Too small

The next Van Sabben auction is tomorrow, but we are only going to pay it a very brief visit.  This is partly because it is, as ever, vast and with few British posters tucked away in there.  But also because they’ve changed the format of their website, and the pictures are tiny.  How can I persuade you to care about a poster when the image is this small?

GPO poster Buy your postage stamps in books
Anonymous, est. €90-150

Actually it looks better there than it does on their website, but even so, I’m not sure I’d want to buy a poster on the basis of that few pixels.  I can also tell you that it dates from 1948,  but they are abroad so it’s not fair to expect them to know that.

There are a few other posters of interest out there too, like this Lewitt Him.

Lewitt Him AOA poster airlines poster
Lewitt-Him, est. €120-200

There are also a tiny set of British railway posters, like this example of Frank Newbould doing Tom Purvis impersonations for the LNER.

Frank Newbould Cleethorpes LNER railway poster
Frank Newbould, 1932, est. €1200-2500

Although that is preferable to Frank Newbould doing Frank Newbould, at least in the case of this poster.

Frank Newbould Plymouth GWR poster 1945
Frank Newbould, 1945, est. €280-450

And both of those images really are too small to be any use at all.

But my favourite has to be this one; yet another classic from the Orient Line department of tasteful modernism.

De Holden Stone orient line cruises to the mediterranean poster
De Holden Stone, est € 220-450

This is still the only poster I have ever seen by James de Holden Stone, and all I know about him is contained in a short paragraph here, so any further info would be much appreciated.



Mountain sand and sea

Still in catch up mode, there is also a GCR railwayana auction on Saturday (yes, the kind of Saturday that is tomorrow).  There are lots of posters up for grabs but, it has to be said, no real surprises, though it’s still worth a tour.

What we do have is a fair number of tourist towns on offer, mostly rendered in pastel shades.

A BR(E) double royal poster, SOUTHWOLD, NEAR HALESWORTH, East Coast Landmarks, by Frank Mason
Frank Mason, est, £150-300

A BR(S) double royal poster, CHICHESTER, by Claude Buckle British Railways
Claude Buckle, est. £100-200

Which is probably why I like this rather more flamboyant attempt better.

A British Railways (E) double royal poster, ESSEX, by Hooper.
Hooper, est. £80-120

With this exuberant Brookshaw a close second.

 BR(M) double royal poster, THE LUNE VALLEY, by Brookshaw British Railways
Percy Drake Brookshaw, est £80-120

Note that the ones which I like are much cheaper, clearly because I have no taste at all.

You will also find a whole heap of seaside posters.

A BR(W) double royal poster, BARMOUTH, for Mountain, Sand and Sea, by Harry Riley British railways
Harry Riley, est. £300-500

Many of which are by Harry Riley, although, curiously, a large proportion also seem to feature people standing on the promenade.  What can this mean?

A BR(W) double royal poster, ABERWYSTWYTH, by Harry Riley British Railways
Harry Riley, est £150-300

A BR(W) double royal poster, PORTHCAWL, by Harry Riley British Railways
Harry Riley, est. £250-400

A BR(NE) double royal poster, BRIDLINGTON, by George Ayling British Railways
George Ayling, est. £150-300

But all is not entirely lost to the world of Ladybird picture book style illustration.  To start with, there are three posters by Studio Seven.  We might own a copy of the first one, but I don’t rightly know as the cataloguing system on the computer has keeled over.  Must fix that one day.

A BR(M) double royal poster, BUXTON, by Studio Seven British Railways
Studio Seven, est. £80-120

A BR double royal poster, CAMPING COACHES, by Studio Seven British Railways
Studio Seven, est. £100-200

A BR(M) double royal poster, THE CALEDONIAN, a new fast train, London and Glasgow, by Studio Seven British Railways
Studio Seven, est. £80-120

I don’t know anything about Studio Seven at all, even though I do like their style, so if anyone can enlighten me I’d be very grateful.  Lots of other people have called themselves Studio Seven over the years, so the internet doesn’t prove very useful on this one.

In a similar style, there is also a Lander.

A BR(M) double royal poster, ISLE OF MAN, by Lander British Railways
Lander, est. £80-120

I have to say that I’ve never thought of the Isle of Man as a continental resort before now, and I don’t think this poster is going to change my mind.

After that, we are pretty much down to any other business, like this Southern Region poster that I like for no particular reason.

A Southern Railway double royal poster, SUMMER CONDUCTED RAMBLES, by Audrey Weber railway poster
Audrey Weber, est. £200-350

Along with this frankly rather frightening late Newbould, which can’t have done wonders for Nottingham’s tourism figures.

A BR(E) double royal poster, NOTTINGHAMSHIRE, by Frank Newbould British railways
Frank Newbould, est. £150-300

And finally, for those of you who want to spend a four figure sum on a poster, there is also Newbould’s reworking of the Hassell classic.

A LNER royal quad poster, SKEGNESS IS SO BRACING, by Frank Newbould, after J. Hassall. The classic image of the Jolly Fisherman Railway poster
Frank Newbould, est. £1,500-2,000


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



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.



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.

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.