Paperlicious

It’s all Shelf Appeal‘s fault again.  Her post about Bruce Angrave led to this French blogger posting some more late last year which was then tweeted by Kickcan & Conkers.  Which led in turn to some tapping and muttering in the next door room as Mr Crownfolio searched the web.  A few days later the postman rang on the doorbell.

Inside front cover of Bruce Angrave paper Sculpture book

Ex-Hendon library, with no dust jacket and all in black in white, but still a good use of just a few pounds.  Because it’s packed with goodies.  Quite apart from Angrave’s own work, like these figures for the Festival of Britain,

Bruce Angrave paper sculpture figures from Festival of Britain

there’s also a history of paper sculpture through the ages, as well as a review of paper sculptors working at the time.  And there were quite a few of them about.  This 5′ high paper fantasia was built by Alan Farmer for the Ideal Home Show.

Alan Farmer figure for HP Sauce Ideal home show from paper sculpture book

While this fairground horse was produced by Studio Diana for the British Industries Fair.

Studio Diana horse for British Industries Fair from Paper Sculpture book

Interestingly, along with a number of other examples in the book, the horse was commissioned by Beverley Pick, who clearly liked paper sculpture a great deal.

But best of all, there are instructions on how to make your own paper sculpture.  Perhaps you would like to make your own version of the wonderful gentleman here.

BRuce Angrave paper sculpture of posh old codger

Bruce Angrave paper sculpture how to diagram

The diagram above is just the beginning, there are also another ten pages of diagrams, instructions and photos.  There’s nothing like jumping in at the deep end, is there.  But if anyone wants to have a go, I will happily scan the whole thing, and then feature the finished results on here.

Quite apart from enjoying the book for its own sake, it has also provoked me to some thinking.  For a start, it’s made me look at Angrave’s posters again. Some are conventionally produced, like this Hastings poster that I’ve mentioned before.

Angrave hastings vintage travel poster

But others, like this 1964 London Transport poster, are actually produced as paper sculptures (and then photographed?  I have no idea).

Bruce Angrave London Transport poster 1964 Christopher Wren

We’ve got a copy of that somewhere I think.

But the other thought is provoked by this, the frontispiece photo.  In it Angrave is producing a logo for Pathe News, for use in what would now be called an ident.

Bruce Angrave makes Pathe News cockerel logo in paper

I had never thought that part of the purpose of paper sculpture was to produce CGI before the computer was up to the job.  But perhaps it was.

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Ski Monday

The new year has hardly begun, but still those auctions keep on coming. Although without much in them to cheer me up on a grey January morning.

Mind you, in the case of the Christies Ski Sale, I can hardly complain, because it’s only doing what it says on the tin.  There are lots of posters of skiing and not a lot else.

In amongst them, there are two Daphne Paddens, for Pall Mall, which means that they combine skiing with the rather less fashionable activity of smoking.

Daphne Padden vintage advertising poster Pall Mall

Daphne Padden vintage advertising poster Pall Mall

Both still warrant estimates of £800-£1,200 each though, perhaps because no one does rock climbing with quite such dash, or even coolness, these days.

Elsewhere, there are mountains and skiers, alleviated by the occasional chair lift.  Some of them are by the great European poster designers, while others aren’t.

Herbert Leupin Davos vintage ski poster
Herbert Leupin, 1958, est. £800-1,200

Bernard Villemot vintage ski poster 1954
Bernard Villemot, 1954, est. £1,500-2,000

And that’s about it, really.

At Swann Galleries forthcoming sale, there are also pictures of skiing, along with the usual run of Art Nouveau, posters of bicycles and so on.  And a very few British items.

Pretty much the only one which I like with any degree of enthusiasm is this Betty Swanwick.

Betty Swanwick Wild or Savage Vintage London Transport poster 1954
Betty Swanwick, Wild or Savage, 1954, est $600-900

It’s the pictorial half of a pair poster and rather lovely.

There are a handful of British railway and travel posters too, including this streamlined special by Pat Keely, celebrating the days when even the London to Brighton line had names for its trains.

pat Keely Southern Belle 1930
Pat Keely, Southern Belle, 1930, est $2,000- 3,000

Not even eBay can save us this week.  All it can muster up is this Daphne Padden coach poster.  On the plus side, it’s an image that I’ve never seen before.  The minus side is all too clear from the picture.

Daphne padden vintage coach poster from eBay

Even the listing says ‘This poster has seen better days’, and I’m not about to argue with that.

But there is some joy to be had.  St Judes tweeted to say that they won the Tom Eckersley Cat O’Nine Lives which was up for sale on eBay this week (and I never quite got round to mentioning despite the fact that the listing very kindly mentioned Quad Royal).

Cat o Nine Lives book tom eckersley from eBay

I hope it’s very happy in its new home.  If you want to see some more of the book, I posted some of the images last year and you can find them here.

Illustration from Tom Eckersley cat o nine lives

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Folded over

So, time to tackle the vastly overdue heap of new books which need our attention.  First in line is a book I have mentioned a while back, Empire Marketing Board Posters by Melanie Horton.

Melanie Horton Empire Marketing Board cover

Now I am going to try to be as nice as I can about this book, but it’s going to be difficult given the format it comes in.  Because it’s been designed by someone who a) had a rather over-blown sense of his own importance in the process, and b) hates narrative.

Although this book might appear at first to have pages, they’re deceptive.

Empire Marketing Board book simple page spread

Instead it is laid out like an Ordnance Survey map on acid.  Some of the spreads fold out like this.

Empire Marketing Board book wide spread

Others fold out like this.

Empire Marketing Board book high spread

Which makes it almost impossible to follow the text.  I think it goes across the unfolded bits first and then into the bits in the middle, but even now I am not entirely sure.  The whole experience is like wandering about in a badly-laid out exhibition without any sense of where you are meant to be.  No, actually, it’s worse than that, because it’s a book.  I’m meant to understand books.

As a result, I don’t even know that I’ve read it properly.  Which is a shame as there are some good nuggets in there.  Like the fact that the Empire Marketing Board posters had their own special display frames, and posters were designed in sets to make the most of this format and changed every three weeks.

empire marketing board specialist poster frame image from book

Apologies for the cropping, the picture is bigger than the scanner.

Now this is interesting, because as we’ve discussed here before, the context in which posters are displayed can make a real difference to their meaning.  So these posters must have been perceived in a very different way to product advertising – I would imagine that they’d be seen much more as propaganda as a result.  But the EMB seemed quite happy with that, as this parliamentary exchange from July 1930 shows.

Mr. MANDER asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs why it is the policy of the Empire Marketing Board not to make use of the ordinary hoardings for their advertising campaign?

Mr. THOMAS The Board have from time to time employed the ordinary hoardings for the display of posters on special occasions. They are, however, satisfied that their own poster frames are better suited than the public hoardings to the special requirements of their main poster publicity campaign.

Although Hansard also tells us that some posters were displayed in other situations too.

The SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. J. H. Thomas): During the 12 months ended 30th June, 1931, 16 new sets of posters have been displayed by the Empire Marketing Board on their special frames. In addition, one new poster for display on the commercial hoardings, and 12 new posters for display in shops, have been published.

F C HArrison Christmas Empire Marketing Board Poster

I wonder whether the British housewife was more likely to buy Empire raisins if they were advertised next to other products, or if they were lauded on those fantastic long displays?  And I wonder if the EMB ever did the research to find out?

The other interesting nugget is the provenance of the collection itself.  It seems the Manchester City Art Gallery collected them as part of an embryonic ‘Industrial Art Collection’, but this idea was short-lived, the posters disappeared into storage and were only rediscovered in the 1990s.  I’d love to know what, if anything else, was part of that collection.

But beyond this, I have a problem with the book, and it’s not just caused by the layout.  The Empire Marketing Board collection is a very difficult one because Empire is a disputed subject, and because some of the posters can only be seen as racist (for a fuller discussion of the issues, see here).

Frank pape Smoke Empire Tobaco

And as a state-funded museum in a multi-cultural city, Manchester City Art Gallery undoubtedly finds itself in a tricky position.  All of which I completely understand.  Unfortunately here all of this contemporary background seems to be getting in the way of the analysis.

Because this is a book in which Melanie Horton does everything except look at the posters themselves.  It divides into two halves, an explanation of the workings of the Empire Marketing Board, and then a very brief scamper through the different themes of the campaigns.  But at no stage does the text ever actually refer to an individual poster, what it shows or how it was designed and what this might have meant then, as well as what it means now.  The ideology that the Empire is bad and therefore all of these posters are morally contaminated comes first and foremost, regardless of the posters themselves. Indeed in places, her argument is rather undermined by the illustrations.  Asking whether the imagery of the posters was representative of the British people as a whole, she says,

They flattered their implied consumers by representing them as stylish, active and independent…

On the opposite page is this, And We’ll All Have Tea, by Keith Henderson

Keith Henderson And We'll All Have Tea

This sense that the posters are not doing what she wants them to do comes to a head in her conclusion.

The posters gave no space to anti-colonial criticism or to any other inconvenient truths that  may have detracted from their message.  Neither do they reflect the conflict and tension that had already come to characterise many parts of Enpire.

This is a bit like complaining that Shell posters don’t mention pollution, or that World War Two posters fail to give adequate space to the Nazi point of view.  They’re advertising, propaganda; it’s what they do.  To expect them to do anything else is absurd, and not a point of view that makes for very good history.

How visual culture like posters and other graphic design is studied is an interesting and unresolved question (there’s an interesting debate over at Design Observer right now).  But however we do it, surely we have to look at the objects themselves.  If we are only able to view them through the lens of our current perspectives, we’re not going to end up seeing very much at all.

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Bookish

I have a vast and overwhelming list of books that are owed a blog post, everything from copyright to Empire and GPO posters.  I know I ought to be tackling the backlog, but ought is such a dreary word, especially when I could tell you all about my Christmas presents instead.  Because I had the pleasure of receiving a stack of Barbara Jones-related books and I’m very happy about it.

There’s the 1950 King Penguin of the Isle of Wight, for starters.

Barbara Jones Isle of Wight King Penguin cover 1950

I could quite easily fall into collecting King Penguins, but I think the Shell Guides might get the hump.

As you might expect from Barbara Jones, it’s hardly a conventional tourist itnerary, more of a wander round the quirky and unseen.  My favourite illustration is this topiary boat.

Topiary boat illustration barbara jones king penguin isle of wight

That could stand its own against Ravilious or Bawden if you ask me.

A slightly more obscure acquisition is this.

Pi In the High Barbara Jones cover

Great cover, concealing a collection of humourous ecclesiastical poetry that the writer claims to have mostly made up while in the bath.

Don’t buy it for the words, that’s all I’m saying, but the Barbara Jones line drawings are delightful.

Barbara Jones Cats from Pi in the High

Our pair of cats look much like that.

But the real treasure doesn’t have a flash cover to show off at all.  It’s volume II of Recording Britain, and every home should own a copy.  I owe it all to Murgatroyd over at Serge and Tweed, who posted about the books late last year (I also got one of her birds for Christmas too, so I am very grateful to her altogether).  I have to confess I knew nothing about them until then, so I was both sorry and educated.

And I have no idea how I missed them, because they are wonderful.  The Recording Britain project began at the start of the Second World War, and was in many ways an close relative of the War Artists Scheme.  But instead of documenting the war effort, Kenneth Clark instructed his artists to go and record in watercolours the Britain that would be lost if the Nazis invaded.  They seem to have been given a pretty free brief, as each artist tends to gravitate to their favourite subjects.  It’s no surprise to find Barbara Jones painting popular art in Norfolk.

Barbara Jones recording britain illustration great yarmouth fair

This is Savage’s Yard in Kings Lynn, once the centre of the merry-go-round trade.

While elsewhere in the book, John Piper is recording St Denis’s Church, Faxton in Northamptonshire.

John Piper Faxton Church from Recording britain vol II

“…the building as a whole is remarkable as one of the very few unrestored churches in his part of the country – an example of Early English altered in the Decorated period and not again.”

Of course the Nazis never did invade.  But Britain still did need recording.  Savage’s Yard disappeared in 1973, while Faxton Church was demolished in 1950.

These images, and the project which commissioned them, are enormously compelling.  Dozens of artists recording places that felt eternal, but also under threat, recording a Britain which might disappear at any moment.

They weren’t the only ones either.  Just a few years later, James Lees Milne was wandering from great house to medieval manor, examining a whole aristocratic way of life which felt doomed to extinction. While the boy who would become the architectural critic John Harris was vaulting over gates and scrambling through barbed wire fences to see the Jacobean trophy houses and Palladian mansions which were already falling into ruins.

It’s a pivotal moment in British culture, but one which hasn’t really been recognised yet.  The country was on the cusp, about to turn, and a few people recognised this, even if they had no idea what it was to become.  We need these images and these writings, otherwise we would have no idea what we have lost.  They’re important.

A few footnotes and comments if you want to find out more.  The V&A have a very good factual page about Recording Britain, and all of the watercolours are available to see in the Prints and Drawings Room should the urge strike you.  It also gets a deserved mention in Romantic Moderns too (I love this book so much that  I am going to keep going on about it until you’ve all bought it and sent me a chit to say you have).  And if you really want to know a lot more, there is also a rather expensively out-of-print book about the project too: Recording Britain: A Pictorial Doomesday of Pre-war Britain. But it has Patrick Wright in, who I revere, so I have just invested in the paperback.  More news on that when it arrives (and another one to add to the list).

The books themselves go for less than I’d expect, given the calibre of the artists involved –  if you don’t mind not having a dust-jacket that is, and there are plenty on Abebooks for the picking.  But be warned, most of the images are printed in black and white, I have just cherry-picked the colour ones here.

As for the fellow-travellers, if you want to know more about James Lees-Milne’s travels, this is a good (and cheap) place to start.  And I owe considerable thanks to The Country Seat for recommending me John Harris’s book, No Voice from the Hall which is both enlightening and hilarious in its recollection of a more shambolic and eccentric, and perhaps more interesting, version of Britain.

And finally, I think this would make a great series for BBC4 or Radio 4 or something, so if there are any commissioning editors reading, drop me a line, and I’ll knock up a proposal as quick as you like.

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Boarding

Our theme today is things mounted on board.  Because twice today I’ve looked at a promsingly low-priced item, only to discover that the apparent cheapness is justified, because it has been glued to a large lump of chipboard.  Sigh.

The first offender is this – estimated at a mere £80-120, which is a pittance for such a lovely thing.

Alfred Clive Gardiner 1926 vintage London Transport poster Kew Gardens from Bloomsbury

This Deco splendery is by Alfred Clive Gardiner from 1926 and I like it very much.

It’s on offer in the forthcoming Bloomsbury Poster and other bits and bobs Auction on 20th January.  Sadly, there isn’t a great deal else there to detain us.  A McKnight Kauffer perhaps. estimated at £200-400.

McKnight Kauffer ARP vintage WW2 poster 1938

Of interest to me at least is this Norman Wilkinson National Savings poster, estimated at £100-200.

Norman Wilkinson National Savings Poster from Bloomsbury auction

It’s the estimate that I’m most interested in, as we have two of these (I know, I have no idea why) which we’d happily sell now, so if they end up being worth anything like that it will be what is known as a result.

Other than that, it’s the usual run of Art Nouveau, sleek Art Deco cruise liners and pictures of people skiing.  Although this one did at least make me laugh.

Visite Portillo vintage skiing poster Chile

Estimate £250-35o for the political animals amongst us.

The second piece of boardery turned up on eBay.  £199 Buy It Now seemed very cheap for a vintage Claude Buckle GWR poster.

Claude Buckle Bath poster from eBay GWR vintage railway poster

Until you get close to it.  Not only is it mounted on board, but someone seems to have been taking pot shots at it too.

The seller does have a couple of other interesting poster too, albeit at a price.  This Percy Drake Brookshaw comes up every so often in auctions and so on.

Percy Drake Brookshaw vintage travel poster from eBay

And every time it does, it gives me a headache, so I certainly wouldn’t pay £200 for it (and, judging by its auction record, neither would anyone else).

But I do quite like this 1958 image by John Cort.

John Cort vintage 1958 travel poster excursions to the continent

At £150 Buy It Now or a bright bit of 1950s moderne, I suspect that will go quite soon (although Mr Crownfolio thinks I am wrong there).  And if it doesn”t, it should.

But I do also have a question about chipboard, or rather the posters that are stuck to them.  I am assuming that these have such low estimates because it’s not really possible to get the poster off the board.  Is this so, or is the process reversible?

This isn’t an abstract question, either.  We’ve got this lovely 1922 London Underground poster by Alfred Rutherston in just that state.

Albert Rutherston 1922 vintage London Underground poster on board from us

So if it can be released, I’d really like to know.

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That’s no lady, thats…

Well, what exactly?

Canvey Lady Charles Pears 1926 poster London Transport

The catalogue for the latest Great Central Railwayana Auction flopped through the letter-box the other day and I was rather taken with the poster above, mainly because of its extreme oddness.  It’s as though someone has a) put up a piece of Russian constructivist sculpture in Canvey Island of all places and then, b) commissioned a poster of it.  Which is great but, you have to admit, intriguing.

Fortunately, the torrent of knowledge that is the internet came up with the answer quite quickly.  The lady is actually a shipping beacon – although one that’s a bit of a mystery even if you live on Canvey Island because it was probably demolished in the early 1950s, well before anyone thought of taking a reasonable photo of it.

Canvey Lady photo from the interflob about Canvey island

This is the best that I – and the Canvey Community website – can come up with.  They’ve got the full story on their website here if you want to know more.  And the London Transport Museum also have the poster in their collection.

So now I know.  To the extent that I am almost tempted to bid for the poster – although in the absence of any estimates at all in the auction, I have no idea whether or not I could afford it.  (Why do railwayana auctions do this?  Am I supposed to be such a railway buff that I can just intuit what it might go for?  Does anyone know?).

There are a few other odds and ends in the auction too that are worth taking a look at.  In my current enfeebled state, I quite fancy spending the rest of the winter in Moretonhampstead, for example.

Manor House Hotel GWR poster 1923

Preferably in about 1923.  Although you can still stay there if you want, it’s now called Bovey Castle and looks like a magnificent piece of Edwardian kitsch if that’s your bag.

This, meanwhile is a rather natty bit of design, although not one that I can tell you much about other than it’s by Keenan.

Keenan Heysham Belfast railway poster

And this is a Rowland Hilder railway poster, which isn’t something I didn’t even know existed until now.  But it’s rather good too.

Rowland hilder East Anglia railway poster

I can tell you that it went for £680 at auction about eighteen months ago, so probably won’t be a bargain this time round either.

Finally, there’s this, which for some reason I find utterly bemusing.

GWR whitby poster andrew johnson 1931

Perhaps because Then looks slightly more modern to me than Now.  Or maybe because I keep thinking that Captain Cook has just come back in the bottom picture.  Not that any of this matters in the slightest as someone in Whitby will probably want this poster very much indeed.

If any of these are of interest to you, the auction is on 15th January, and you can find the catalogue here.  Or if you want to know more about Canvey Island, can I very much recommend the Julien Temple film Oil City Confidential which is wonderful (I know, I didn’t want to watch a documentary about Dr Feelgood either, but trust me, it’s brilliant).

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