Oddities and curiosities

Right you lucky people, the Onslows Summer auction is upon us and it is time at last to see what is on offer.

Except amongst the things that haven’t been up before, there isn’t very much that makes my heart beat faster.  It’s a sale of curiosities and oddities, well for me at least.  Things like this very late Ashley Havinden from 1962.

Ashley Havinden (1962) Join the Welsh Guard, original Recruiting poster

Ashley Havinden, 1962, est. £70-100

This poster won an advertising award but ironically was not a success due to being printed in English.


While this Tom Purvis would be odd on the basis of what it is advertising alone.

Tom Purvis (1888-1959) Sleep Allenburys Diet, original varnished lithograph poster, mounted on old linen with wood batons top and bottom
Tom Purvis, est. £500-1,000

What you can’t see from that image is that it is also the size of a house (well, nearly).  Here’s the photo taken when it was originally sold in 1990 at the sale of Purvis’s studio.

Purvis poster shown to scale

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

This poster also keeps coming up at the moment (and if I am honest, I keep trying to buy it for cheap and failing).

Nevin's B+I Line Liverpool - Dublin, original poster printed C W Massey poss Henrion
est £200-300

Onslows don’t give an attribution, but I do swear that says Henrion.  Any thoughts, anyone?

Entertainly after the conversations earlier this week, these two Ralph Mott posters have also made an appearance.

Ralph Mott vintage 1930s b2b railway poster
Ralph Mott, late 1930s, est £70-100

Ralph Mott (1888-1959) Warehouse your Goods, original poster printed for GWR,LMS,LNER,SR  Vintage railway poster
Ralph Mott, late 1930s, est £70-100

Yes, that does say British Railways on the second one.  The plot thickens.

There are, of course, plenty more railway posters on offer, and however much I keep going through the listings, none of the classic ones are really speaking to me in this sale.  My favourite is probably this one.

Nevin (dates unknown) The French and Italian Riviera, original poster printed for BR by Charles & Read 1953
Nevin, 1953, est. £400-500

I’m as surprised about that as anyone.

In the case of this Alan Durman, I feel as though I ought to like it, but just can’t quite manage to.

lan Durman (1905-1963) Herne Bay on the Kent Coast, original poster printed for BR(SR) by Baynard 1962
Alan Durman, 1962, est. £600-700

Whether this is because it’s not quite as good as the rest of his stuff, or simply because it’s all been a bit overexposed recently, I don’t know.  Whichever way round, I doubt that I’m reflecting the majority taste here.  But if midcentury we must have, and we must it seems, I’d rather it looked like this.

John Cort Winter Sports go by train, original poster printed for BR(SR)
John Cort, est. £250-300

But it’s not all about railway posters, all the usual categories are there too.  Like GPO posters.  There’s a slew of these more modern ones.

Ken Howard (b1932) The Post Office in Space, Goonhilly Downs, original poster PRD 1636
Ken Howard, est £70-100.

I like the idea of the Post Office in Space a great deal, but generally my experience with this kind of design is that I can scarcely pay people to take them away.  Lets see if Onslows have more luck.  There are also one or two good posters too.

Manfred Reiss, vintage GPO poster 1950 helps the export drive
Manfred Reiss, 1950, est. £250-300

This is labelled as Beaumont, but the signature, to my eyes at least, seems to say Reiss.  Must find out more about both of them though.

There are also wartime posters by the tonne, of which this is probably the most interesting one.

Anon Dig For Victory, For their sake - Grow your own vegetables, printed for HMSO by Weiner circa 1940
Anonymous, est. £300-400

From which you might conclude, quite rightly, that the remainder are of more interest as memorabilia than for their graphic design value.  For example, this Reginald Mayes straddles both WW2 and railway posters, hence the estimate, but I don’t think I’d frame it and hang it up to look at.

Reginald Mayes Reginald Mayes (1901-1992) In War and Peace we serve, No 573 printed for GWR, LMS, LNER and SR by Truscott c 1940
Reginald Mayes, 1940, est. £700-1,000

Mind you, I’ve had my fill of Union Jacks this month as it is.

There are also London Transport posters too.  This pre-war Freda Lingstrom is in my mind a much nicer thing than the Mayes, but is estimated at much less.

Freda Lingstrom (1893-1989) To the Countryside, original poster printed for London Transport by Vincent Brooks Day 1933
Frida Lingstrom, 1933, est. £250-350

One day I will work out the precise price loading which is added for a picture of a steam train.

At the end there are also a nice run of David Klein posters, with some temptingly low estimates.

David Klein, 1962, est. £200-300

Or for even less, you can get the understated British version.

Gaynor Chapman (1935-2000) Britain Tower of London, original poster printed for British Travel by W S Cowell 1968
Gaynor Chapman, 1968, est. £50-70

There’s a very good reason why the sale has turned out this way, and it’s a point that was made very strongly this week.

The answer is of course eBay, where a whole set of these wartime RoSPA posters was up for auction.

Pat Keeley vintage world war two rospa poster swarf

They fetched reasonable prices for slightly battered posters printed on thin paper – this Keeley with a Rothholz on the back went for £67, with the top price being £150.

But once upon a time a lot like this would only ever have been sold at an auction house, probably making its way up to Onslows in the end.  But now they don’t.  Who’d be an auctioneer these days?

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I have nothing to say about this other than that it is brilliant.

Surbiton lagoon genius

I should have been able to tell you that it was for sale at Books & Things too, but I sent the picture over to a friend who comes from Surbiton as I thought it might amuse her.  She only went and bought it, didn’t she.

You can, however buy this.

Barbara Jones Christmas card cat 1957

In fact you probably should.  It’s Barbara Jones’ Christmas Card from 1957, and its for sale on eBay right now.

I do know, that this isn’t what I promised, which was a post about Onslows.  Events, dear boy, events.   It will be here in due course.

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As promised, the results of last week’s compeitions.   The first thing I need to say is thank you, because this has afforded me a great deal of entertainment; a high standard of entries came in, almost none of which had been seen before on here.  We should do this more often.

All of which has made the judging a bit difficult.  A couple of themes did recur, one of which was the idea that an unseen Daphne Padden poster was bound to be chosen.  I suspect James had his tongue just a little bit in his cheek when he suggested this one.

Daphne Padden Royal Blue artists proof

It’s ours, and as it’s an odd proof copy I rather suspect that there isn’t another one out there either.  Very good.

Other themes included football (which I don’t think I have ever mentioned on here before so it’s a fair cop) and pre-war posters, both of which come together in this 1935 Eckersley-Lombers suggested by medieval modernist.

1935 vintage London transport poster Eckersley Lombers football

I will try and remember that quite a few of you like 1930s modernism a bit more than I do when I’m posting from now on.

Another mention also has to go to medieval modernist for putting forward the best thing by a poster artist which isn’t a poster, this card by Tom Eckersley.

Tom Eckersley Tiger card 1982

It’s great, but it’s definitely not a poster.  So it doesn’t win.

But I can’t keep you on tenterhooks forever.  The winner, then, has to be this, for being so completely Quad Royal that I am bashing my head repeatedly against the desk in bewilderment that I haven’t put it on here before.

Vintage post office savings bank poster eric fraser 1953 genius

And that’s before I award the extra points for Diamond Jubilee topicality.  So congratualations to self-confessed ‘new kid on the block’ Nick Morgan, who will get a copy of the book by post at some point this week, when buying the new Crownfolio Towers allows.

There was only supposed to be one winner, but then the publishers, Shire, came through and offered another prize.  That will be going to this piece of ‘Ralph Mott’ (aka artists agents’ Ralph and Mott, aka probably Reg Lander who was their studio manager), which although pre-war has to win for being not only modernist and bizarre, but also the worst piece of photoshopping ever done before the invention of Photoshop.

Ralph Mott railway poster prewar odd cow

Just look at the legs on that cow.  Another book will be off to Sanderson in due course.

That’s actually the original artwork, which is currently on sale at Liss Fine Art.  It’s worth following the link as there are some other crackers there, shown alongside the finished posters.  Oddly, the railways don’t seem to have produced a poster from the image above. Can’t think why.  What’s also strange is the lorry says ‘British Railways’ down the side, over what looks like Tippex, while the other posters were commissioned by the big four pre-war companies.  Perhaps this one was never produced because of the war and then they thought about having another go afterwards.  And then looked at the legs on that cow and shook their heads.

Finally, there was one more copy going in a general draw for comments/tweets/followers and that’s gone to @NemesisRepublic on Twitter.

So thank you again to everyone who took part.  Normal service will finally resume later this week, with a good look at the new Onslows sale.


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Not to be sneezed at

Apologies for the radio silence, I have had raging tonsillitis and not been able to string even a simple sentence together until now.

Imperial War Museum poster world war two propaganda poster british public

Competition results will appear on Monday, and there’s still time to squeeze some last entries in before the 5pm deadline.  See you next week for some proper posts.  Cough.

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Today is the day that the book officially goes on sale (although if we’re honest here, Amazon have been selling it for a while).

Home Front Posters Shire books Susannah Walker front cover

Even so, I thought I’d mark the day with a competition.

So, there are two copies up for grabs here.  One you can win in a simple draw – all you need to do to enter this is either leave a comment here, or follow me on Twitter; for those who follow me already, then just RT my tweet about the competition.

Getting hold of the second requires a bit more skill and discrimination.  This copy will go to the person who sends me (link or image, don’t mind) the best poster I haven’t yet put on the blog.  Here’s my entry.

Leonard Woy You are not paid to take risks Rospa poster 1961

All of this high jinks closes on 5pm on Friday, winners announced on Monday, judges decision firm, fair and final.

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Singing Together

Friday, so what could be better than some Barbara Jones birds, even if they are a bit grubby round the edges.

Barbara Jones Singing Together BBC Schools booklet 1957

Todays flock are pretty self-explanatory, playing in another lovely BBC Schools booklet of songs and music for children.  (I have actually mentioned these before, but now a copy is in my own hands, so you get to see it again).

Along with the songs ,there are further Barbara Jones drawings inside. These are in a much freer style, but still with her trademark exccentricity.

barbara jones green broom illustrations from BBC Singing Together schools booklet 1957

Mind you, the songs invite it.  The illustration above is for a traditional folk song called Green Broom which – as you might guess from the illustration – is pretty much a pagan welcome to spring.  While the young man worrying about his hair below goes with  Benjamin Britten’s setting of Begone Dull Care.

Barbara Jones illustration from BBC Singing Together schools booklet 1957

Also in there are bits of Schubert and Grieg, along with Victorian ballads and Norwegian folk songs. It’s almost as though Barbara Jones has had a hand in the selection process too.

The birds came as part of a selection box of these leaflets, all from the 1950s.  They’re all interesting, but a couple of them particularly so.  Summer 1954 was done by Derrick Hass.

BBC Singing Together booklet Summer 1954 Derrick hass illustrations

We’ve discussed him on here before (see the comments too for some memories of him) but he’s worth mentioning again in the context of what designers went on to do in the 1960s and beyond.  The prevailing story is that the rise of the all-in advertising agency put paid to the old-style poster designer:  a few – like Eckersley and Games – carried on, some like Henrion and Pick formed corporate identity consultancies, and who knows what happened to the rest.  But Derrick Hass bucked the trend by not only going into agency work but becoming an enormously successful and respected creative director who worked and won awards right up until retirement age, forty years after he did these.

BBC singing together Derrick Hass Summer 1954 small illustration

That’s quite an achievement.

Meanwhile I just like this Heather Lacey illustration, perhaps because it reminds me of illustrations in Puffin books.

Heather Lacey BBC Singing Together booklet 1950s

I can find nothing out about her at all, mainly because half of the internet seems to be called Heather Lacey.  If anyone knows more, please let me know.

These booklets, taken all together, were quite an achievement.  Every term, a school would get a new set of illustrations along with their music, perhaps not all of as wonderful as the ones I have chosen but certainly all good.  I’ve said it before but I’m quite happy to say it again; I’d love it if I thought my daughter was being exposed to both music and illustration of this quality in her primary school lessons.  But I’m pretty sure she isn’t, and that’s a profound loss.

We’ve grown used to seeing this kind of top-down culture (this is great art, you must know about it and I am right) as being elitist, discriminatory and rife with snobbery.  We don’t believe any more that the BBC or indeed any kind of media should be exposing us to high art, rather that they should be giving us what we want.  There is some truth in all of this, and in any case we can’t turn the clock back.  But we should also remember that sometimes, just sometimes, the result was profoundly democratic, and particularly so in things like these booklets where the art just arrives without any comment.  All children should be given the chance to see and hear illustrations and music like this.  They don’t have to like them – and we shouldn’t think any the less of them if they don’t. But if we just give them photocopied sheets of popular songs, we are taking away from them the chance of knowing these things exist.  And for a few children that might be the chance of knowing who or what they wanted to become.

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