In a slightly incongruous justaposition, the severe lines of London Transport photo-modernism bring you…
(courtesy of the London Transport Museum).
In a slightly incongruous justaposition, the severe lines of London Transport photo-modernism bring you…
(courtesy of the London Transport Museum).
No arguing with that, is there.
Although for today’s post, the results we are mostly bothered about come from auctions, as all at once there is a rush of new sales on the horizon and I can hardly keep up.
That poster above is included in Poster Auction International’s May 6 sale in New York. There isn’t a great deal else of British interest there, except to say that it’s always good to see something by Ashley Havinden.
I’m also going to make one of my periodic exemptions for things foreign, mainly because this exhibition poster by Max Bill is just an extraordinary piece of design for 1945.
Max Bill, 1945, est. $800-1,000
It still looks modern now, so back then it must have seemed like a visitation from the future.
Other than that, there is what looks like a chance to buy the complete works of Alphonse Mucha, but if you’ve got enough money to do that – estimates go as high as $90,000 – you’re probably not reading this blog for advice on posters.
There’s a bit more to detain the rest of us at the forthcoming Van Sabben auction on April 21st, although most of it comes from the well-trodden paths of airline advertising, wartime and post-war propaganda posters and the London Underground.
Having said that, even these can deliver a few surprises, the greatest of which is probably this Beaumont. In fact more of a fright than a surprise really; Mr Crownfolio is very worried that someone has beheaded their mum and put her in the cabbage patch.
Leonard Beaumont, 1950, est. €120-400
Even at the top end, that estimate seems fairly reasonable when you consider that the lot also includes three other posters of the same ilk, all dating, I think, from after the war.
On a similar theme is this poster, although with the added bonus of an interestingly menacing tone.
Once again, there is a slew of airline posters, many of which have featured on this blog before. Of those, the most desirable is probably this Abram Games.
But there are a few novelties here too. This is one.
I have never come across Glad before, but it’s really rather good, so if anyone can knows more, please do let me know.
The second is by John Bainbridge, about whom I do know more and have been meaning to post about for some time, because he is both excellent and not well enough known.
Although he worked in Britain for much of his career, John Bainbridge was originally from Australia, and there is a really good archive of his work over there, which I must post about one day.
There aren’t many London Transport posters for once, but those few are quite unusual. This first one can only be from the 1930s.
Van Sabben also have the poster below dated to 1935, which seemed a bit odd to me. And a brief delve into the LT Museum site gives a date of 1950 instead, as well as confirming that it is one half of a pair poster.
Again, this looks like quite a bargain, as it also gets you this S John Woods poster from the same year as well.
Oddly, the other half of the farms pair poster is also on sale, but in a different lot.
I’m no completist when it comes to pair posters – would you ever really put the other half up on the wall? So given the choice, I think I’d probably rather have the S John Woods instead.
As if all of that wasn’t enough for one day, Poster Connection also have a sale in San Francisco on 28th April. There are airline posters, and that’s probably all I need to say about it. But I did rather like this one.
But it’s not just the gaiety I like, it’s also a reminder of the huge gulf between Britain and America at this point. Britain was still enduring austerity, worse even than during the war, and this brightly coloured poster would have been an unimaginable luxury, depicting foreign travel which could only be dreamed off. Such stuff were for export only, as the country desperately tried to entice Americans over to spend their money, and so help pay off the war debt.
Truly I have taken leave of my sense, because I have bought a presentation pack of stamps.
Now under any other circumstances this would be the piece of ephemera too far and you would be at complete liberty to laugh and point at me. Except it looks like this.
Rather good, isn’t it?
These are the stamps inside, and the blurb tells me that they are by Abram Games, so I am rather assuming the cover is too.
The pack also tells me that they commissioned Games because of his holiday posters, which for me immediately brought this one to mind.
But when I googled, the image that came up time and time again was not that deckchair but his parasol instead.
This is the one in the collection of MoMA in New York, the one that has sold for £1,700 at Christies, and is clearly the big cheese in the world of Abram Games Jersey posters. Which just goes to show how little I know.
But in the course of tracing its triumphs, I also found that it had an interesting afterlife too. It was, it appears, reversioned as a BEA poster too, which isn’t something I’ve ever come across before.
And then there’s this: proof that a great graphic idea can be easily misapplied.
Games must have loved that.
Following on from the comments on my last piece about the inexplicable gap between eBay prices and elsewhere, a couple of instructive compare and contrasts for you.
Firstly, this excellent piece of sixties-iana, about which I know nothing except the rather obvious fact that it is for Pan Am.
Oh, and that its current asking price is $3,250. If you’re tempted, it’s in an online exhibition of travel posters held by the International Vintage Poster Dealers Association. I am not, you will be unsurprised to learn, a member.
However, if you are more of a fan of the poster than the price, then you can rue your missed opportunity, because it did turn up on eBay at the end of last year, where it fetched just $384.99.
Example two we have seen only the other day, as it’s Victor Pasmore’s exhibition poster which is up at Christies next month.
This too came up on eBay only about six weeks ago, when it went for just £125. In case you need reminding, the Christies estimate is £600-800.
Now I know that price can depend on condition, but even so the discrepancies are huge. And given that both these posters are fairly rare (I have never ever seen either of them before now), the odds must be quite good that it’s the same poster being sold on.
One more example, although in this case the price discrepancy is partly explained by the fact that the original listing is in German. Tom Eckersley’s book on Poster Design, the source of this wonderful illustration.
Now the last time this went past on eBay, the asking price £75, give or take a penny. But the lucky purchaser in the German auction got it for just one euro. And you can’t really blame that on the whole thing being written in foreign, because it did say ‘Tom Eckersley’ very clearly in the title.
So, eBay: an enigma and a mystery. And probably also quite a good business model if you’re interested in buying cheap and selling expensive. Any economists out there with any more interpretations?
While we’re on the subject of Tom Eckersley, another way round high auction prices is available. The V&A are selling reproductions of his Keep Britain Tidy Poster as part of the merchandising for their Modern British Design show.
Which I suppose may mean that there is an Eckersley poster in there somewhere, along with everything else. I really ought to go and see that and we are going to London in a few weeks time. But given that we are already planning to subject small Crownfolio to the Jeremy Deller exhibition, the V&A might be a step too far for one day. Perhap we’ll go and see the dinosaurs instead.
Today’s post is crowdsourcing, Quad Royal style, because lots of very kind people have been sending me links to posters on sale or sold recently. So the least I can do, of course, is share them.
It’s a great poster, and one that I have never ever seen before and can’t find much trace of either, apart from the fact that one sold in the Midlands about three years ago. Despite all that, and an attempt at a frame, the price seems a bit steep to me at £300+ for a starting bid. But thank you to Mike Jacob for putting that my way nonetheless.
Also forthcoming, and emailed to me by Mr Crownfolio upstairs, is a Christies poster sale. But don’t get too excited, this is an Olympic special, and there are very few Olympic posters I can get enthusiastic about, with this Richard Beck from 1956 perhaps the only exception.
Richard Beck, 1956, est £800-1,200
And I definitely don’t want to buy an Olympic torch (there are a surprising number on offer too). Given that, there isn’t a great deal else to report from the catalogue. All I can point you towards are a handful of McKnight Kauffer’s.
The one below has to be my favourite, although this is less a result of the image than the estimate.
McKnight Kauffer, 1925, est. £1,200 – 1,800
We got another one of this series on eBay about eighteen months ago, only for a small fraction of what Christies thinks it is worth, an experience which never fails to please me. And it’s a nicer image, to boot.
There is also a classic Abram Games.
Along with this Peter Roberson, which I am guessing only slips through Christies minimum lot requirements thanks to the Festival of Britain interest.
Peter Roberson, 1950, est. £1,200 – 1,600
My favourite British poster is probably this obscure and slightly pallid Victor Pasmore.
Note the use of British in the sentence above. Because once again, the local talent is having to compete for my attention with a small but lovely set of David Klein posters.
That first one in particular is fabulous, if a touch unaffordable.
The bad news is not just the small selection of posters I want to look at either. As far as I can tell from Christies’ Calendar, this will be their only poster sale this spring. And eBay’s gone into the doldrums too. There’s nothing left for it, I may have to start trawling the railwayana catalogues to keep my hopes up.
There are still a few glimmerings in the provincial auction scene as well, although I might have to get my act together a bit in reporting them to you. James Manning pointed out that Dreweatts have been selling more Percy Drake Brookshaws in a recent sale.
Now I say more because one of my first ever posts on here was about some of his posters being sold at the same auction house. Both then and now they seem to have come from the artist’s family, who have clearly been disposing of what they have in dribs and drabs. And also saving the best stuff until last.
What’s most amusing about these lots is the discrepancy between the estimates and the results. I would have been very happy to get the poster above for the £50-60 that Dreweatt’s estimated. Sadly it went for £550. Although perhaps not sadly, given that I missed the sale.
That wasn’t a freak occurrence either, all the posters reached similarly high prices. The boat race poster below was estimated at £100-150, but sold for almost ten times that, £1,100.
While this classic would have been the bargain of the century at its £60-80 estimate.
But it too went for £1,100.
I swear I will never ever fully understand the poster market. Prices like that make me think that the internet is doing its job in flattening out the market, as anyone with an interest and a tiny bit of understanding of searches on websites can find almost any lot up for sale and bid on it. But why doesn’t that work with eBay then? Why can we buy a McKnight Kauffer on there for a tenth of its Christies price? I think we might need to write a specialist piece of poster market theory, so if there is an economist in the house, can they get in touch? And for anyone else, please do keep sending the auction links and anything else that takes your fancy, they’re very much appreciated.
As promised, some more of the Daphne Padden designs that she left to Oxfam.
In many ways, having seen the first batch, there are no great surprises here as the range – everything from posters to packaging design – is very similar. But it’s still very interesting. For example, I had no idea that she did this packaging design, which does look vaguely familiar to me.
There’s plenty more of this kind of thing too – her work really did extend from poster design into packaging as well as the fifties went into the sixties.
There are loads more quirky little things too. Who would have known that she had designed this early 1950s catalogue without seeing this design?
Although now I go back and look they have definitely put on their glad rags for cruising.
While I’m on the subject, there are also one or two more nice designs for menus in there in addition to the one at the top.
Once again, only the most assiduous combing through ephemera fairs and eBay would ever have brought this to light.
But there’s more to what remains than just a joyous skipping through unseen designs (although let’s be honest, that’s fun). I’m also beginning to learn a bit about her design processes from what remains. At least I think I am.
It looks as though the first step was a rough sketch. She might have prepared a good handful of these, and I wonder if they sometimes got shown to a client, at least a client she trusted.
I love the dog on this, but I don’t think this design ever got printed, more’s the pity – at least this is the only version I’ve ever seen.
Sometimes, particularly in the early days of her career, I think she would work up these small sketches as detailed pen and ink drawings to show her clients. Here’s one for her Wales poster which was in the collection that we bought. Note the delightful sheep nestling on the ‘L’.
Then I think if the design was commissioned she produced a near full-sized collage. Here’s one for what I am guessing is a fabric pattern.
This is what I believe went to the printers, and if they ever came back from that inky place possibly went to the client. What is certainly the case is that none of these have turned up in either archive for a commissioned design. So my guess is that all the ones that she kept were, for one reason or another, never produced. Perhaps she was keeping them in case they came in handy later.
For some of her more complex designs (which I tend to assume are earlier although I couldn’t prove that), she also used ink along with the collage, as is the case with this splendid cheeseboard.
There’s lots more, but I am going to end with a question. I’m guessing that this sketch is for a coach poster.
It feels curiously familiar, but I can’t find the actual poster it refers to, just this one.
Was it ever produced or not, or am I just getting the two confused – does anyone out there know?