Correct Selling

couple of years ago now, I wrote a long piece on here about why some kinds of poster seem to survive in greater quantities than others.  In short, the argument was that where posters do survive in large numbers, this tends to be because the institutions concerned – London Transport, the railway companies and Shell – had a system for selling them to the public.

Vintage Shell poster lord berners 1936

But I said at the time, that post was very much a work in progress.  Now things have moved on a bit, because Rik Shepherd has been in contact through both comments and email with some additional information about how GPO posters were also sold.  And very interesting it is too.

John Minton Iwerne Minster GPO Poster

The reason for this is that Mr Shepherd senior, his father, was, in the best possible way, a bit of a chancer, something probably best explained by his son.

Dad did have a habit of writing to organisations on the offchance that they wanted to give/sell him something – the request for part of London Road station when it was turning into Piccadilly failed, the request for tickets from the closing Mumbles railway yielded a destination blind from one of their trams, and we’ve got a stack of timetables and promo brochures from oodles of US railroad companies.

One of the organisations that he regularly bothered was the GPO, as Rik explained when he commented on the original blog post.

If I’d known there was interest in cut-down & framed posters in-situ, I’d have taken pictures of my parents bedroom before we started clearing the house.

They had trimmed and framed copies of the GPO “Use Your Correct Address” posters of Eilean Donan (John Minton) and Brookland (David Knight) on the wall for at least the last decade. We’ve also found a trimmed copy of Minton’s Iwerne Abbey, a trimmed and framed Minton Greenwich which I vaguely remember being on the walls in the 60s & 70s, and what we think is a trimmed David Knight Polruan.

John Minton GPO poster Eilean Donan Castle 1957

Dad seems to have got the Minton posters in April 1957 by writing to the Mount Pleasant offices. The three cost 3s 0d in total (1/6d for Iwerne, 1s for Greenwich and 6d for Eilean Donan) and were sent out with a note from a Mr R. Weeber giving the prices and the rather polite request “Perhaps you will kindly forward a remittance for 3s.0d. in due course.”

What’s even better is that Mr Shepherd Sr also kept the correspondence.

(I’ve put these images in quite big, so just click on them if you want to read the text properly)

GPO letter about poster ordering 1957

I love the fact that they’re only asking for payment after the posters have been sent out.  Those were the days.

Mr Shepherd senior didn’t give up at with that, though.  Go forward ten years, and he is once more trying to order some posters from the GPO.

Letter from GPO re posters

But as you can see, times have changed, and the GPO now have an order form available – and what’s more, here it is.

GPO poster order form 1967

I would like to order all of those please, with a particular emphasis on the last one which is new to me and splendidly moody.

Avebury GPO poster Garrick Palmer

And I used to live there too.

Now all of this would be fascinating enough on its own.  But what makes all of this even more important is that there doesn’t seem to have been many records of this kept elsewhere (a fact that possibly we could have guessed from the slightly ad-hoc nature of that order form).

I asked Anna Flood, archivist at the British Postal Museum and Archive, what they knew about the poster selling, and she couldn’t find anything about this in the books or in their records.  Which is rather exciting really, as it means that Quad Royal has – thanks to Rik Shepherd – managed to uncover a brand new historical fact here.  I’m quite chuffed.

The only reference Anna could find in their archives is one which doesn’t shed any light on Mr Shepherd’s poster buying, but does stretch the timescale back quite a bit, in fact to this series of posters.

HS Williamson air mails croydon GPO poster

POST 33/4722 – Publicity: supply to school, posters, leaflets, first issue – 1934

Re the H.S. Williamson series of posters:

–          PRD 88 – Relays carrying the King’s messages, 1482

–          PRD 89 – Mails for the Packets arriving at Falmouth, 1833

–          PRD 90 – Loading mails at the docks in London, 1934

–          PRD 91 – Loading air mails for the Empire, Croydon 1934

‘It is likely that the issue of these posters [to schools] will give rise to further demands for them….c) from private individuals, who want one or more of the posters for nursery or other house decoration’………’As regards c), posters will be sold, so far as stocks permit, at the following prices, to include packing and postage:- Single posters 1s each. Set of four posters 3s.’…..’Persons desiring to buy posters should be advised to write to the Controller, Post Office Stores Department, Mount Pleasant Depot, EC1, [Public Relations Department, GPO, London, EC1 – crossed out] specifying the title of the poster or posters they desire to buy and enclosing a postal order for the necessary amount.’ 13th November, 1934, Public Relations Department.

A later memo states ‘ copies may be obtained on personal application to the Public Relations Department, Armour House, 40 St Martins-le-Grand, London, EC1’. Dated 28/11/34.

H S WIlliamson Kings Relays GPO poster 1934

And she comments,

So indeed, as early as 1934 the Post Office PRD was allowing members of the public to purchase GPO posters (maybe because of the costs involved in producing runs of posters, hence they didn’t want the expenditure to go to waste, and maybe also because the PO was intent in raising its public profile at the time, hence the ‘schools’ campaign). However, it may have taken a while for the process to become formalised, with the issue of ‘for sale’ lists and order forms, such as those Rik Shepherd has.

I don’t think we’re in a position to write an entire thesis on GPO poster survival from these small scraps of information.  But what this does show is that, although they may not have advertised the fact, the GPO did sell posters to private individuals and this is most likely the way that GPO posters, in their smaller numbers survive today.

It’s also interesting to note that the posters that the GPO thought that people were interested in buying in 1967 (as shown on the order form) and indeed the posters that Mr Shepherd was actually interested in buying in 1957, were the ‘artistic’ ones, i.e. the ones in which a fine artist had been commissioned to create a painting which was then turned into a poster.  Because in 1957, the GPO was also producing posters like these:

Tom Eckersley properly packed parcels please dog

Huveneers post early poster GPO 1957

Admittedly they weren’t quite scaling the same graphic heights in 1967, but there was still Daphne Padden and Kenneth Bromfield on show in your local post office.

Daphne Padden greetings stamp 4d vintage GPO poster

Kenneth Bromfield GPO poster tv license

But these weren’t the posters that people were meant to buy or wanted to buy.  So fewer of these survive than of the ‘artistic’ ones.  A quick trawl through Onslows’ archives does seem to support this theory, as many more of the painterly posters seem to come up for auction than the more graphic ones.  Which is of course a great shame, as it’s the graphic design that I at least would rather be buying nowadays.  But I can’t really blame the public for buying what they liked at the time.  At least I don’t think I can.

That’s not the important point though, I’m still very happy that we’ve managed to find another small piece of the jigsaw and discover how a few more posters survived.  So if anyone else out there has something that they think might be interesting, please do get in touch.  You never know, it might be a piece of information that no one has known until now.

Oh, and GPO correspondence wasn’t all that Mr Shepherd kept – more on his archive next week.

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Blackpool, camels and shandy

I’m posting like fury this week to try and catch up with all the auctions that are going on.  Although this post is in fact about a couple of auctions that have already happened, but are still worth noting.

The first of these is the recent GWRA auction, where we had been hoping to get this Daphne Padden, but were outbid and it went for £280.

Daphen Padden Lancashire coast British Railways psoter

I don’t think we’ve seen that one before ever, so I am a bit sad about that.  We also failed to buy this Lander too.

Royal Mail Boats Lander poster

Although as it went for just £140 you may deduce that we weren’t trying that hard.

We did, however get this Lander, which I am rather pleased about.

Morecambe British Railways poster RM Lander

Again, it’s not one that you see very often (something I have mentioned on here before now).  But it’s a brilliant piece of what I believe people now refer to as ‘mid-century’ and will look rather good framed.

The auction was chock-full of posters including, interestingly, another two for Blackpool – as far as GWRA knows, both anonymous.

Blackpool Britsh Railways poster anonymous

blackpool2

The first one went for £300, the second for a whopping £700, which was almost the record for the entire sale.  The actual top price, though was £750, which was paid for this.

GWR-Cambrian

With this Fred Taylor coming a close second at £720.

lincoln-taylor

But if you just wanted a nice pictorial seaside poster, quite possibly with a bit of kitsch in it, and you wanted to pay £200-300, you would have been spoiled for choice.  Here’s just one of the dozens.

llandudno

That went for £240, and for ten pounds less you could have had yourself another Daphne Padden as well.

Daphne Padden isle of Man BRitish railways poster

I do like that cat.

But there were a few bargains here and there, at least if you like Peterborough.

Peterborough

Just eighty of your pounds.

There are even one or two bargains still to be had as well.  This rather striking Bromfield failed to sell, and is now on offer with a reserve of just £50.

bromfield - hampshire

Surely that must have some midcentury appeal somewhere; I’m sure it would go for more than that on eBay.

Also passed and worthy of note is the recent Christies sale, which I did manage to blog about beforehand.

Apart from the obvious conclusion that expensive posters are expensive, what has most caused me to raise an eyebrow here is the price of the little bus posters.  Several, like this Anna Zinkeisen, went for more than a thousand pounds.

Anna Katrina Zinkeisen (1901-1976) WIMBLEDON TENNIS lithograph in colours, 1934

Although interestingly, this Herry Perry, which had an estimate of £1000-1,500, only fetched £875.  And not everything sold either, although I haven’t had the time to do the forensics and find out exactly what.

Herry (Heather) Perry (1893-1962) BOAT RACE lithograph in colours, 1935

All of which will make it particularly interesting to see how this Anna Zinkeisen will do on eBay.

Anna Zinkeisen bus poster motorcycle show

It’s currently at £9.99, but with 6 days to go and a reserve that hasn’t been met yet.  Watch that space.

While we are watching that eBay space, a few more things that have turned up.  This Quantas poster is mostly of interest because it is quirky, has a picture of a camel on it and is not overpriced at £39.

Quantas Camel poster from Ebay

While someone by the name of prbs1929 is also selling a job lot of coach posters at very reasonable prices.  This is my favourite.

Late holiday coach poster

This, on the other hand, does seem a bit expensive to me.

poster for Maltese shandy

Although I know nothing about the Maltese poster market and may turn out to be completely wrong about that.

Finally, I think we have a collectable in the making here.

Can safety poster

I have no idea what it is trying to tell me, but that’s part of the fun.  I think. And there are plenty more to be had if that tickles your fancy.

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Owl showing time

I’ve already mentioned Neil Jennings’s Barbara Jones show which starts today in Hampstead.

Apparently for the last week his house has been filled with Barbara Jones artworks like this.

Barbara Jones twit and howlett original artwork

And this.

More Twit And Howlett original artwork

I don’t know how he copes.

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Forget Frontiers

It’s just one auction after another at the moment, which is in some ways a bit of a shame as I have other interesting things to tell you as well.  But first, let’s try and make a bit of headway with the backlog.  Today’s auction is Van Sabben, taking place at the end of the week.

For once, they don’t have a great number of British posters, something which has forced me to take a closer look at some of the others.  Which leads me in turn to the conclusion that there are some rather good Dutch posters from the 1950s out there.  These two are my particular favourites – they’re in one lot together.

Dutch PTT poster 1950s

Dutch PTT poster 1950s
Max Velthuys, 1955, est. €120-300 (with one other poster)

With this only a hair’s breadth behind.

Unica dutch furniture exhibition poster
Cornelius van Velsen, 1958, est. €90-160

Really, at those prices I am almost tempted to buy one.

But back to the matter in hand, because there are a few British posters in there too, and some are worth a closer look.  Of which the best, and most interesting, is probably this one, for being an airline poster that I have not only never seen before but also quite like.

Forget Frontiers mogley bea poster
Mogley, 1951, est. ۤ80-350

If anyone can knows about Mogley, I’d be very grateful.  All I can glean from the internet is that it is a very popular name for dogs.

This is also quite nice, although less rare – I’ve seen it somewhere else quite recently.

BOAC poster middle east 1960
Anonymous, 1954, est. €120-280

Meanwhile, this is an oddity, not just because I am looking at a film poster but also because it’s by Arpad Elfer.  Everything of his I see, I like, which means that he has been mentioned on here before.  But there isn’t enough of his stuff and I don’t know very much about him at all.

Dance Hall Arpad Elfer poster
Arpad Elfer, 1950, est. €90-150

Apologies for the small picture there.

There are a smattering of railway posters too, of which this has to be my favourite, even though it’s almost certainly in contravention of the Trades Descriptions Act.

Eastboune railway poster
Anonymous, 1950, est. €150-250

And finally, a few propaganda posters as well.  This is definitely the most striking, although I’m not sure most people would want to have it on their wall.

Diptheria post war propaganda poster
Anonymous, 1950, est. €150-300

The next two are less graphically interesting, but notable because you could have bought the first on eBay for just £4.99 last week.  We didn’t, which was possibly a mistake.

Mightier yet tank world war two propaganda poster
Harold Pym, 1943, est. €100-200

Mightier yet world war two propaganda poster
Anonymous, 1944, est. €120-250

A couple of comments here.  One is that I’ve put Van Sabben’s dates in the captions, but I’m unless I am much mistaken, those posters are actually earlier than that, from 1940 or so.  They date from a period in the war when the Ministry of Information not only hadn’t quite got to grips with how wartime propaganda might work, in particular thinking that its duty was to uphold morale, but also didn’t have a single positive thing to say about the progress of the war.  Not a situation which makes for inspiring rhetoric.  The other is that if they can go for either £4.99 or €200, what are they actually worth?  This is something we can consider at greater length when I get round to looking at Onslows, where there are World War Two posters by the gross.

And that’s about your lot, unless I’ve piqued your interest in Dutch poster design.  In which case you’ve got about another six hundred to go through in their catalogue.

Olympia dutch poster 1950s
Anonymous, 1960, est. €60-120

More later this week, I hope, as I am intending to tell you all about GPO forms (trust me, it’s more interesting than it sounds) and possibly be a bit smug about some posters we’ve bought as well.

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Postal Art

There is more to life than auctions. as proved by what Mr Crownfolio found on his internet wanderings recently.

GPO Art

What that link takes you to is a short Pathe film about, amazingly, the poster art of the GPO, dating from 1959.  Which means that you get treated to things like this Ruskin Spear.

Ruskin spear postman painting for GPO poster from pathe newsreal

This is the original, sitting on the walls of the GPO Head Office, where you can also find this rather lovely view of Iwerne Minster by John Minton as well.

John Minton painting of Iwerne Minster for GPO poster design on Pathe newsreel

But don’t worry, as the very period commentary will tell you, if you want to see art works like this without travelling to London, just pop into your local Post Office where these posters will be on display.

GPO posters on display from pathe newsreel 1959

The featured set of posters, mostly done by ‘arty’ artists, were apparently intended to give the viewer an awareness of place, which would in turn lead them to address their letters in the correct fashion.  Apparently.

But that’s not all there is on offer, the film also features the range of Greetings Telegrams which the GPO now offers, and it’s possible to play the game of Spot-the-Barbara-Jones-birdie (posted before here if you want a closer look).

Mixed GPO greetings telegrams from Pathe film including Barbara Jones

Sadly, the designer that they choose to feature isn’t Ms Jones herself, but one Shirley Thompson.  She’s shown working with F.B. Savage, head of the design department, on a Valentine’s Telegram.  But oh, just look at that office.

GPO art office from pathe film

I’d happily take anything they’ve got in there.  Frustratingly, though I can’t quite work out what they’ve got tucked down the side of the desk there.  It ought by rights to be one of these.

Tom Eckersley cat ornament poster GPO pack parcels carefully

Tom Eckersley toby jug please pack parcesl carefully GPO poster

Except neither of them quite match.  Is it a first draft?  Or is it something else altogther?  I can’t find anything more likely in the BPMA catalogue so if anyone can provide a positive identification, please do.

This film is by no means the end of things either, I can see just from its own page that there is another short film entitled ARP Posters.

Early ARP poster woman from Pathe newsreel

 

It’s a soundless set of rushes, just showing a set of early ARP posters in various ways.  But it’s valuable nonetheless.  I’ve never seen some of these posters before.

ARP egg timer poster from Pathe newsreel

 

I wonder what else lurks within their archives, waiting to be discovered?

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Looking a gift book in the mouth

A short Barbara Jones announcement for all of you who, like me, think that she deserves more recognition.  At last it seems to be happening.  Not only is the Black Eyes and Lemonade exhibition running at the Whitechapel until September, but now Jennings Fine Art are holding a selling exhibition of her work at the start of next month.  Including lovely things like this.

Barbara Jones gift book artwork neil jennings

It even comes with a caption:

Barbara JonesThe Gift Book

Watercolour and pen & ink, 1964. Original artwork for the front and rear covers of the book co-written with Isobel English. Extensively annotated by the artist. Reference: Artmonsky A6, illustrated p.129.

Provenance: The artist’s studio. 

I have no idea what it will cost, mind you.  Annoyingly, I can only find a teeny-tiny image of what the finished product looked like .

Barbara Jones gift book cover

This comes from the very useful Barbara Jones page at Ash Rare Books, which, by some oversight, I don’t think I’ve pointed out before.

There are more nice things in the exhibition too.  Here’s another.

Barbara Jones watercolour of horse on beach

 Seaside Pony & Cart

Watercolour.  Studio stamp verso.  Provenance: The artist’s studio.

James Russell has also posted, very interestingly, about Barbara Jones.  Mostly I will let you go and read it yourself, but there are two interesting facts in it that are worth repeating.

One is that Little Toller books are publishing a new edition of her book The Unsophisticated Arts, which you can read about here.  To my consternation, it includes additional drawings, ephemera and other material from her studio, which means that we’re going to have to buy it, despite having an original copy already.

The other, related fact is that her studio is, apparently, still extant.

Her studio has remained largely untouched since her death; most of the artwork has gone, but her sketchbooks and ephemera remain.  We spent hundreds of hours cleaning up the images and making them good for publication. it was a joy to work on because you look so closely at every single image and you see each page in a new way.

I’m boggled.  How has it survived and who is looking after it?  More to the point, I want to go and see it.  Now.

The selling exhibition, meanwhile, is from 5-9 and 12-17 June at the Peggy Gay Gallery, Burgh House, Hampstead.  Apparently Barbara Jones’s studio looked out onto Burgh House.

Barbara Jones sketch

 Mural Design for the Cake House, St James’s Park

A series of watercolour, gouache, pencil and pen & ink drawings, c.1969.  The New Cake House was opened by Mrs. Harold Wilson on 23/2/70.  The mural, constructed in ceramic tiles by Richard Parkinson, depicts the George III Jubilee celebrations held in the park in 1840.  We would like to thank Anthony Raymond and English Heritage for their assistance in cataloguing this work.  Provenance:  The artist’s studio.

Reference: Artmonsky pp.109-110; English Heritage Archive. (please note that this is only one drawing from the series)

I know I said that she deserves more recognition so I ought to be pleased about this, and for the most I am.  But at the same time, a small part of me minds that someone who I feel I stumbled upon by accident, along with a few others, is now becoming mainstream.  Still, I am sure Barbara Jones herself would have been very pleased, she was a fan of the popular after all.  So I will try to be pleased as well.

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