The unknown known

I keep saying that what we know about graphic design is very much a partial history.  But it’s a fact that’s worth repeating, because I’m increasingly discovering just how little knowledge we, or I at least, do have.  Take Daphne Padden, for example.

Daphne Padden take your children to the seaside poster

To go by what can be found in archives and auctions, the extent of her work would seem to be designing posters for coach companies and menus for P&O, along with a few odds and ends for British Railways and the GPO.

Daphne Padden menu P&O

But, as I mentioned the other day, we’ve now got some of her artwork and other odds and ends from her estate, and it’s a very revealing collection indeed.  There are of course sketches for posters in there.

Daphne Padden artwork for wales poster

What’s different about this collection, though, is how much it reveals about her other work, in particular packaging design and corporate image.  These are just a few pages from a small portfolio that she must have put together to show the range of her work.

Daphne Padden portfolio cigarette packet design 1960s?

Daphne Padden portfolio coach poster design

Daphne Padden portfolio cigarette packets

Daphne Padden portfolio exhibition design

But that’s not the half of it.  I knew, because we’d bought the placard below last year, that she’d done some design work for Marks and Spencer.

Daphne Padden chef design for Marks and Spencer

But at some stage, it seems she did really quite a lot of their packaging.  She kept both designs and the end product, and these cover everything from yoghurt posts to the wrappers for tights, along with much much more.

Daphne Padden Marks and Spencers Washing Up Liquid design

Daphne Padden M&S angel sandwich design and finished

Daphne Padden Marks and Spencers Christmas cake design

Judging from the pricing (and the inflation rate between design and finished packet) these are probably from the early to mid 1970s.  But Marks & Spencers weren’t the only company she designed packaging for, either.

Daphne Padden Hathaways Jam design

Daphne Padden frozen strawberries packaging

Had this carrier bag disappeared, as it easily might have done, Daphne Padden would just be a poster artist, no more.  I’m very glad to have these, and to see how much she did really do, but it also makes me wonder about all the other bags of stuff which did get thrown away when other designers moved house or moved on.  It’s heart-breaking to think about it but it’s also necessary: we must always  remember just what a small and unrepresentative proportion of graphic design history does get kept, and that we will never fully comprehend the true extent of what we do not and will never know.

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Off to the country

Happy Bank Holiday. courtesy of Edward McKnight Kauffer and the London Transport Museum.

McKnight Kauffer vintage London Transport poster 1933

However, I am already in the country, and it’s raining.  I shall sit tight and await futher instructions.

I hadn’t intended to post anything more today, but can’t resist pointing out this.

that Barrie map of Kensington Gardens again, it's a vintage poster you know

I mentioned it last week – a 1923 MacDonald Gill London Transport map of Barrie’s Kensington Gardens.  It started last week at £25 and ended up at an utterly jaw-dropping £1,106.89.  Even eBay prices are shooting up it seems.

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Back again

I know that I keep promising to come back to subjects on this blog, and then it never quite happens.  There on the other hand, sometimes subjects come back to me, especially designers.  One of the great joys of writing about a particular designer is that quite often people get in contact with their own memories of the person concerned.  I’ve blogged about this before with Hans Unger, and it’s wonderful to get a sense of how much that person was respected and remembered.  Recently, quite a few people emailed who had worked with Pieter Huveneers.  In addition to being a great designer, he must also have been an inspiring boss and mentor.

I was also sent this by Jim Pennington, who never worked for Huveneers but does know good design when it comes his way.

Mullard transistor manual Huveneers

It’s manual of transistors from the late 195os or early 1960s.  Everything you need to know about the valves of the day, apparently.  But rather lovely.

More surprisingly, a lot of people have got in contact about Denis Constanduros who, you may remember, did a few rather lovely posters for Shell and then saw how the world was going and went off to produce historical TV dramas instead.

He seems to have had a large extended family which, combined with a highly googlable surname,means that lots of his relatives have found the blog and got in touch.  His grandson sent me a very interesting range of material, including this 1939 article from the Radio Times.

Denis Constanduros Radio Times article

So, in between the water carrying and play writing he was still painting as well.  There is also a picture of him and his aunt Mabel from the year before.

Denis and Mabel Constanduros

Meanwhile, Jonathan Spector, who isn’t a relative, sent me this book jacket illustration by Denis, for one of his aunt’s books.

Denis Constanduros Book jacket

This only survived by dint of being a wartime rarity.  Jonathan bought a wholly other book, called People are Curious, written by James Hanley and published in reprint edition in 1945.  But on the reverse of the jacket, off centre, was this – obviously the result of wartime paper rationing.  I think I preferred his posters though.

That’s not the only email that arrives here at Crownfolio Towers either.  Quad Royal is now important enough, it seems, to get press releases.  So should you want this poster, for example, for a scooter which was apparently ‘a joy to own, as long as someone else was paying the repair bills’,

Sunbeam Scooter bsa poster

I can tell you that there’s a gallery in Canada with just the thing for you.

Back on home turf, I’ve also been contacted by VintageSeekers, who are a new antiques site with a small number vintage posters on their books.

Weston Super Mare vintage british railays poster Vintage Seekers

What Vintage Seekers is, though, is a shop window for dealers, which means that you are paying not only dealers’ prices, but commission on top.  So the poster above, quite apart from being for a place which you’d only want a poster of if you’d never been there, is £695.

I did get mildly excited when I saw a link to a Whisky Galore poster, as I had some memory that it was a good one.  What I was thinking of was this, which is by Tom Eckersley and I have been meaning to put up for your delectation for ages now.

Whiskey Galore poster tom eckersley

What I actually saw when I got to the page was this.

Whisky Galore not very good poster

Which is rather more in the style of a Ladybird book and, furthermore, will set you back £2,800.

All of which is enough to send me back into the arms of eBay, where even the silly prices suddenly look more reasonable.  This wartime Pat Keely is £99.95.

Pat Keely vintage world war two propaganda poster

While the listing doesn’t mention his name, this car ferry poster is by Lander (and dates from 1960, fact fans).

Lander vintage 1960 car ferry poster British Railways

This is a bit of an oddity, as I have no idea what the Pye logo is doing there, particularly as the poster seems to have ended up in America.

Vintage Pye Cambridge travel poster most odd

Although apparently the poster says that Pye were Britain’s largest exporters of radio and television.  I’m still not really any the wiser.

Finally, what I need right now is a time machine, to go straight back to 1973 and attend this.

Transport flea market flyer

Imagine the bargains there would be for the taking.

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Skylon Biro

Mr Crownfolio went off to do some shopping for our holiday the other day.  He still has no sunhat, but we do now own this.

Festival of Britain Battersea Pleasure Gardens cover

Given that the gardens were the slightly more raucous and, dare I say it, downmarket outpost of the Festival of Britain, I wasn’t expecting too much from the guide.  But it’s a surprisingly interesting piece of design; take this contents page by Osbert Lancaster.

Festival of Britain Battersea Pleasure Gardens contents page Osbert Lancaster

There are also some interesting layouts too.

Festival of Britain Battersea Pleasure Gardens Welcome page

Although I will spare you the rest of the poem which isn’t up to the standard of the typography.

The good design perhaps isn’t so surprising, as it turns out that one of the two editors and designers of the guide is Ruari McLean, founder of Motif, amongst other things.

Festival of Britain Battersea Gardens guide night

He clearly commissioned some good artists but very few of the illustrations are credited – not just the full page spreads, but also the smaller black and white illustrations, in a whole range of styles, which are scattered throughout the text.

Festival of Britain Battersea Gardens guide cave Schweppes

This is all part of trying to make the Battersea Pleasure Gardens (its name alluding to the old eighteenth century pleasure gardens at Ranleagh and Vauxhall) as uplifting and high-minded as the rest of the Festival.  The guide makes it sound like a promenade of flowers, architecture, Punch and Judy Shows and orchestral music.  The pictures, however, show that it was basically a very large funfair.

Festival of Britain Battersea Gardens guide photo

In the course of finding out all of this, I read an article which suggested that the Festival of Britain could be seen – if Battersea and the South Bank are thought of together – as the world’s first theme park, with the theme of course being Britain.  It’s an interesting thought.

But I haven’t quite finished with the guide yet, because it’s also got some interesting advertisements in.  One is by our old friends Lewitt-Him.

Festival of Britain Battersea Gardens guide Lewitt HIm Guinness ad

They designed the Festival Clock, which was one of the attractions of Battersea and apparently contained the most complicated clock mechanism ever built at that time.  It was such a success that Guinness commissioned eight more, allowing the clock to tour department stores and amusement parks all over the country.

This Gillette advert, meanwhile, is a reminder that modern design still only had a very tenuous hold in 1951 Britain, and certainly hadn’t spread to packaging design.

Festival of Britain Battersea Gardens guide Gillette ad

Tom Eckersley’s Gillette posters from a year or so before suffered from just the same problems of contrast.

Tom Eckersley vintage gillette monkey poster

A copy of this hangs on our stairs and, every so often, I am still shocked again by the contrast between the modern image and the Victorian packaging.

Finally, though, there is this, which will just have to describe itself.

Festival of Britain Battersea Gardens guide skylon biro

Truly it is a brave new world which has such things in it.

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Buy, Buy, Sell, Buy

There are a lot of posters about at the moment; it’s only Monday morning and I’m exhausted just thinking about it.  Not only have there just been the  Christies and Onslows sales, but there’s also quite a bit coming up on eBay too.  I’d like to sum it up in some kind of executive summary of the market at the moment, but however hard I try, this eludes me.  So I’m afraid you’ll just have to bear with me as we sift through the evidence.

One feeling I have is that prices, and more importantly expected prices, are going up.  Take these eBay items, for example.  There’s a signed, recent, Tom Eckersley poster for £295, which has to be more than even a gallery would charge for it.

Tom Eckersley signed 1986 exhibition poster for sale on eBay

In an interesting take on eBay selling strategies, this was previously on offer for a £175 Buy It Now, but when it failed to sell, they relisted it and upped the price.

Even more excitable is the seller of this 1935 GPO Schools poster by John Armstrong, for sale for a rather steep $2,950 Buy It Now.

Vintage GPO poster John Armstrong 1935

He is also accepting Best Offers, as he explains in rather breathless red text on his listing.

The highest offer of the 3 that I have received is $ 2,155 I will let it go to the next offer of $ 2,200.

While I know that this is a classic poster reproduced in all sorts of texts, I don’t actually like it very much and so I am able to resist this offer, or indeed pretty much any kind of offer which didn’t involve giving it to me for free.

These Shell posters, even though they are a full set of the highly-desirable Trees, by the highly-desirable SR Badmin, are surely up at the top end of the value range too at £350.

S R Badmin vintage shell educational poster May Trees

And I say this with some confidence, given that we have just got four of the Roads of Britain in this series for the grand sum of £15, including (I have said this before, and I will say it again) my favourite Shell educational poster ever, the Ridgeway by David Gentleman.

This coach poster, too, is probably also overpriced at £75 – although it’s very fashionably retro and so probably would go for much more than its £75 asking price in the right gallery.

1960s coach tours poster

Expensive doesn’t just apply to posters, either.  This lovely little booklet with illustrations by Barbara Jones has a starting price of £90.

This or that illustrations Barbara Jones on eBay

I begrudge this price a bit less though; it’s a rare book, published in just after the war and on that very contemporary subject of good design in the home.  Having said all that, you can also find it online for just £60, so maybe it is a bit over-priced too.

The Christies auction didn’t come cheap either.  These two posters were the stars of the show, both dramatically exceeding their estimates.

Alexeieff NIght Scotsman poster christies

The Alexeieff above went for £34,850 (est. £15-20,000) while the McKnight Kauffer Underground poster sold for £27,500 (est. £8-12,000).

McKnight Kauffer power poster again

The Kauffer poster is particularly interesting, because a copy also turned up in the Swann Galleries auction a few weeks before, where it went for £20,580, so the price wasn’t just a flash in the pan (or even a flash from the fist).

As for the Christies’ auction as a whole, my initial reaction was that the prices seemed steep; but when I took a closer look, most sales were within the range of the estimates.  What this means, I don’t know (and would love to have anyone else’s thoughts on the matter).  My guess would be that some posters are getting more expensive, and that Christies are now, with their minimum lot policies, concentrating on these.  There may also be psychology involved, though, too; if there’s nothing priced at £150 or even £250 in an auction, does it make the high prices seem more reasonable?  To some people at least, if not me.

But fear not bargain hunters, because there are still cheap posters on eBay, even cheap underground posters.  These ducks, for example, are starting at just £29.99, and are linen backed to boot.

Richard Kelly vintage LT pair poster 1948

They’re by Richard Barrett Talbot Kelly and date from 1948, while this 1923 MacDonald Gill London Transport map of Barrie’s Kensington Gardens is even cheaper at £25, although it hasn’t reached its reserve at that price, so may not be as cheap as it first appears.

1923 Vintage London transport poster macdonald gill map Kensington Gardens

Elsewhere – in the U.S. to be precise – this 1947 London Transport Central Line extension poster by Hans Schleger/Zero is perhaps better described as reasonable at £148 rather than cheap.  But it is wonderful enough to justify the price.

Hans Schleger vintage London Transport poster Central Line extension

Although if you do want a cheap Zero poster, that’s on offer as well; this British Railways museum poster from the early 1960s is a bit more crumpled, but then it is on with a starting price of only £2.99.

Zero British Railways transport museum poster

If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, perhaps you might like this Daphne Padden Post Office Savings Bank poster – one of my favourites – currently still at its starting price of £10.

daphne Padden vintage post office savings bank poster owl rabbit loveliness

Once again, eBay also offers me the opportunity of pointing out how badly designed most National Savings posters are.  This is also a savings poster, and it has an owl on too, but that’s all it has in common with the one above.

National Savings owl poster which isn't very good

It, however is priced at £49.99.  I have nothing more to say on the matter.

All that remains is the Onslows sale, which seemed to be neither cheap nor expensive, so I’d be interested in hearing anyone else’s thoughts, or indeed about any bargains you may have bought.  But it is worth remembering that they do take offers on unsold lots (until 18th June) so a second look at  the online catalogue might prove worth your while.

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Artwork

Well my trip was a definite success, you’ll be pleased to hear.  The mission was a trip to a solicitors’ office in the Home Counties in order to sift through some of the last remaning pieces from Daphne Padden’s estate.  And it was worth the journey up the A303, as I have come back with a whole carrier bag full of goodies.  From which there definitely is a very interesting story to tell, when I get the time to sift through it all properly.  In the meantime, some original artwork for your Friday delight.

The Torbay Express apparently still runs, but I bet it doesn’t have a menu as nice as this these days.

Daphne Padden Torbay Express menu artwork

This greetings telegram is wonderful in its detail.

Daphne Padden greetings telegram artwork

And also came with its own matching envelope.

Daphne Padden greetings telegram artwork envelope

As far as I can tell, this was never used.  I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but there is a small and good book about Greetings Telegrams by Ruth Artmonsky, which has a full list of all the commissioned designs, and there is nothing by Daphne Padden there.  I wonder why this was done in such detail then?

Finally, a small early sketch…

Daphne Padden old salt artwork

That fisherman is clearly a close cousin of this pair, with their black cat and pipes.

Daphne Padden Royal Blue poster ours from morphets

All of which is simply a taster, as there will be plenty more gems to come from the bag next week too.

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