Freedman brewers soc ad from havinden book

Havinden also makes an interesting comment on how Freedman has transferred his distinctive lithographic style into newsprint without losing its character.

When Barnett Freedman is working for newspaper reproduction, he used a paper grained by himself to resemble the surface of a lithographic stone.  This gives his chalk work all the crispness and openness of texture suitable to the making of a line block, while containing as much tone value as a fine-screen half-tone.

And because he’s talking about both good examples for artists, like Picasso, Cocteau and Henry Moore, as well as other disciplines such as book illustration, there are plenty more well-known artists in there too; you just don’t need me to tell you about them.

The point of all of this is not to suggest that we start believing that these drawings are the new posters.  But when we’re thinking about posters, I think it is always worth remembering that they were by no means the only forms of visual design on offer before and after the war. For very many people, they weren’t even the dominant one.

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Location location location

I’ve said  this many times before, but what makes a poster valuable or not is not just a mystery to me but a source of constant puzzlement. As far as I can tell, condition, fashion, the name of the designer, the kind of auction and much else besides are all fed into a whirling vortex and a price pops out the other end, but how the process actually works I do not know. But I do now know a bit more about at least one of the variables, and that, bizarrely, is house prices.

Mr Crownfolio and I were watching an evening auction go by at the end of last week (if you are wondering why it’s not one I’d mentioned before, more later). Everything was going for a bit more than the estimates, which were rather pleasingly cheap.  Then we were very surprised to see this seemingly unremarkable poster go for £400 (I don’t have the exact prices I’m afraid as the auctioneers don’t list them online).

Sheringham british railways posters 1950s

This was a bit mystifying as it’s not a known poster, not by a known artist and generally didn’t have a huge amount to recommend it it over any of the other similar posters which had already gone past.  Until we started to wonder whether it was down to the location.  That bit of North Norfolk is now Notting-Hill-on-Sea.  So, we figured, there must be lots of very rich people with the pressing need to buy a poster to decorate the holiday cottage.  Fortunately, the very next lot allowed us to put our theory to the test.

Colwyn Bay British Railways poster

As a poster it’s neither better nor worse – the colours are perhaps nicer but I’d probably mark it down for the rhodedendrons.  But the big difference is that Colwyn Bay doesn’t get that many visitors from West London.  So we watched, and lo and behold it went for £150.

There were lots of other posters of that ilk in the auction, which mostly went at around about the £200 mark.

Whitstable British Railways poster 1950s

And then there was this one.

Paignton British railways poster Tom Eckersley 1950s

A rather lovely Tom Eckersley which  just happens to be the reason that I wasn’t flagging up the auction on here in advance.  For a change, too, it’s good news as we won it.  And for £160 too.  Which only goes to show that however much I generate theories, there’s just no telling with poster prices.

For more proof of that, do you want a look at another auction from today?  Up for grabs were five out of the six Sunday Times posters by Patrick Tilley.  (These by the way are old pictures for illustration, not the ones that were actually for auction, but they don’t look much different to me.)

Patrick Tilley Sunday Times Vintage 1960s Posters Perceptive

We either have one set of these (Mr Crownfolio’s theory) or one set and some spares (my belief) but anyway, we thought we’d put a low bid in, just in case they went for very little (and there’s always an appeal in cornering the market).  But I’m not going to tell you how low a bid because we were very, very wrong.

Patrick Tilley Sunday Times Vintage 1960s Posters provocative

The posters went for a somewhat boggling £1550.  Which is actually only £300 per poster but is still a lot of money.  Especially when the estimate was £150-250 for the lot.  I wonder where this lot came from?  And the bids too come to that?

Posted in auctions | 3 Responses