Foreign

We have now returned, after a fortnight which did look, at times, like this.

Sadly I couldn’t find a poster for our nearby resort, the delightfully named Tranche-sur-Mer, or Slice-on-Sea, so you’ll just have to believe me on that one.

Quite a lot of this was also consumed.

Back to things British shortly, when I’ve worked out what, if anything, has happened in my absence.  Do let me know what I’ve missed.

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Ferry nice

Oh heavens, I have just discovered a world of previously undiscovered and mostly rather kitch treasures, found by putting ‘ferry poster’ into various archives.  Unfortunately I can’t possibly fit them all in, because the purpose of this post is simply to say that Quad Royal is off across the channel for the next two weeks.

'Cross the Channel from Dover', BR poster, Laurence 1960

But I can’t stop at just one, so this is how I would like you to imagine us travelling.

'Cross with us to the Continentâ??, BR poster, 1963.

Mr Crownfolio will be wearing the sailor’s hat.  Au revoir and see you in a fortnight.

Bon Voyage British Railways poster Leonard Richmond

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Loves a sailor

An errand sent me rummaging through our stack of Daphne Padden bits and bobs the other day.  This made me realise two things.  One is that they really ought to be in an archive box, something which has been on my to do list for too long. The other – more relevant here – is that I never got round to scanning much of it in order that you lot could take a look at them.  It’s time to make amends, clearly.  Here’s a thoughtful bird to start with.

Daphne Padden sketch of bird

For those who weren’t around last year (where were you?), the executive summary is as follows.  After Daphne Padden’s death in 2009, a lot of her posters came up for auction in 2010.  We got in contact with the executors after this, and ended up buying a miscellany of drawings, sketches, designs and, well, other stuff which hadn’t been included in the auction.

Most of the archive has gone to the Brighton University Archive of Art and Design where it can be consulted by historians and designers (more exciting developments on this next month too) but we kept a few small pieces that we might want to display one of these days.  I posted pictures of a few of them when they arrived, but but promised more.  That was some time ago.  Oops.

This was the item which particularly made me feel remiss.  I swear I had never seen it before, although Mr Crownfolio assures me I have.

daphne padden design for sailor coach poster 1950s

It’s done in real detail but very small (just over 10cm high) and in a little paper folder, so I like to think that this was what she presented to the coach company as a proposal.  This is of course the poster commission which resulted, although it does exist with a couple of different varients in its lettering.

Daphne Padden Royal Blue vintage coach poster sailor 1957

She obviously liked this series of posters a great deal.  I’ve posted this study before, but it was all part of the same collection of things she kept over the years.

Daphne Padden old salt artwork

Along with this much rougher sketch, on a torn piece of brown paper.

Daphne padden sketch of sailor on brown paper

There’s nothing similar for any of her other designs, so she must have felt a real sentimental attachment for this one.

Also of interest are a couple of proofs for British Railways leaflets.  This one is helpfully stamped 1963.

Daphne Padden proof for British Railways leaflet 1963

Along with them is one finished leaflet, which looks as though it’s from a slightly different series.

Daphne Padden British Railways leaflet 1960s The English Lakes

(In case you also worry about these things as much as I do, the BR in-house printing department definitely did the inside on this one, it’s not very exciting at all.)

Once again, I would have had no idea that she’d designed these without this evidence.  I also have no idea where to start looking for them in the great sea of ephemera out there, so if anyone can point me at some more, I’d be very interested to see them.

Finally, there is this.  I have no idea what it is for or even if it was by her at all, but  I rather like it.

A sketch.  Possibly by Daphne padden

What do you think?

 

Posted in archives, designers | Tagged | 5 Responses

Sightseeing

The combination of house renovation and school holiday means that the blog has been a bit neglected recently.  By way of apology, here’s a very lovely bit of Abram Games, very much on an appropriate theme for the holidays.

Abram Games Sightseeing coach tours leaflet London Transport

Some closely related posters were on here the other day, but this isn’t it, rather it’s the leaflet which must have been part of the same campaign.  West End or City, do you think?  Or how about a trip out of town to Windsor, tea included in the fare?

What always strikes me about these kind of leaflets is how different the bulk of the typesetting is from the cover – the British Railways Holiday Haunts guides are another good example.  Outside we are in a modern and exciting world; inside it’s business as usual.

Abram Games sightseeing coaches leaflet london transport inside

I can only imagine that it was the covers and posters which got sent out to designers, while the rest was always done by the in-house design team.

In the end, though, I’m not sure that I mind that much – the mismatch is part of the period charm.  Nowadays everything would match, and every element of the design would chime with every other.  But would it be better as a result?  Perhaps not, just different.

 

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All join hands – panic!

Two things have sent my thoughts along the same path recently; an obituary of Eric Sykes in the Guardian, and this Goons record from 1956.

Mr Crownfolio insists that you press play, please, before reading any further. Thank you.

Bloodnock’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Call is worth considering in its own right; this was one of the first chart records with ‘rock and roll’ in the title and got to number 3, but it’s now almost completely and inexplicably forgotten in favour of the Ying Tong Song.

The connection between the two, and the probable reason that the record has been neglected, is the army.  The listeners to the Goon Show record probably knew very little of rock and roll, but the lyrics assume they all understand military language and mores, and furthermore will enjoy their subversion.

From the Guardian obituary, meanwhile, here’s Eric Sykes on the importance of the army to comedy in general.

Sykes [… ] believed that the only way Britain would get another crop of writers like Milligan, Frank Muir, Denis Norden, Speight and himself would be through the reintroduction of conscription. “Take ‘away the necessity of earning a living,” he said, “provide food and bed so that you can just sit on your backside for two years and you will find that the violinist will practise his violin, the language student will learn a language and the comedian will create comedy. It’s no good expecting it to come from people who are in boring, undemanding jobs, for they have already half-settled for what they’ve got. Conscription is an obvious staging post. A war is even better if you can keep alive.”

This connection between army life and comedy is interesting in its own right, but it’s also a way in to a very different take on the 1950s.  It’s easy, from here, to draw that decade and it’s reaction to the war in very simplistic terms.  Here are happy people, happy to take simplistic pleasures now that the conflict is over.

Tom Eckersley Hastings poster

Here are are a legion of housewives, driven back to the home but secretly discontented.

AP tripping with dripping image

Here are cheerfully bright colours in reaction to the porridge colours of the preceding decade.

Noel Carrington Colour and Pattern in the Home doctors house

We imagine the whole population, used to being ordered about, partaking of this life without dissent.  A conformist decade, in short.

But for almost the entire male population  of the country, and a considerable proportion of the women too, the experience of war is also the experience of the army.  While this means discipline, it also breeds a kind of insubordination and irrationality in reaction, even if it’s not actually spoken out loud at the time.

This bubbling up of silly voices and absurd responses is an important facet of the Goon Show.  It takes even clearer form in Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim, where Jim Dixon’s interior monologue is precisely this kind of anarchic response to authority figures and the comedy relies on the gap between expected deference and the desire to say something very stupid indeed.

In many ways this kind of hysteria feels like a much more authentic reaction to the stresses of war than simply choosing to paint the living room tomato red.

So, then, of course, I started to wonder whether the same impulse made itself felt in posters.  And of course it did.

Henrion London Transport poster 1956 Changing of the Guard

I’m sort of used to this Henrion poster by now, but it is really, very odd indeed.  In fact the whole set is.

F H K Henrion Hampton Court London Transport poster 1956

They’re all from 1956, so contemporaneous with Jim Dixon and the Goons.  This pair of Ungers come from the same year too.

Hans Unger London Transport poster 1956

Hans Unger whipsnade poster 1956 London Transport zebra

The last one is particularly peculiar if you ask me.

Now I know that this kind of nonsense rhyming has a long tradition in English, but I still think that the urge to put it onto posters is a sign of the times.  Although I would guess that the commissioning process didn’t let much of this kind of oddity and anarchy into print.

But I also think that its influence can be seen more widely as well.  Take this Abram Games, for example.

See London by London Transport coach, by Abram Games, 1950

Or this Tom Eckersley.

Conducted tours, by Tom Eckersley, 1957  London Transport

They’re both examples of classic 1950s poster design, in the way that they engage in a kind of visual punning, making a shape or an object mean two things at the same time.  It’s a style that owes something to surrealism, certainly, but I would also argue that its original impulse comes from the same place as Bloodnock’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Call, the desire to do the opposite of what is expected.

Conducted coach tours, by Abram Games, 1952  Published by London Transport

What’s gone wrong with our version of the 1950s is the 1960s.  Because we see that as the decade of youth, rebellion and subversion we, almost without thinking, need to make the decade which came before it conformist and rather dull.  While large swathes of it probably were quite a lot like that, it’s still unfair on the people who weren’t to forget them entirely.  And if we do remember the desire to answer back to the sergeant-major in a silly voice, perhaps it can also help us to look at the graphic design of the times in its wider cultural context.

Remember, send only 2/6 for a copy of this record.

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Say it with a poster

This week really isn’t going according to plan, and as a result I have not had much time to write.  Apologies for this.  I would like to say that the service will get better next week, but it’s the school holidays and I have a pub to rebuild.  Hey ho.

Not all of this unexpectedness is bad, however.  One good thing is that Quad Royal has been noticed.  To be precise we’re one of the Top 50 Blogs of 2012 in BBC Homes and Antiques Magazine, sandwiched between All Things Considered and Spitalfields Life, which is illustrious company indeed, and I am very grateful.

Christopher Greaves Say It With A Poster London Transport Poster 1933

Shall I tell you what they said too (just in case you can’t be bothered to click on the link)?

 The authors of this informative, thought-provoking blog are two avid poster collectors, ‘Mr & Mrs Crownfolio’, with quite particular tastes – namely British posters and graphics from the Forties, Fifties and Sixties. Read it for the content (you’ll learn a lot), the images (fabulous) or the details of upcoming auctions.

You may consider me very chuffed indeed.

Chelsea Flower Show, by T V Y, 1938 London Transport poster

The other surprise was advance notice of the Christies October Poster sale.  Yes, October, really; I was a bit hornswoggled too.  But this is not your average Poster Auction, oh no, this is a London Transport Museum Poster Auction.  Once again, I’ll let someone else do the talking.

The Museum manages one of the greatest poster collections in the world, thanks to the vision and legacy of one man: Frank Pick. When Pick became manager of the then failing Underground Electric Railway in the 1900s he initiated a modern, colourful, poster campaign which has been continued ever since. […] Fortunately, London Transport (as the Underground became known from 1933) kept duplicate copies of most of the posters it produced, and it is from this collection of spares that the selection offered for sale is drawn.

Although that doesn’t really give you a sense of the scale of the auction at all.  You really need to imagine that they are selling all the London Transport posters you have ever seen, in museum condition, and then adding a few more on for good measure too.  And then a couple more after that, just in case.

South Kensington Museums, by Edward Wadsworth, 1936 London Transport poster

Taking individual posters out of context doesn’t really do the sale justice though, the e-catalogue, with its thematic arrangement, is much more impressive.

Kew Gardens pages from Christies London Transport sale catalogue

Normally I find these page-flicking simulacra rather annoying, but in this case it’s well worth the effort.

Wimbledon

This is not only because of the scale of what is up for sale, although that is impressive enough.  But they’ve also included pictures of the posters out in the wild, at Tube stations.

Like this poster.

To the theatres, by Cecil Walter Bacon, 1934 London Transport poster

Seen here at Osterley Station.

Bacon theatres poster 1934 at Osterley Station display

There is also a photograph of poster nirvana, the London Transport Advertising Store in 1933.

London Transport Advertising Store 1933

Another strong case for inventing time travel if you ask me.

There are 153 pages to go through, so all I am going to do in this post is scrape the surface of what is on offer.  I’ll go back nearer the time and look more closely at prices and individual posters.  I may even have to, heaven forfend, pay Christies for an actual copy of the catalogue just so that I can take it all in.

Smoke abatement, by Beath, 1936 London Transport poster

But one thing does strike me on a general level.  In the nicest possible way, these are not my posters.  There is the odd exception, like this Edward Bawden.

Edward Bawden City pair poster London Transport 1952

We sold a copy of the pictorial side of that pair poster a few years ago.  And as is the case with almost every single half-decent poster that we have ever sold, I now wonder what on earth we were up to.  But never mind.

I also like this one too.

Earls Court, by Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1936 London Transport poster

And this one.

London Transport poster Misha Black and Kraber 1947 At London's Service

Not that I can afford any one of them, but never mind.

But these are almost entirely pre-1950s London Transport posters.  I can pick out the modernist ones, but there is also acres and acres of Deco and decorative to wade through in the catalogue.  But not a scent of very much at all post-war, bar the odd Bawden and this Abram Games.

London Transport at London's service, by Abram Games, 1947 London Transport poster

Now this isn’t an accidental choice, I don’t think.  The museum has made an interesting decision here, about what to sell and why – at least assuming that they have similar duplicates of the later posters too, which I am sure they do.  The Transport Museum, along with Christies,  may be guessing that the pre-war Deco-style posters have reached the top of their value.  Whereas the later posters are worth hanging on to because their worth may yet go up further.

Now no one is ever going to admit this out loud, so it can only ever remain guesswork on my part.  And of course all the Museum are doing are trying to be canny investors in their stock, which in this case is posters.  They’re hoping that they are getting out at the peak of the market – but they might be wrong and the market might yet go up further.  No one knows for sure, not even this owl.

London Transport poster Heath, owl, by Clifford Ellis and Rosemary Ellis, 1933

But if they are right, then would you want to buy a poster from this sale? Well you would if it was one you’d been after for ages and wanted to hang on your wall, that would be very sensible.  But if you are buying it as an investment?  Particularly considering the, um, quite optimistic valuations on what’s on offer (or, if I am more cynical, the decision to put every poster at £1200+ apart from the really expensive ones).

Anyway, we’ve got plenty of time to consider this between now and October.  But there is method in Christies’ madness; the announcement is now because 60 of the best posters are going to go on show at their King Street salerooms from now – I think – until 24 August.    This might just be worth a visit.  Because I don’t think I am going to be buying anything.

[And yes, the names of the poster artists aren’t on there yet because I have run out of time – this will be fixed at the weekend I promise!]

Posted in auctions, London Transport | 4 Responses