Not a poster

Exhibit A is a pair of recent acquisitions from eBay.

Frys chocolate varieties ephemera from eBay

The second one is, to my mind, a rather good bit of graphic design.

Fry's chocolate snowdrops ephemera

Now these are in lovely condition – they apparently came from the printer’s own archive – and so we thought we’d got a bit of a bargain.  Until they arrived.  They’re, um, quite small, as you can see from my cunning Minifigure + cat hair scaling device.

size of frys chocolate snowdrops poster thing

Now this is not the fault of the seller, although I could perhaps argue that they are not in fact posters; mostly the surprise is entirely of our own doing for not reading the dimensions on the listing.  So today’s moral is, read those eBay listings carefully otherwise you may not get what you think you’re getting.

All of which does rather beg the question of what in fact we did actually get.  I’m not even sure what the pieces of paper are for – Mr Crownfolio reckons that they are labels for sweet jars but I’m open to other suggestions if you have them.  Then there’s the matter of who designed them?  A brief investigation hasn’t come up with anything.  And what is a chocolate snowdrop anyway?  I have no idea.  But I do like their label.

While I am here, you might as well see a few other things we’ve bought recently, starting with a whole heap of GPO posters.  These three came from the same seller.

GPO evening calls poster brings you together 1963

USe the Household delivery service poster GPO 1964

Harry Stevens GPO poster sherlock holmes 1980

You won’t be too surprised to learn that the last one is by Harry Stevens.  What’s a bit more amazing is that it’s from 1980.  I think we may have a date for the last gasp of the classic GPO poster there.

This one only dates from 1966, but it’s a double winner, partly because it’s by Andre Amstutz, and partly because I love these Properly Packed Parcels Please posters and can’t get enough of them.

Amstutz properly packed parcels please poster 1966 GPO

While the last exhibit is, in a way, the reverse of the Fry’s chocolate ones, because it turned up in the post and was actually more interesting than I expected.

Scout bob a job week poster

Just look at those paper sculpture scouts.  A sentence you don’t get to use often enough.


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Who knew?

Today’s news is that I did something to something yesterday and discovered a whole new online archive.  For a collection that I had no idea even existed in real life.

It turns out that the British Council owns a socking great heap of posters.  Made up of things like this McKnight Kauffer.


And this Purvis.

EAST COAST JOYS 1932 Tom Purvis

And even this anonymous psychedelic gem.

Beat the breathalyser smoke pot

These – and the many hundreds of others which go with them – come from the Alan Mabey archive, whose story is told on the British Council’s website as follows.

Mrs Phyllis Mabey donated this collection of over 300 posters to the British Council in August 1977. At the time she wrote “I should be very glad to hand the collection to The British Council as a gift, as I feel sure that it could not be in better hands, and it will be kept as a collection and not broken up.I wish that the collection be preserved as an entity and that it should be known as the Alan Mabey Collection.

I’ve tried to Google Mr and Mrs Mabey without finding anything out at all, least of all why they failed to give the whole lot to me.  But I can tell you one or two things about Alan Mabey just from looking at the archive.

The first is that he liked McKnight Kauffer very much indeed, because he must have owned pretty much every poster that Kauffer ever produced.  At leas that’s what it looked like.


There are acres of Kauffer’s designs for London Transport on the site, which I won’t bother illustrating because you’ve almost certainly seen them before.  But Alan Mabey also picked up some other designs of Kauffers which don’t come up anything like as often.  These two are new to me.

poster - READ 'CRICKETER' IN THE MANCHESTER GUARDIAN 1923 Edward McKnight Kauffer

vintage poster POMEROY DAY CREAM 1922 Edward McKnight Kauffer

I think more modern advertising should be along these lines.

The archive would be worth your time simply for these, but there is plenty more, because Alan Mabey had the kind of catholic taste that I can only approve of.  He liked Shell posters and London Transport too, although interestingly there aren’t many railway posters.  Amongst these are plenty enough of the recognised heroes and heroines of graphic design – not just Kauffer, but also Dora Batty, Austin Cooper and Frank Newbould.

poster ORIENT LINE CRUISES Frank Newbould

But he also bought some less obviously collectable posters, the kind of commercial art, in short, which is so often left out of the record.  The first of these is by Robert Gossop from 1928, the second is dateless and anonymous.


JAMAL THE FREEDOM WAVE vintage poster 1930s

This F Gregory Brown is also rather fine.


What doesn’t tend to be represented as much is the kind of post-war poster that I love most of all.  There are one or two, to be sure, like this 1963 Abram Games.

poster KEEP BRITAIN TIDY 1963 Abram Games

Again, this is matched with some of the more commercial work of the time.

PASCALL SWEETS MAKE LIFE SWEETER 1947 advertising poster

CHRISTMAS WISE D H EVANS 1946 Barbosa poster reindeer

The first is anonymous, but the second one is by Barbosa, and the website gives a rather wonderful biography for him.

Artur Barbosa was born in Liverpool, the son of the Portuguese vice-consul and a half-French mother. He studied at Liverpool School of Art and the Central School of Art in London. Whilst still a student he produced illustrations for Everybody’s Weekly and The Radio Times, in addition to producing book covers. He is probably best remembered for his cover illustrations for the Regency romances of Georgette Heyer. In addition to cover illustrations, Barbosa also designed for the stage, produced drawings for fashion magazines and the leading advertising agencies. Barbosa was at school with Rex Harrison, the friendship endured into adulthood when Harrison commissioned Barbosa to design the interiors of his villa in Portofino. This in turn led to a commission to refurbish Elizabeth Taylor’s yacht, the Kalizma.

What is present though, as the poster at the top has hinted, is a major collection of psychedelic posters from the 1960s.

FAIRPORT CONVENTION 1968 Greg Irons  poster

What I can’t tell you is whether any of this this represents Alan Mabey’s taste or not, because the British Council has been augmenting the collection over the years.

 Since the bequest the collection was augmented by post-war works by leading British artists and designers acquired by General Exhibition Department.

They must have been doing that quite heavily too; they say that the bequest was over 300 posters, but the online catalogue runs to 843.  Which is quite a lot.

F Godfrey Brown Ideal Home Show exhibition 1930s poster

There are two things to say about the archive.  One is that only about a quarter of the poster are illustrated.  However much I have tried to work through the full list of titles, my feel for the collection is still very much based on what I have seen rather than read.  I actually found the collection when looking for a Tom Eckersley Post Office Savings Bank poster from 1952, so there is plenty more treasure within.  How about this wartime Edward Wadsworth lithograph, produced by the Council for Encouragement of Music and the Arts?

SIGNALS 1942 Edward Wadsworth  lithograph CEMA

I need to know more.

The other point worth making is that this is actually one of the major British poster collections.  It may not be quite as large as the V&A’s, but it has some of the same scope and ambition.  But I had no idea that it even existed.  So what else is out there that I need to know about?

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Something fishy going on

I had a theory when I started on this post, but after some research I have now authoritatively blown it out of the water (the pun in that will become apparent later on).  However it’s still an interesting journey to travel, so this post will mostly be me showing my workings in order to prove myself wrong.  Never mind.

The starting point is this rather wonderful object that arrived in my inbox over the weekend.

Daphne Padden Glass Panel Royal Blue Coaches fisherman image

Oh that the object itself had turned up.

It’s a version of Daphne Padden’s Royal Blue fisherman, painted onto glass for some coach office somewhere.  Having been kept by an employee of Royal Blue, it’s been bought by a transport collector. I am very envious.

But it got me back to thinking about Daphne Padden and fishermen.  As I’ve posted relatively recently, she liked them quite a lot, and kept going back to them as a motif.

Daphne Padden Royal Blue poster ours from morphets

I’ve tended to think of them as being Cornish fishermen, but as it turns out, they’re not.  Here’s another one of hers, for example, advertising the delights of East Anglia.

Daphne Padden coaches to east anglia fish vintage poster

I don’t own this poster and have had to borrow it from The Lark’s Flickr stream, so thanks to them.

But these fishermen weren’t just a quirk of Daphne Padden’s.  At about the same period, Harry Stevens was also mining a very similar vein of imagery.

Harry Stevens Atlantic Coast express british railways poster artwork 1955

Both to advertise Cornwall (the artwork above) and East Anglia as well.

harry stevens vintage coach poster london east anglia fisherman

Mr Crownfolio has always reckoned that this poster is Harry Stevens’ affectionate pastiche of Daphne Padden’s Royal Blue poster.  But I’m intrigued that they’re both starting to use the same imagery at about the same time.

Because either side of the war, the attraction of fishing ports was always the red-sailed boats themselves.  Here’s Ronald Lampitt in 1936 and Frank Sherwin, possibly from 1946.

Poster, Great Western Railway, Cornwall by Ronald Lampitt, 1936.

SHERWIN, FRANK (1896-1985)  CORNWALL Great Western railway poster 1946

The red sails are, it will not surprise you to learn, also used to advertise East Anglian destinations, in this case by Frank Mason.

Frank Mason East coast havens poster 1946

Now this is where I was all prepared to work out a neat little theory about the evolution of nostalgia.  There must have come a time when the red sails had so completely disappeared that they could no longer be used as a sign for the fishing port, not even in a past tense kind of way.  But the fishermen were still there on the quay, so they came to be the new signifier for this kind of place.

Except there is one great big fly in this ointment, which is that one particular fisherman had been extolling the joys of the seaside a long time before any of these posters were designed.  It is of course this one, John Hassell’s jolly fisherman for Skegness.

Poster, London & North Eastern Railway, Skegness is So Bracing by John Hassall, 1926.

That version is from 1926, but he goes back as far as 1908, and also persists for a very long time.  Here’s Frank Newbould reworking him in 1935.

'Skegness is so Bracing', LNER poster, 1933.

While here’s another one from 1962.

'Old and young find Skegness is so bracing British Railways poster, c 1961.

So my theory is, well, not exactly watertight.  Please feel free to prove it wrong in any other ways you choose.

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Kroll and more

So much has actually arrived here at Quad Royal over the last few weeks that I couldn’t fit it all into one post.  Which means that it’s back to the mailbox again today.

At the start of the summer I posted about Stan Krol, mostly along the lines of how little I knew about him.  Luisa Valerio got in touch and gave me a few more details – in fact it’s probably worth reproducing her comment here for those of you who missed it at the time.

He was born in Poland (grew up in Warsaw), in a jewish family, only son, his parents had a paint factory. He studied chemistry. Just before WWII left Poland alone and travelled throughout europe until he reached England, about 1940. Then he joined the army, in scotland. There was some long illness, and after that Stan started a new life: studied at st. andrews university and became a graphic designer. Worked in London as a freelance artist from then on. Married Hazel (ballerina from Berlin, real name Ingeborg) at 54, no children. They lived in Barnes, London. Stan died in 1985, Hazel in 2001. I remember him as a very kind and good humored person, who loved his work. I visited him in London from the late seventies and saw drawers full of posters in his studio. My favourite was another cat safety warning: “be seen, wear white at night” . Many people must have kept stan’s beautiful new year’s cards – he designed one every year.

Luisa has now gone to the effort of sending me some of his designs too. So here’s the black cat poster, but turned into his card that year.

Stan Krol New years card with black cat rospa design 1968

If anyone has that poster, can I have it please?

Here’s another one of his cards, and it’s worth my reproducing the inside too; it’s a good piece of design for a client I wouldn’t otherwise have suspected of commissioning that sort of thing.

Stan Krol Christmas card port of boulogne

Stan Krol christmas card port of boulogne inside

How many great bits of design like that have just disappeared? Uncountable numbers I should think.   Here are a few more of his cards, which are also numbers.

Stan Kroll card 1961

Stan Kroll card 1966

And also a dog.  Which is brilliant.

Stan Krol dog new year card

To cap this all off  below is Stan himself, in Portugal in 1940.


Given that he is a refugee without a country to call his own, in the middle of a world war, he is looking both dapper and cheerful.  I respect that a lot.

I also got an invitation to the British Art Fair at the Royal College of Art next week.  Neil Jennings, who is exhibiting there and sent the invitation, is promising Barbara Jones, Edward Bawden and Kenneth Rowntree amongst others.  Here’s the Barbara Jones for your viewing pleasure.  I particularly like the stook duck houses, which are exactly the kind of thing to catch her attention.

Barbara Jones watercolour 1967 mill poin

Along with its blurb:

Barbara Jones Calbourne Water Mill, Isle of Wight
Watercolour, c.1967.  Inscribed verso by the artist in pencil, Robert John Weekes/Send Faber Leads/Roller Mill/Calbourne I.o.W.

Although the work is undated, it relates to another work from the same collection, dated 1967
Provenance: Private collection, Sussex.

There’s been more too, including a railwayana catalogue and a copy of Modern Publicity, along with my very own copy of the catalogue for the giant Christies London Transport sale. Some or all of which will appear on the blog next week.  Or something completely different if I get distracted.  Wait and see.

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Going Postal

The blog has been a little bit overlooked lately.  Apologies for that, I’ve had a rather urgent appointment with some wallpaper that needed to be removed.  It’s been a bad time to be distracted as well, because people – well the readers of this blog to be precise – have been sending me things.  And they’ve been rather good.

Let’s start with these, mostly because I asked for them.  ‘Did Daphne Padden design any other leaflets for British Railways?’, I asked the other day.  The answer is a resounding yes.

Daphne Padden British Railways Leaflet Isle of Man

And here’s another, although I’ll be blowed if I have any idea what a ‘Radio Cruise’ is.  Can anyone enlighten me?

British Railways Brochure Cambrian Radio Cruise Daphne Padden front cover

She even designed the insides of this one too.

British Railways Brochure Cambrian Radio Cruise Daphne Padden inside design

Which include this rather fine map.

British Railways Brochure Cambrian Radio Cruise Daphne Padden map

Are there more out there?  I hope so, although I am anticipating that I might have to do something frightening, like attend a transport ephemera fair, to find them.

Meanwhile through the actual mail box came a small set of  these little London Transport prints – I’m sure there is a precise art historical word for what they are but I’m afraid I don’t know it.  Anyway, they were a fantastic gift all the way from America so thank you very much.

Small London Transport prints - front covers

What I got was four little folders, each containing a small print of a London Transport poster from 1953.  Here’s St James’ Palace by David Lewis.

London Transport poster print david Lewis St James Palace

Each print was the pictorial half of a pair poster, so making the transfer to prints quite well.  I can’t decide whether my favourite is the John Bainbridge or the Sheila Robinson (both artists who deserve further notice on this blog one day).

London Transport poster print John Bainbridge Royal London 1953

London Transport poster print Kensington Palace Sheila Robinson 1953

I have no idea, however, what the purpose of these were.  Were they bought by the public and framed, or where they sent out by London Transport as a form of publicity? Or some other reason that I can’t even guess at.  If anyone can enlighten me, please do.

While we’re on the subject of London Transport, this is also rather good.

London Transport spoof

This also reminds me that I’ve been meaning to mention the work of artist Micah Wright for a while.  He’s been working on ironic modern versions of propaganda posters for a while, and got in contact with the blog to say that we might like this take on Pat Keely. He was right.

Micah Wright version of pat Keely wireless poster

Most of what he does is American in origin, but it’s still very much worth taking a look at his PropagandaRemix website.

Micah Wright propaganda remix war poster

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a wall that needs demolishing.  But if you’ve got anything else to send me in the meantime, please feel free.

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Spot the birdy

Another day on Quad Royal, another bird.  But today’s isn’t any old bird, oh no; this is a Festival of Britain bird.

Joan Nicholson needlework bird Festival of Britain

Yes really.  This very bird was made to ornament some of the room sets in the Festival and it’s not just a copy but the actual thing.  So what’s it doing on my coffee table (other than for me to take not very good photographs of it)?

Birds by Joan Nicholson from Festival of Britain

A fewof these birds – along with many other delights –  came to visit earlier this summer thanks to their current owner, Nancy Nicholson.   Nancy is not only a textile and pattern designer in her own right, but is also the daughter of one of the power couples of 1950s design, Roger and Joan Nicholson.

I’ve written briefly about Roger Nicholson before (since then I’ve discovered even more of his contribution to design at the time and really owe him another post one day). Joan was a talented designer in her own right whose most famous commission was the wall hanging for the Queen’s bedroom on the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Queens Bedroom on Royal yacht britannia with embriodery by Joan Nichsolson

She also wrote several classic books about embroidery and produced some delightfully idiosyncratic designs – here’s just one.  I hope to show you some more in due course.

Joan Nicholson needlepoint

But back to the birds.  In 1951, Roger Nicholson, along with his brother Robert,  designed a number of the room sets in the Homes and Gardens Pavilion at the Festival of Britain  This, for example, is the Headmaster’s Study.

Roger Nicholson Headmaster study roomset for Festival of Britain

At some point, it was decided that the rooms were all looking a bit austere and needed a bit more decoration.  So Joan Nicholson was asked if she could help.  The result was these birds.

Joan NIcholson bird ornamenents from Festival of Britain

These have to be incredibly rare – how many actual items which were displayed at the Festival still exist? Not many I would guess.  But they’re also interesting because they do something which I always enjoy, which is disrupt the conventional narrative of the Festival of Britain.

Roger Nicholson Room design Festival of Brigain

The story of interior decoration at the Festival is always supposed to be one of a Scandinvian style modernism which sweeps all before it, including decorative clutter.  But take another look at these rooms.  Yes, they may not have the array of knick-knacks which would have graced a 1930s fireplace.  But ornaments haven’t entirely disappeared.  The headmaster up there has some odds and ends on his shelf, while the farmer for whom this dining area was designed has a whole trophy cabinet of pewter as well as a rather covetable china bull.

Roger Nicholson Farmer room Festival of Britain Homes and Gardens

So when we remember the Festival of Britain, let’s not just honour the Robin Day chairs and Terence Conran tables, let’s honour the ornaments too.  Because the reality is always so much more complicated than the myth.

More than that, we must also remember the people who weren’t Robin Day and Terence Conran, but who also made the Festival what it was.  People like Joan and Roger Nicholson.

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