Remedial Pine Baths

Just squeezing this post in close to the wire, as the next Christies Poster Sale has rather crept up on me and turns out to be tomorrow.  But still, I do assume that most of you – no, actually, make that every last one of you – only read this blog in the spirit of a window shopper rather than a purchaser.   All opinions here are both personal and biased, and definitely not intended to be investment advice.

That said, back to the window shopping.  And I’m feeling quite well disposed towards the Christies sale for once, and I think there’s a very simple reason for it.  The English posters are first in the catalogue.

Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954) PLAY BETWEEN 6 AND 12 lithograph in colours, 1931, printed by Vincent Brooks, Day & Son Ltd., London,
McKnight Kauffer, 1931, est. £8-12,000

There, I told you it was simple, but it is nonetheless true.  They’re not just shoved in between some Muchas and a load of other French posters, for once they get pride of place.  And so the sale begins with a nice slew of London Underground posters, including the very expensive McKnight Kauffer above (other expensive McKnight Kauffers are also available should you so wish) and a rather cheaper Edward Bawden at just a tenth of that estimate.

Edward Bawden (1903-1989) KEW GARDENS lithograph in colours, 1936, printed by Curwen Press, London London Transport Poster
Edward Bawden, 1936, est. £800-1,200

It then moves on to the best set of Shell posters I’ve seen at auction for some time.  All the classics that you’ve ever wanted to own (alright, all the ones I’ve ever wanted to own at least) are out there, starting with the graphic designers.

Tom Eckersley (1914-1997) & Eric Lombers (1914-1978) SCIENTISTS PREFER SHELL lithograph in colours, 1938 Shell poster
Eckersley-Lombers, 1938, est. £800-1,200

Zero (Hans Schleger, 1898-1976) THESE MEN USE SHELL, JOURNALISTS  lithograph in colours, 1938 Shell poster
Hans Schleger (Zero), 1938, est. £1,000-1,500

And then moving on to the fine artists.

Paul Nash (1889-1946) KIMMERIDGE FOLLY, DORSET lithograph in colours, 1937, printed by Waterlow Shell poster
Paul Nash, 1937, est. £800-1,200

Shell poster Graham Sutherland (1903-1980) BRIMHAM ROCK, YORKSHIRE lithograph in colours, 1937
Graham Sutherland, 1937, est. £800-1,200

The  Nash and the Sutherland are oft-reprinted classics, but the Bawden is less well known but still rather lovely, although admittedly none of these come at the most affordable of prices.

Edward Bawden (1903-1989) WALTON CASTLE, CLEVEDON, SOMERSET lithograph in colours, 1936, printed by Waterlow Shell poster
Edward Bawden, 1936, est. £1,000-1,500

It’s worth noting that the Bawden is more expensive because, like quite a few other posters in the sale, it is the lead item in a job lot.  Here there are three other Shell posters on offer, also including Llanthony Abbey by one of my minor obsessions, Denis Constanduros.

Denis Constanduros Llanthony Abbey Shell poster


I have two observations about this.  One is that the set up is a bit poor for those of us who are only able to view via the internet, because the three other posters are not shown anywhere on the website.  (The image above is one that I’d used previously on the blog, and nothing to do with the actual poster up for auction.)

The other is to do with Christies’ minimum lot price, which is presumably something even heftier than the original £500 these days.  Goodness knows I have gone on about this often enough, but now they do seem to be a bit hoist by their own decision, because they’ve been forced to have a lot of combined lots when the auction would have been a lot better as just single lots really.  How do I or anyone else know what that Bawden is actually worth now?  Or the Constanduros come to that?  I know that’s not the function of auctions, they exist to sell things, but even so, it’s annoying.  And the deal would be even more even more annoying if I wanted to buy the Bawden, because then I’d have to offload the other three posters.  And if I wanted to buy the Constanduros, well I would be in an apocalyptic fury by now.

But enough of that, and back to the offerings.  There aren’t many railway posters for once, but this Purvis is rather lovely.

LNER railway poster Tom Purvis (1888-1959) WHITLEY BAY lithograph in colours, c.1935
Tom Purvis, c.1935, est £2,000-3,000

While this is both enormous – three metres by two – and rather pleasingly bonkers.

poster HB BLACKPOOL LIDO lithograph in colours, printed by Ayre & Senior, Blackpool
Anonymous, est. £800-1,200

Brine bath follow by a “Q” Ray Radium Pad anyone?

And that’s about it for the British posters, well apart from this specimen.

Anonymous KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON  lithograph in colours, 1939, published by the Ministry of Information WW2 poster
Anonymous, 1939, est. £6-8,000

They’d better stop finding these, and sharpish, otherwise those values are going to plummet.

And that’s about your lot.  Well, apart, obviously, from lots of other, foreign posters, for which this Cassandra can stand representative.

A.M. Cassandre (1901-1968) THOMSON lithograph in colours, 1931 poster
Cassandre, 1931, est. £7-9,000


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Well I went up Leeds at the end of last week, to give a talk at the Marks and Spencer archive about Daphne Padden.

This was a lot of fun, even if I’m not entirely sure that I fulfilled the alleged title of the talk, which was about Daphne Padden and design in the 1960s and 1970s.

Daphne Padden Marks and Spencers Christmas cake design

I did cover Daphne Padden’s work for Marks and Spencers, but that didn’t take very long at all, because we don’t really know very much about it.  Which isn’t just me not trying very hard, but between me knowing about Daphne Padden and the archive knowing all about M&S, there still isn’t very much information out there at all.

Daphne Padden M&S angel sandwich design and finished

And that, in the end, was one of the main themes of the talk: just how little we know about designers and design of this period, despite all the best intentions of archives, academics and people like me.  Served with a large dose of my general thoughts on archives, not knowing things and why coach posters are brilliant, most of which will be familiar to any regular reader of this blog

Daphne Padden Royal Blue vintage coach poster sailor 1957


I was considering posting the talk on here, but that’s before I delivered it and realised that it was a rambling and somewhat opionated mess that probably wouldn’t play that well without the facial expressions and apologies.

But I did meet lots of lovely audience people there too, who asked interesting questions, so I’m happy to answer any questions on here if anyone wants.  Although be warned in advance, quite a few of the answers tend to be, we just don’t know.



Posted in archives, other | 1 Response

Talking yoghurt

Apologies for the gap in transmissions, real life has a way of interfering sometimes.

This is just a quick post to remind you all that I will be speaking at the Marks and Spencers archive next month, on April 24th, about Daphne Padden’s career and her work for M&S, with particular reference to this yoghurt pot.

Daphne Padden Yoghurt pot design for Marks and Spencer

And whatever else comes into my head at the time, I don’t doubt.

Full details here, and please do come and say hello if you are there.  The yoghurt pot will also be making a personal appearance.

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Vote poster

Stuff, life, has kept me away for a bit – apologies – and now that I am back there appears to be an election on.  This blog doesn’t usually have too much overlap with the political arena, but there is one thing I wanted to point out.

Labour party post war poster reversion as tea towel

It’s not a poster – well it was once upon a time, but now it is a Labour Party fundraising tea towel.

Obviously tea towels based on vintage poster designs are a great idea, but that’s not the only reason I’m showing you this.

What’s interesting is that this is a poster that I’ve never seen before, another part of the unknown known.

There are a very few political posters that have become part of our visual furniture.


But the rest – well, they’ve just disappeared.  And there’s no central repository, no archives to browse through and see which parties produced which messages and designs.  So to all intents and purposes they didn’t exist. Until, that is, the Labour Party goes through their own records and pulls one out for us to buy.  For which I am of course very grateful, although it would be even more interesting to see the other ones too.

(The Labour Party archive does live, it seems, in the People’s History Museum in Manchester, but only a small proportion of the posters are digitised.  Although this one does seem to come from the same series as the tea towel.)

Labour party 1950s political poster

But in the end, all of this acts as a reminder that it’s almost impossible to make any kind of sweeping statement about the history of posters, for the simple reason that we just don’t know enough.  The posters that are out there, kept in archives, curated, digitised, seen, are just a small and rather less than random sample of the totality of what was produced.  And every so often we get a reminder of this fact, which can only be a good thing.

Oh, and if you wanted to get a tea towel, the bad news is that they were a limited edition and have just sold out.  But you can always buy one of ours instead.

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Enquire promptly

We’ve hardly recovered from Christmas here, but nonetheless, the auction year is already gearing up, beginning with the GCR auction on February 7th.

There are posters.  Quite a lot of posters.

A BR(W) double royal poster, SOMERSET, by Wootton British railways
Wootton, 1952, est. £150-300

A rather large number of them are of this ilk; pretty post-war depictions of landscapes and towns courtesy of British Railways.

A BR(S) double royal poster, SALISBURY, Charles I, visit 1651 British Railways
Claude Buckle, 1952, est. £100-200.

Although I do quite like the way it equates history with a bad pong.  That’s the visit of Charles I, by the way.

I do have one gripe about the auction, though, which is that not very much effort has been put into ascribing dates, or even artists to the posters.  Take the Salisbury smell, above.  That’s down in the catalogue as being Anonymous, but it took me all of two minutes on Google to discover the date, and that it’s by Claude Buckle.  A piece of information you’d think might increase its value, and hence the auctioneer’s commission.  And all of the dates on here are ones that I have found, not them.  Poor show.

But I mustn’t grumble too much.  For a change,  there are actually a few nifty bits of graphic design in amongst the conventional pretties.  This example is actually pre-war.

An LNER double royal poster, LOST PROPERTY, ENQUIRE PROMPTLY, by Sav,
Sav, est. £80-120

I’d like to think that the Sav is short for Savignac, but as I can find another, 1946, railway poster with the same signature but not of anything like the same quality, I am inclined to suspect not.

This next, while good design, is probably a bit too effective for most people’s taste.

A BR(M) Safety awareness poster, NO, showing a skull between wagon buffers
Anonymous, est. £80-120

Somewhere in the back of my mind is a feeling that I used to know who that poster was by, and I think it’s Pat Keely, while the internet is hinting that it might be by Leonard Cusden.  But if anyone out there knows better, please do say.

This Hans Unger is considerably cheerier, and a great deal more desirable.

A BR double royal poster, GO MID-WEEK BY TRAIN, by Hans Unger
Hans Unger, 1962,  est. £50-80

I have just been to that London by train; this is how you may imagine me travelling.  Including the hat.

While this is rather good of its kind too.

A BR(M) quad royal poster, LANCASHIRE COAST, (anon), a montage of coastal views between Southport and Morecambe
Anonymous, 1957, est. £80-120.

As has been the case with the last few railway auctions I’ve looked at, there are also a handful of World War Two posters included, of which this is my favourite.

A double royal poster, JOIN THE WRENS and Free A Man For The Fleet
Anonymous, est. £150-300.

It looks a bit like a Beverley Pick, although I have some nagging memory that either Henrion or Zero did a lot of the Wrens advertising at the time.  Still, it’s a World War Two poster, so the chances are that we’ll never know for sure.

And finally, a conundrum, in the form of an entirely new (to me) poster for Ramsgate.

A BR(S) double royal poster, RAMSGATE British Railways
Anonymous, 1961, est. £80-120.

Surely this has to be Chapter Four of Alan Durman’s Ramsgate romance, with the baby all grown up and playing.  And Mrs Ramsgate has bought herself a new swimsuit at last.

Tantalisingly, the NRM don’t give an artist for their copy of the poster, but the date is 1961, two years after Durman’s couple were holding their baby up in the surf.  How can it be anything else?

And even if it isn’t, it’s still a bargain at that estimate.  What are you waiting for?

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Be really cool, man, archive

The recent announcement from the British Postal Museum and Archive announcing that they have upgraded their online catalogue may not have been the most retweeted 140 characters in the history of Twitter.  But the news is actually quite exciting.

On an entirely practical level the images are now larger than a postage stamp. The particular joy of this is that I can now get a proper look at the van posters, which are some of my favourite things in the world.


I wonder if any of these have survived outside of the BPMA’s collections?  I’ve never come across one out in the wild.

1951 Alick Knight post early robin poster GPO

More than that, a whole lot of new material also seems to have been catalogued for the first time.  I had no idea that Barbara Jones had ever designed a poster for the GPO, but the evidence is there in full colour.

Barbara Jones GPO poster mermaid inland postcards

It’s from 1956, since you ask.

In addition, for the first time the catalogue now includes some Post Office Savings Bank posters.  This is clearly still a work in progress as, currently, there’s nothing in there by Daphne Padden and she did some of her best work for the POSB.

Daphne Padden post office savings bank poster with rabbits and owl.

What is in there, though, when you search for POSB posters, is a lot of work by Stan Krol, quite a bit of which I’ve never seen before.

Stan Krol post office savings bank poster 1960 guitar

With both posters and artwork included.

Stan Krol eureka gpo poster artwork 1960

All of which is a salutary reminder.   It’s not just that archives themselves are important, but also the way they are arranged and made accessible.  Because both of these things can change the way we think about the past.

Let’s just start with the contents.  A couple of years ago, I wrote about Stan Krol, saying that I couldn’t find out that much about the man or his output.  Obviously, pages of Stan Krol posters in the BPMA catalogue rather changes things.

stan krol telephonists job artwork GPO 1951

Morever, in the new, exciting BPMA catalogue, the results also come up differently.  Back in the day, the archive used to sort the results, so that the artwork would come up first, then the posters.  So I would skip through the artwork, and just look at the posters instead.

1968 Tom Eckersley detector van van poster

But now the two come up intermingled, which means that I don’t miss items like this Tom Eckersley internal poster, which shows as artwork but not as finished poster.

Tom Eckersley GPO internal poster mailbags 1950

All of which will, I am sure, make other differences to the way I think as well, even if I I don’t entirely know what the results will be yet.  Watch this space.

The biggest change of all, of course, is just the fact that online archives exist in the first place.  This blog, and I’m sure much else besides, simply wouldn’t exist without them.

GPO Gay Christmas van poster

If I had to travel from London to York and all points in between simply to see posters, it’s just not going to happen without a private income or a job that is prepared to pay for me to do it.  Neither of which things exist.  So online archives enable me, and many many other people, to think more widely and to see more points of reference.  But there is another more subtle benefit too, which is that they also allow people like me to choose.

Prior to this, the only way I would have been able to see any GPO posters would have been either in auction catalogues, or in books.  In each case, the posters would have been pre-selected.  But give me an archive and a computer, and I am at liberty to decide which items I find interesting.  So, perhaps, I am less likely to fall in with the accepted canon of ‘good’ posters as a result, and history ends up being written slightly differently.  Which is clearly a good thing.

Schlegel export drive gpo poster 1950

So hurrah for the lovely new BPMA catalogue and archives in general.

Games Giant postcards van poster 1961

But wonderful as all of this is, we mustn’t let this blind us to the fact that not everything is archived.  This may sound like a truism but it’s actually a really important point, and it’s something I think about a lot in connection with Daphne Padden.

Daphne Padden POSB poster knight

Her work has been massively under-recognised over the years, and her profile still isn’t as high as it should be.  Now there were plenty of reasons for this – and being a woman working on the outskirts of London must have played a considerable part.  But a big part of it has to be because she just worked for the wrong people.

Daphne Padden lytham st Annes British Railway poster

Railway posters were sold and collected when they were produced, and nowadays they are traded at auction, reproduced in books and as fridge magnets, and kept in a socking great archive in York (now there’s an interface that could still do with taking a long hard look at itself).  But she only ever did a few of those.

Daphne Padden isle of Man BRitish railways poster

Instead her main customer were the coach companies.  And where is the coach archive, I hear you ask?  Well exactly.

Daphne Padden Royal Blue vintage coach poster sailor 1957

There isn’t a collection of these anywhere; hardly any survive and it’s possible that the most comprehensive selection (now that the Malcolm Guest collection got sold) is in our spare room.  Which is ridiculous.

Coach tour rabbits Daphne padden coach poster

And because my spare room doesn’t have an archivist or – more to the point – doesn’t actually contain more than a couple of dozen coach posters when hundreds were produced, people don’t know about these designs.  So they don’t get reproduced in books, or as fridge magnets, and in the end they disappear from view.

Daphne Padden Southend coach poster

Along with the designers, like Daphne Padden, who produced them.

Spring coach poster Daphne Padden

So while we can have a lot of fun with the archives that are there, it’s always worth using them with half a mind to the ones that don’t exist.

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