AP, again

While everything is in flux here at Quad Royal central (I am writing this in a room already stacked with boxes and wev’e still got a week to go) I thought I would dig out a few posts from the earlier days of the blog which are worth revisiting, especially as not everyone will have seen them first time round.  This one seemed like a good place to start, especially as it was Artist Partners’ own website who first alerted me to the existence of the Patrick Tilley posters.

Sometimes, writing about posters can feel like a constant harking back to a golden age of British graphic design, long since lost to the evil forces of photography, Photoshop and general bad taste.  But not everything from that time has disappeared.

Like Artist Partners for example, who are not only still going but have set up a usefully informative website which covers their past as well as their present.  And their past was very glorious indeed.

Founded in 1950, the agency represented some of the biggest names in illustration, graphics and photography from the fifties onward.  There’s no point repeating their entire history, because they’ve done the job already.  Although I was particularly interested to see that Reginald Mount was one of the founding partners.  He’s a fascinating character who seems to pop up at all sorts of interesting points in the history of graphics, and I’d be interested in finding out more about him one of these days.

They’ve put together a small retro section on their website as well, with a few nice images, like these Sunday Times advertisements by Patrick Tilley.

Patrick Tilley vintage sunday times advertisement Patrick Tilley vintage sunday times ad

But it’s not the website that made me want to post about them, it’s this (the cover also, incidentally, designed by Tilley), which we’ve had on the bookshelves for a while now.

Cover of Artist Partners graphic design brochure

Dating from, I guess, the early to mid 50s, it’s a brochure for the artists represented by AP, and a very delightful book in its own right.  Here’s one of the section headings for example.

Divider from Artists Partners graphics book

Or this one, by none other than Tom Eckersley

Eckersley Artist Partners graphics book divider

Oh to be sitting at at an advertising agency desk in 1954 and trying to decide who to commission.  Because there is such as wealth of wonderful talent in this book.  Amongst other people, Artist Partners represented Eckersley, Hans Unger, George Him, Eileen Evans, and of course Reginald Mount.  And even Saul Bass.  Here’s a trade advertisement for Enfield Cables.

Saul Bass Enfield Cables ad Artist Partners book

And a rather fetching advertisement for Technicolour by George Him.

AP George Him technicolour ad

My main sadness is that it’s only partially in colour, because there are simply hundreds of pieces which I haven’t ever seen before.  For every page like this

AP content various

(Two Hans Ungers – one GPO, one London Transport, a Leupin and another Patrick Tilley)

there are ten like this.

AP eckersley page

I’ve managed to find the peas one in colour at least for your entertainment.

Tom Eckersley Hartleys peas graphics

That’s more than enough for now, but I’ve still only barely scratched the surface of this wonderful book.

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Visual Signalman

Despite the holidays, there are a few faint signs of life on eBay now.  In fact more than faint, as this 1963 Tom Eckersley went for a whopping £123.65 a few days ago.  Not to us, I hasten to add.

Tom Eckersley vintage London Transport poster 1960s Cutty sark

I’m not sure what’s going on here.  It may be that later Eckersley posters are starting to rise in value, which would make sense as they certainly seem to be very popular out there on the visual web. Equally, it could be that people are engaging in silly bidding because there is so little else on offer right now.

It’s not just the Eckersleys either. The seller had a few more London Transport posters for auction, so this John Farleigh went for £83 too, in spite of some of the more eccentric (and less informative) photographs I’ve seen for a while.  This is the best, which isn’t saying much.

John Farleigh vintage London Transport poster eBay tulips lo winter is past

They dated it as 1960s but it looks a bit earlier to me.  But I can’t find it on the London Transport Museum site or indeed anywhere else, so if someone out there knows more, I’d love to hear from you.

We did get this Carol Barker for just £23, though.

Carol Barker vintage Hampstead poster London Transport

She’ll be fashionable one of these days, you mark my words.

Elsewhere on eBay, in America to be precise, there are a set of three World War Two British Navy posters for sale.  They’re pretty expensive too, at $140 a pop starting price, but I mention them because they are quite interesting.

Visual Signalman vintage world war two propaganda poster British Navy

They’re a celebration of what are clearly some of the less exciting jobs within the Navy – Stores Assistant anyone?  Although I don’t know whether their aim is recruitment, or just to reassure the people in these jobs that they are also a valuable part of the Navy too.

Stores Assistants vintage world war two poster ebay

What makes them really interesting is that I have never ever seen them anywhere else before (and goodness knows I have been looking at more than enough World war Two posters over the last few months).  They are by an artist called M Bertram about whom I know nothing either and generally they are a complete mystery.  But I do think they are real.

Finally, my searches for the John Farleigh poster above did lead me to this.  Which needs no further comment really.

John  Farleigh poster vintage London Transport 1937 yes really

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A moving story

This, as it turns out, is an appropriate message from James Fitton.

James Fitton abbey Road poster

We bought it at the last Onslow’s auction (in the after sale, to be precise) but have only just got round to picking it up.  Fitton’s sense of colour is as brilliant and unique as ever; the more I see of his work, the more I like it.

The timing is perfect though, as family Crownfolio are moving house in exactly two weeks.  So Quad Royal may be a bit erratic for the rest of August as broadband is transferred and I try to pack a rather excessive amount of stuff into boxes.  Apologies in advance, and a normal service will definitely resume in September.

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Lovely Decca mono sound from the fifties

More importantly, wonderful graphic design from the period too.

Tom Eckersley vintage Decca record cover graphic design

By Tom Eckersley, of course, and currently available on eBay for just £4.99.  End of broadcast.

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The eyes of the past

Today we are once again singing the praise of an archive, but one at a slight tangent to our usual interests.  The Persephone Post alerted me to the existence of English Heritage’s Viewfinder, which is the online archive of their photographic collections.

The title suggests that you’re meant to put in a place and see what you can discover; I decided (unsurprisingly) to see what happened if you put in poster.  It’s much more interesting.

Once you’ve got past the odd collection of turn of the century topographic posters,

Great Marlow poster from oxfordshire CC collection on EH viewfinder

And the 1970s.

Charing Cross Station in 1970 from EH viewfinder

As well as the numerous four poster beds (I won’t actually bother), there are a few gems, of which the best of all is this.

Fortnam Road, Holloway in late 50s from EH viewfinder

It’s Fortnam Road, Upper Holloway, probably facing onto the Holloway Road.  I used to live round there, once upon a time, although long after this picture was taken.

These posters, meanwhile, are in Manchester in 1956.

Failsworth Manchester 1956 from EH viewfinder

Notably there isn’t a decent piece of design to be seen on a wall anywhere.  I wish I liked earlier posters a bit more, because then I’d find this picture mesmerising.

Port Sunlight poster storeroom 1897 from EH viewfinder

It’s the poster and publicity storeroom at the Port Sunlight works in 1897 and its stock is probably worth hundreds of thousands of pounds today.

Although for those of us who like our graphics a bit more modern, the archive does have one intriguing piece of design.

Cold war posters from eH Viewfinder

Four CoI posters, probably designed for within the Civil Service, and photographed for a mysterious Cold War project.  I would love to know more about what English Heritage was about with that, and where the rest of it is.

But there are plenty of other words to put in too.  ‘Cat’ is entirely off-topic for Quad Royal really, but produced this fine trio in Shephards Market in Mayfair.

Cats in Shephards Market Mayfair from c1960 EH viewfinder

The works or office cat is something which has now entirely disappeared, but when H V Morton walked the City of London at night in the 1930s, the streets were alive with office cats, free to be wild now that the workers had gone.

While inputting the obvious place name did at least bring me this fine fireplace from 1680.

Trinity Street fireplace from  EH Viewfinder

It apparently lives in the next street from us. For the next three weeks at least.

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Advanced or gimmicky?

It’s a bit unfair to apply too much hindsight to other people’s critical judgements.  Classics are sometimes not spotted as such at the time, while designs that are feted often don’t stand the test of time.

But in the case of posters, it’s so rare to get any kind of contemporary reaction to them that I really can’t resist.  The posters in question are Patrick Tilley’s series for the Sunday Times from 1960, of which this is possibly the most famous.

Patrick Tilley provocative Sunday Times poster 1960

Now I’ve mentioned them on Quad Royal a few times before (here and here for example) and every time I have, the posters have been enormously popular.  As is only right, because they are great bits of design, especially considering how early they were produced.

Alert Patrick Tilley sunday times vintage poster 1960

But at the time, the reaction was a bit more snitty.  The critic, one Stuart Lewis writing in Advertisers’ Weekly, is fairly certain about that.

I certainly do not regard them as important poster art.

He also doesn’t think they’ll sell the product, because the style is ‘more suited to the promotion of an intellectual left-wing periodical, or a poetry quarterly’ than a national newspaper.  Although, in the end, he is generous enough to leave the verdict open.

Sunday times vintage poster patrick tilley 1960

I don’t know whether they sold newspapers or not, but I think the jury would be finding pretty emphatically in favour of the posters these days.  They certainly wouldn’t find them shocking, as the article suggests that people did at the time.  (I’ve put the complete review at the bottom, if you want to read the whole thing for yourself.)  I find it pretty hard to be shocked by any of the series of posters, but that’s one reason why it’s good to come across articles like this now and then.  Because the way we see posters, and indeed any other kind of design now, may not be anything like the way they were perceived at the time.  Which has to be borne in mind if we want to read anything into them.

Accurate sunday times poster patrick tilley 1960

A couple of extra points by way of an addendum.  Firstly, the perceptive poster was quite comprehensively plagiarised a few years ago for Modest Mouse (evidence here if you want to see) and so I suppose must be a design classic.  Also, if you were wondering how these posters look quite so neat and tidy (and indeed digital) despite being more than fifty years old, Patrick Tilley cleaned up the scans and adjusted the colours himself.  So this is what they would have looked like if they’d been made now.

And now over to Mr Lewis.

Tilley review part 1

review part 2

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