Cigarettes, Germs and Paper

The Reginald Mount posters coming up for sale at Van Sabben, which I blogged about last week, have made me realise that I’ve never properly written about his work, in particular the posters he produced as Mount/Evans along with Eileen Evans.  This is particularly surprising because not only was the first poster ever to appear on Quad Royal a Mount/Evans production, but it’s one of several we own.  This one hangs above Mr Crownfolio’s desk as a perpetual warning.

Don't Brag about your job Mount Evans poster for COI 1964
That we have so many is partly a matter of chance; what I think was the residue of the Mount/Evans studio, or at least a fair collection of their duplicates, was being sold through Onslows just as we started collecting posters.  So we bought some of them.  But it’s also because they, and he, produced some great work.

Waste Paper Still Wanted, Mount Evans

Reginald Mount only really hoves into view in 1939, when he was taken on by the Ministry of Information as one of only a very small number of in-house designers.  Before that it seems that he worked for advertising agencies such as Lintas and so probably never got to sign anything he did.  Eileen Evans joined him there as a filing clerk, until her own design skills were noticed, and from then she and Mount worked together for more than thirty years.  Two of the posters she designed are below (from the VADS/IWM collection).

Eileen Evans give blood poster

Eileen Evans Save paper salvage poster

After the war, both Mount and Evans stayed on when the MoI became the Central Office of Information.  Dorrit Dekk remembers working with both of them in the late 1940s.

The studio existed – Reggie Mount had been there right through the war and Eileen Evans – Reggie was senior designer and Eileen was his second in charge – I mean his right hand helper [...] but Reggie taught me everything to make me into a designer.

My guess would be that this arrangement continued for some time into the 1950s, because plenty of posters exist from the early to mid 1950s just signed Reginald Mount.  These include some of the Keep Britain Tidy ones which pop up at auction every so often.

REginald Mount poster Keep Britain Tidy 1950s

Reginald Mount Keep Britain Tidy poster 1950s

As well as some more obscure ones – this is for a Mozart Bicentenary Exhibition at the British Museum.

REginald Mount poster Keep Britain Tidy 1950s

Then, somewhere along the line they either go part-time or freelance or both.  Reginald Mount is certainly listed as one of the founding partners of Artist Partners in 1953.  But much later on, they seem to have gone into formal partnership as Mount/Evans, although quite when I don’t know.  The earliest poster with this credit that we have is from 1963.

Mount/Evans Christmas Driving poster 1963 for CoI

(Apologies for the slightly scrappy quality of some of the photos; they were taken for reference a long time before the blog was ever thought of).

Although they might have left the employment of the government, the CoI still seem to have provided the majority of their commissions.  Some were for the public, like this passport poster from  1966.

Mount evans passport poster CoI 1966

While others were only for internal communications, like these secrecy posters, which belong to the same set as ‘Don’t Brag About Your Job’ above.

Mount Evans Combination Numbers Keep Our Secrets Secret
Keep Our Secrets Secret Mount Evans Unneccessary Dupliation Central Office of Information

Although much of this is guesswork, because they worked together and signed posters as Mount/Evans occasionally before this.  And Reginald Mount also produced posters under his own name in the 1960s, like this anti-smoking poster in the Science Museum.

Reginald Mount anti smoking poster 1960s
Not only is it the close, but hacking relative of ‘Don’t Brag About Your Job’ above,  but Mount/Evans also produced several posters on a similar theme.

Mount Evans smoking poster hand

All of which leaves me a bit confused about how they were working.

What’s more, it’s proving quite hard to find any clarity.  Not only is very little written about them, but Google is not my friend: the existence of a Mount Evans in Canada (very popular with walkers, it seems) and a street called Reginald Mount in Leeds does not make for easy searching.  So if you’ve got any more information, please do get in contact.  I’ve also ordered a book about the Central Office of Information which may or may not help.

But their work is starting to become more appreciated, and to appear on the market too.  This Reginald Mount VD poster is for sale at Books & Things for £120.

Mount VD poster 1960 Books and Things

While this health poster – with what must be a very early Mount/Evans signature – is now a very reasonable £55 on eBay.

Mount Evans germs poster on eBay

Or possibly even less for a best offer.

Posted in designers | 12 Responses

Swiss eye

I’ve mentioned Poster-Auctioneer before in passing – they’re a specialist poster auction house in Switzerland.  And until now I thought they only sold Swiss posters (for Swiss people, etc).  But either I hadn’t looked at their website properly, or they’ve expanded it, because now they have a poster shop with plenty of things for immediate sale.

There are still lots of posters of mountains, skiing and cheese, naturally, but a rather useful search function lets you filter out posters by subject.  And should you select Public Suburban Traffic, you’ll come across something rather interesting, a set of more than forty pre-war London Transport posters.

Hampton Court vintage london transport photographic poster 1938 Kew Gardens vintage London Transport poster photographic 1938
Anonymous, 1938, €120 each

What makes them interesting is that what’s on offer here isn’t a collection of  the usual suspects.  Instead, these look like the pre-war output of London Transport selected with what I can only describe as a Swiss eye, one which is much more interested in photography and type than illustration or whimsy.

It's a pleasure vintage london Transport photographic poster 1938
Anonymous, 1938, €120

The result is a very different version of London Transport’s output.  There are plenty of posters here I’ve never seen before, even though each and every one of them is represented in the London Transport Museum Collection.

Summer Chicken vintage London Transport photographic poster 1938
Anonymous, 1938, €90

While others only crop up very rarely.

Maurice Beck Staff Insurance vintage London Transport poster 1931
Maurice Beck, 1931, €120

The Petrol Tax poster from this set did come up for sale at the Swann Galleries earlier this year, but Poster-Auctioneer have all three on offer.

There are also some interesting designers represented, like Richard Beck, with both halves of this pair poster up for sale.

Richard Beck vintage London Transport poster Richard Beck vintage London transport poster
Richard Beck, 1938, €230 each

Even better are these two posters by Milner Gray.  These seem to be the only two posters he ever designed for London Transport, and both are being offered by Poster Auctioneer.

Milner Gray shopping hours vintage London Transport Poster, 1938 Shop Early vintage London Transport poster 1938 Milner Gray
Milner Gray, 1938, €120 each

Now the sharp-eyed of you will have noticed that the vast majority of these posters date from 1938.  I can’t actually explain this, but I do have a vision of a Swiss designer coming over to Britain just before the war, and spending quite a lot of money at the London Transport Shop before he returned home.

Beath Timber exhibition vintage London Transport poster 1937
Beath, 1937, €180

But however this collection came together, it’s an interesting proof of the fact that you find what you are looking for.  A British designer or design historian would argue that, even in London Transport, British modernism never quite happened.  But to a Swiss eye, out and about in the capital in 1938, it was very much there, and he carried the proof back with him.

Eckersley Lombers Geolological museum 1938 vintage London Transport poster
Eckersley Lombers, 1938, €120

This also makes the date even more intriguing.  Perhaps a form of continental modernism was about to flower in Britain, only to be cut short by the war?  It’s unprovable, but these posters certainly make the idea seem possible.

Of course, the collection is also not quite as didactic and tidy as I am making it seem.  In addition to the photographic and typographical posters, there are also some pair posters from after the war, which are much more romantic.  I particularly like this John Wood pair poster from 1950.

John Wood Vintage London Transport Pair poster churches 1950
John Wood, 1950, €250

There’s more flamboyance than that too if you want it.

Denys Nichols vintage London transport pair poster 1950
Denys Nichols, 1950, €240

Another shopping trip perhaps, a recognition that the world had changed after the war.  Or perhaps the modernism had all but disappeared from the walls of the Underground.  We’ll never know.  But I’m very grateful to whoever did put together this collection of posters, because it’s allowed me to see British design in the late 1930s from the outside – and from a very different point of view.

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When did you last see an auction?

So, spring is in the air and the auctions are springing up like dandelions on  the lawn.  Christies is tomorrow, as mentioned before, and in the meantime two more catalogues have popped up on the web, Onslows and Van Sabben, with auctions on the 18th May and 4th June respectively.

I’ll start with Onslows first, because it is a great soup of an auction and I don’t quite know what to think of it.  All of the usual subjects – cruises, railways, travel posters – are represented as you’d expect, but with very few jumping out at me demanding to be either bought or written about.  I quite like this Lander, partly because if the Isle of Man is in any way continental, I am an otter.

Eric Lander Isle of Man Vintage British Railways poster 1960
Eric Lander, 1960, est. £500-700

Our non-existent friend Ralph Mott is also represented with several posters, this being my favourite, mainly for the slower-moving world which it evokes.

Ralph Mott country railway lorry services vintage railway poster
Ralph Mott, n.d., est. £150-200

There are also pages – and I mean pages – of wartime propaganda posters from both world wars.  Unfortunately, most of them are visual proof of the fact that most wartime posters were not masterpieces of design.  And I can’t even find a single one which I really love, this is about as good as they get.

Save Bread and you save lives vintage WW2 propaganda poser
Anonymous, est. £100-150

But not all is doom and gloom if you wander through the catalogue.  This Rex Whistler is battered, but still lovely through the creasing and tape.

Rex Whistler vintage shell poster Aylesbury 1930
Rex Whistler, 1930, est. £300-400.

Even better (if you’re me, at least) are a selection of post-war London Transport posters.  Probably the most noteworthy is this Bawden.

Edward Bawden vintage London transport poster 1936
Edward Bawden, 1936, est. £300-400

But there are other treasures too.

Abram Games, London, vintage London Transport poster, 1964
Abram Games, 1964, est. £200-300

Enid Marx Science Museum vintage London Transport poster 1964
Enid Marx, 1964, est. £150-200

Peter Robeson, Velasquez, vintage London Transport poster 1956
Peter Robeson, 1956, est. £100-150.

I’ve always loved that last Robeson poster.  Although it’s called ‘When did you last see your Velasquez?’ it’s much more about being contemporary than art historical; in fact it’s like the essence of the mid-1950s distilled onto a single poster.  All of which means that, in my book at least, it’s a bit of a bargain at that estimate.  But I’m likely to be wrong on that one.

There’s quite a lot of overlap between Onslows and Van Sabben too.  Obviously they’ve both got a lot of foreign posters of various sorts, some of which are rather good.

Colin Air France India vintage poster 1963
Jean Colin, 1963, est. £250-300

Onslows vintage Swedish exhibition poster
Anonymous, est. £150-200

These are both from Onslows, but as you can imagine, Van Sabben has literally hundreds more.


Max Velthuys, est. €80

More surprising is the other thing they have in common, which is a selection of large format GPO posters by interesting artists.  These two are in the Onslows sale:

Hans Schleger vintage GPO poster 1942
Hans Schleger, 1942, est. £200-300

Manfred Reiss, vintage GPO Poster, exports, 1948
Manfred Reiss, 1948, ext. £200-250

While these three are from Van Sabben.

Beaumount vintage GPO poster WW2
Beaumont, 1960 (?), est. €160

Rothholz, vintage GPO poster, 1948
Rothholz, 1948, est. €280

Reiss vintage GPO poster 1950
Reiss, 1950, est €150

If only I were a GPO museum, then I’d go on a spending spree, as they’re probably my favourite things on offer.  But there are a couple of other interesting items in Van Sabben too, like this pair of Reginald Mount posters.

Reginald Mount vintage waste paper salvage poster 1950
Reginald Mount, 1950, est. €150

REginald Mount vintage housewife salvage poster 1950
Reginald Mount, 1950, est. €180

The design of the latter one is almost good enough for me to overlook the fact that I am being addressed as Housewife again.  I’m not sure if Mrs Housewife is better or worse.

Other than that, it’s the usual suspects here: a few war posters, a couple of railway posters, and, of course, a BOAC poster.

Abram Games vintage BOAC poster 1953
Abram Games, 1953, est. £500

I think they’re compulsory these days.

But for a small selection of posters (perhaps only 30 out of over a thousand) Van Sabben have managed to pull a few interesting ones out of the hat once again.  Still don’t know if I’m actually going to buy anything though…

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Queer Things

Only last week I was complaining that there  really weren’t enough British food posters when this arrived through the post.  I’d entirely forgotten than we’d bought it from  eBay.

British Egg Marketing Council 1950s vintage poster Keep Eggs Cool

Although it’s only tangentially about food, and quite informatively prosaic to boot, I still rather like it.  So much so that I would have hung it on the kitchen wall, were it not for the fact that there’s no more space.  And the little hanger at the top of the metal bar (it’s got metal strips at the top and bottom just like a Shell educational poster) fell off when I photographed it.  Never mind.

Another recent purchase was this splendidly information-free poster.

Myers vintage 1950s British Railways poster Faster Line

Thanks to the interweb, I am able to tell you that it is a British Railway poster by Myers (whose signature is just about visible bottom right), it dates from the 1950s, and it also existed with text too (image from the NMSI collection).

Myers Vintage British Railway poster

All of which leaves me with a couple of questions.  Firstly, why are there two versions?  Was the typeless one designed to go on the railway aficionado’s wall, and sold as such?  Ours isn’t the only one, because the NRM have a copy too so there must have been a plan, even if I’m not quite sure what it was.

But it’s never come up on sale as far as I can tell.  Faster All Along The Line with its title on has been sold a couple of times at auction, for £280-300, at Onslows and Morphets.  But is it worth more or less with type?  I have no idea – does anyone else?

Finally, we bought this simply because it existed, and so I am sharing it with you for exactly the same reason.

Queer Things by underground Vintage London transport poster 1938

It’s from 1938 and that’s all I know. Although I may have to go on an expedition one day to see if any or all of these still exist.

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Bossiness is in the eye of the beholder

Bossiness, it seems, is all a matter of context.  After musing on bossy World War Two posters the other week, I’ve been doing some more digging, and found John Gloag considering the subject of propaganda as it was happening in 1941.

Now, I find posters like these (once more from the Imperial War Museum, via VADS)  at the very least, a bit abrupt.

Take Your food with you railway long train journey vintage WW2 poster

Be brief on the telephone vintage GPO WW2 poster

But to Gloag, they are the very epitome of restraint.

Unlike the admonitions, threats, boasts and hysterical appeals that foam and froth from totalitarian propaganda departments, offical propaganda for home consumption in Britain has been sober, restrained and well-planned. [...] There have been suggestions, not bleak instructions, often conveyed with real human understanding.

Now I don’t think Gloag is necessarily wrong – he also makes some very good points in the same essay about humour being the secret weapon of British Propaganda which I think are definitely true.  What interests me is the gap between how he sees the propaganda of the time, and how we perceive it now.

Austin Cooper vintage GPO poster Telephone less WW2

Sixty years on, we have a very different attitude to authority, and we don’t much like our posters giving us orders, however understated they are about it.  Although I am sure that the note of this one would have wound me up even under the conditions of total war.

Housewives, know your place, vintage World War Two propaganda poster

There are suggestions, too, that I wouldn’t have been alone in my resentment.  This slogan – used on a range of posters –  caused an exchange in Parliament that seems strangely contemporary.

Be like dad, keep mum, vintage WW2 propaganda poster

Dr. Edith Summerskill asked the Minister of Information whether he is aware that the poster bearing the words “Be like Dad, Keep Mum,” is offensive to women, and is a source of irritation to housewives, whose work in the home if paid for at current rates would make a substantial addition to the family income; and whether he will have this poster with drawn from the hoardings?
Mr. Cooper I am indeed sorry if words that were intended to amuse should have succeeded in irritating. I cannot, however, believe the irritation is very profound or widely spread.
Dr. Summerskill Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this poster is not amusing but is in the worst Victorian music-hall taste and is a reflection on his whole Department?
Mr. Cooper I always thought that Victorian music-halls were then at their best.
Dr. Summerskill Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he goes to modern music-halls, he will find that this kind of joke is not indulged in and that this suggests that he is a little out of date for the work he is doing?

There are also signs of a more general resentment.  One Mass Observation reporter wrote in 1941,

Taking a short walk from the office where this report is being written, you will see forty-eight official posters as you go, on hoardings, shelters, buildings, including ones telling you:

to eat National Wholemeal Bread
not to waste food
to keep your children in the country
to know where your Rest Centre is
how to behave in an air raid shelter
to look out in the blackout
to look out for poison gas
to carry your gas mask always
to join the AFS
to fall in with the fire bomb fighters
to register for Civil Defense duties
to help build a plane
to recruit for the Air Training Corps
to Save for Victory.

It’s hard not to hear a note of brow-beaten exasperation in there.  Probably intensified by the fact that, while we tend to see only the most memorable and best designed posters of the time, the vast majority of that list wouldn’t have been much to look at.

Fall in with the firebomb fighters vintage ww2 propaganda poster

So was Gloag right or not?  I don’t really know.  He was writing in the middle of the war, so his essay was itself a piece of propaganda, keen to show the differences between the propaganda of the totalitarian regimes, and the gentle, herbivore suggestions of good old democratic Britain.  And I think he’s keen to protest so loudly, partly because there is an underlying fear that this total war, which requires conscription, directed labour and mountains of propaganda, might seem to be turning Britain into a less gentle and more authoritarian place.

But how would we react to Gloag’s suggestions now? Or get the British public to mobilise in this way?  Now that I really don’t know.

Finally, I have no idea at all what this poster wants me to do, but I do like the design.

Give a Hand To cotton vintage propaganda poster

Next week, more auctions I think.

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Hamster Joy

This poster would be worthy of your attention for its headline alone, because Hamster Joy is indeed how it is being advertised on eBay.

Hamster Joy Celestine Piatti vintage poster 1960

I think the caption really means something like saving is fun, but Hamster Joy is much more pleasing.  If that tickles your fancy, you will also be pleased to know that it comes “without linen on backside’. Although you may be less chuffed to discover that they want about £160 for it.

But I’m not just posting it for the pleasures of the mangled translation. This poster is just the tip of an iceberg, an iceberg so huge that it is forcing me to go off our usual paths and into the strange territory of the European poster.  In fact Hamster Joy is just one of almost 1,500 posters being sold out of Switzerland by PosterConnection.  Want to see a few more?

Donald Brun Gas poster 1956
Donald Brun, 1956, £266

Celestine Piatti carpet ad with contented cat 1960
Celestine Piatti, 1960, £244

H.+L.Gantenbein Sport vintage poster 1948
H.+L.Gantenbein, 1948, £1,152

They’re all being sold as Buy It Now, in dollars, hence the slightly odd pricing.  The listings suggest that they will accept Best Offers too; a few seem to have been sold this way, although our offer on this Karo – the only British poster in there – was rejected.  But then it was a bit cheeky.

Karo Happy Christmas travelling vintage coach poster
Karo, 1960, £133

I’m guessing that’s a coach poster – any thoughts, anyone?

What will be obvious already is that this an incredible set of posters being sold here.  I do know of a couple of huge collections in Switzerland, one of which has been up for sale as a whole for some time (details here in case you have a yen for Swiss posters and a ton of cash to dispose of).  But the illustrations of that one seem earlier, and I can’t match up a single image between them – this is a much more contemporary and modernist collection.

Vintagetravel poster texas phoenix air 1960
Anonymous,1960, £139

Which then suggests that it’s the other big Swiss poster collection (who have bought some things from us in the past) just disposing, as we did, of some unwanted flotsam and jetsam.  In which case I’d very much like to see what they’re keeping.

What’s on sale covers pretty much every poster subject you can imagine, so what I post on here can never be more than a partial survey.  Please do go and look for yourself, because it’s an education for the eye.  For example, there are several Brussels Expo posters that I haven’t seen before.

Villemot vintage poster Brussels Expo 1958
Villemot, 1958, £72

Jacques Riches vintage poster Brussels Expo 1958
Jacques Riches, 1958, £218

In fact the collection as a whole is quite strong on posters for Expos and trade fairs in general.

Danish Textile exhibition vintage poster 1950 H Simon
H Simon, 1950, £388

vintage poster Japan trade fair 1956
Anonymous, 1955, £466

Texas World fair bull vintage poster Buelow 1965
Buelow, 1965, £175

But looking at the collection also makes me consider some of the differences between European and British posters at this time.  To start with, Johnny Foreigner is much better at doing animals than we were (the Gilroy Guinness ads being perhaps an honourable exception).  Some of these, like Donald Brun’s Zwicky cat, are classics.

Donald Brun Zwicky cat 1946
Donald Brun, 1946, £533

But there are plenty more where that came from.

Fox Lottery Pierre Bataillard vintage poster 1947
Pierre Bataillard, 1947, £278

Frog juice Donald Brun 1958 vintage poster
Donald Brun, 1958, £339

Piatti seal vintage postal poster 1958
Piatti, 1958, £72

On a more serious note, one thing that I do envy about European posters is that so much more of their commercial work has survived.  Our walls are rather dominated by railway and London Transport , and I would  love to have some posters for food and other household stuffs up there too.  But tbey just don’t survive in the UK.  If someone can explain to me why they do survive in Europe (could you write to Zwicky or Knorr and ask for a poster?), I would, genuinely like to know.

Baby food vintage poster Piatti 1957
Piatti, 1957, £133

Coop laundry vintage poster 1940
Anonymous, 1940, £181

Given that our household would grind to a halt without coffee, I’d particularly like something along these lines.

Coop coffee vintage poster H.R.Erdmann 1960
H.R.Erdmann, 1960, £115

Rocca Mocca Coffee vintage poster Fritz Bühler 1958
Fritz Bühler, 1958, £181

On a slightly different tack, these two posters are a delight simply because they remind me of the days when the telephone was like a talking internet.  Well nearly.  These are for news and weather, but Mr Crownfolio can remember dialing up to hear the chart rundown back in the day.

parrot news via the telephone Piatti  1967
Piatti, 1967, £212

Weather telephone vintage poster René Gilsi 1950
René Gilsi, 1950, £121

There are so many posters, and so many great ones there, that I could go on almost indefinitely.  But I won’t; instead just two final observations.

The first is that an exhibition about House Cats sounds like a very good idea, and I would like to see one please.

House cat exhibition poster C.Kuhn 1994
C.Kuhn, 1994, £115

The second is that, as the observant amongst you may have noticed, I really like the work of Celestine Piatti a great deal.  I kept finding myself pulling them out from the listings without, most of the time, realising they were by him.  Really, they are excellent.

Piatti 1955 Knorr poster
Piatti, 1955, £175

Piatti Owl Joy
Piatti, 1960, £181

Furthermore, he must be a great man, because he has written a book about Happy Owls.  It’s a good job that he’s not British, and so outside our self-imposed guidelines, otherwise I think a very expensive spending spree would be coming on.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Responses