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.

Posted in auctions, eBay | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Responses

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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Hurrah

I’m not really here today because I’m off on a mission. But here’s something in the meantime.

Daphne Padden greetings stamp 4d vintage GPO poster

It’s a little 10″ x 15″ GPO poster, by Daphne Padden, of course.

I’m hoping it’s going to be appropriate, because if all goes well today, I shall be returning with a further heap of Padden posters in the boot.  In which case we will be celebrating with black cats and champagne.  And pictures on here of course.

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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.

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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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