Golf and pageantry

The weather is grey, the economy going into a tailspin, but still those auctions keep on coming.  This week’s offering is from The International Poster Center in New York.

Because it’s in New York, it’s heavy on the usual suspects of Art Nouveau, bicycle posters (which for some reason that escapes me are disproportionally collected and expensive), French travel posters and so on.  Although I do quite like this Cassandre, if only as a terrible warning of what television might do to you.

Cassandre 1951 vintage poster for Phillips television
Cassandre, 1951, est. $1,400-1,700

Naturally there are golf posters too, although here at least there is a small amount of British interest.

Rowland Hilder come to Britain for golf vintage travel poster
Rowland Hilder, est. $1,200-1,500

North Berwick vintage travel poster golf Andrew Johnson 1930
Andrew Johnson, 1930, est. $2,000-3,000

People with lots of money do choose the oddest things sometimes.

Elsewhere there are a few more British odds and ends, although they tend towards the traditional, you might even say stereotypical view of Britain.  Golf and pageantry, that is probably what we mean to the Americans.

Christopher Clark Trooping the Colour poster 1952 vintage travel british railways
Christopher Clark, 1952, est. $1,500-2,000

Seeing as we’re here, the poster above raises an interesting question about dating.  The auction house have dated it as 1932.  Which is approximately when the picture was painted, but given that it was previously issued in 1930 as an LMS poster, I’m not even sure that that’s quite right.  Here’s the earlier poster from 1930.

Christopher Clark earlier 1930 for LMS vintage railway poster using same image

But neither of these are really the date of the poster, as the British Railways logo shows – it was actually printed in 1952.  So which is the answer ?  I suppose it depends whether you’re seeing this as a print of the painting, or as a poster itself.  I’d date it at 1952 on that basis – what do you reckon?

Along the same lines is this, which might as well be a print of a painting rather than the Southern region poster it claims to be.

Anna Zinkeisen Southern Region poster Laying of Foundation Stone at Southampton Docks
Anna Zinkeisen, 1938, est. $2,000-2,500

The frame is particularly bemusing, because the description says merely,

B+/ Slight tears at horizontal fold.

but the image on NMSI has no such frame.  So what is going on here?  Search me.

Fortunately there are a couple of pieces of modernity to lighten the day.  Like this Austin Cooper, even if the image is stubbornly retrograde today.

Austin Cooper golliwog vintage London Transport poster Shop between 1928
Austin Cooper, 1928, est. $1,200-1,700

Along with this McKnight Kauffer.

McKnight Kauffer vintage shell poster lubricating oil 1937
McKnight Kauffer, 1937, est. $1,000-1,200

Now the McKnight Kauffer isn’t alone, because one thing that the New York auction does have going for it is an interesting selection of Shell posters.

Vintage Shell poster friend to the farmer Applebee 1952
Leonard Applebee, 1952, est. $700-900

Vintage Shell poster friend to the farmer Hussey 1952
Harold Hussey, 1952, est. $700-900

These two are the most pedestrian of the bunch, but I’m putting them here because the estimates seem quite high.  I can say this from a position of some confidence, given that we bought one of these on eBay for the grand sum of just £12.50 a few years ago.

This Ben Nicholson, however, is great.

Ben Nicholson vintage shell poster Guardsmen use Shell 1938
Ben Nicholson, 1938, est. $800-1,000

But I also rather like this, by Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris.

Summer Shell vintage poster by Cedric Lockwood Morris
Cedric Morris, 1938, est. $800-1,000

I like it and him even better for having read this fantastic reminiscence.  Anyone who gets into a fight with Munnings has a lot going for them.

Should any of these take your fancy, you can bid online via LiveAuctioneers.  But I have to warn you that buyers’ commission comes in  at a rather painful 22.5%, and then you’ve got to get the thing back over the Atlantic too.

All of which makes eBay seem an attractive option.  If only there was anything out there to buy.  All I can offer you at the moment is a lot of rather late Public Information Posters.  Which I’m mainly pulling out to reinforce a point I’ve made before, which is that National Savings posters are rarely design classics.

Vintage National Savings poster from ebay Background to Savings

Vintage National Savings poster EU map

vintage national savings poster inflation

The only one I come close to liking is this incentive to teeth-brushing.

Magic Roundabout brush your teeth vintage public information poster

But I’m not sure I’d pay the £9.99 they’re asking, although I am sure someone will.

The best lot I can find at the moment isn’t even a poster.

Porgy and Bess LP cover by Reginald Mount

The cover design for this LP is by Reginald Mount.  But it would be wasted tucked away on a shelf.

There was one good thing on eBay this week, but we bought it.  So I’ll share that with you when it arrives.

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Books and Canons

Right, back to the bookstacks once more.  In a way I’m rather pleased that there’s a backlog of things I need to write about, it shows that posters and graphic design are starting to be taken seriously.  But more than most, today’s book is both necessary and useful.

Paul Rennie GPO Poster Design book cover

It’s GPO Design by Paul Rennie, a neat guide to the posters of the GPO.  Evem better, it’s reasonably priced and available.  That doesn’t sound like much to ask, but in this case, it’s about time.  Because until now, the only book ever written on GPO design was published by a private press in a limited edition, and went for £320 at auction the last time I saw a copy.  Which makes me particularly grateful for this.

What you get is a fairly straightforward run through the history and structures of the GPO as it affects poster design, the varying kinds of GPO posters and what they were meant to achieve, and a look at some of the artist and designers who worked on the campaigns.  Plus of course, lots of lovely posters to look at.

Tom Eckersley vintage poster Please pack parcels very carefully GPO 1957
Tom Eckersley, 1957

It’s simple, but given that absolutely nothing else is available, it’s exactly what’s needed.

So, for example, I now know why so many GPO schools posters survive compared to the commercial campaigns: they were sent out in their thousands to schools, where they were so much more likely to be kept, or at least thrown to the back of a cupboard, compared with the ones sent out to Post Offices.

John Armstrong vintage GPO educational poster 1937
John Armstrong, educational poster, 1935

Although, I have to say, I don’t find the designs of the school posters half as satisfying as the commercial ones, as they have a tendency towards the dreary.  The only exceptions being the McKnight Kauffer ones, which are rather fine.

McKnight Kauffer, vintage GPO educational poster 1937
McKnight Kauffer, educational poster, 1937

The book has provoked me to some thoughts, though.  Although they’re not really criticisms of the book itself, as it is meant to be a brief and straightforward run through.  My target is probably more design history as a whole, as reflected in this particular text.

What is starting to bother me is the existence of an established hierarchy of designers.  At the top of the tree are those who were also fine artists.  The chapter on individual designers here begins with Paul Nash, and moves on to ‘fellow member of Unit One, theatre designer and surrealist’ John Armstrong’, only later moving on to the poster designers themselves.

Implicit here is the idea that design itself is not enough, it is better (whether that is aesthetically more pleasing or simply more worthy) if it has been touched by the hallowed hand of fine art.  Alone, it does not deserve the attention.

Perhaps it is possible that posters designed by artists are generally better, although I’m not sure I subscribe to this point of view.  But where it really gets irritating is the continual reproduction of this Vanessa Bell design.  It turns up everywhere that GPO design is discussed.

Vanessa Bell unused post office design 1935

Now, this is a failed poster.  It was rejected by the GPO and never used.  Even Bell herself didn’t think the design worked.

I don’t know why it has been so, but for some reason it has taken me ages to do anything I thought would do at all – I think partly because of the difficulty of getting several figures into a small space and yet making them tell at a distance. I have stood about in Post Offices until your employees looked so suspicious I had to leave! – and yet I don’t know that in the end what I have done has much resemblance to a Post Office. However, there it is…

Letter from Vanessa Bell in BPMA archive, quoted in essay by Margaret Timmers

It is possible to see the design as an example of where art and commercialism failed to meet, and Rennie does discuss it in this context briefly.  But I don’t think that this alone is enough to account for its ubiquity.  Because this isn’t just art, it’s Bloomsbury art.  And Britain loves the Bloomsberries, to the extent that it can skew our critical and historical judgement sometimes.

But even when we get the artists out of the way, the book still chooses to comment on the prevailing list of designers, from Austin Cooper and McKnight Kauffer at the top, then moving down to the post-war brigade of Eckersley, Henrion, Schleger et al. (How and why this canon has developed is an interesting question and one I’ll come back to another day as this post is already quite long enough as it is.)

Hans Schleger vintage GPO poster design 1945
Hans Schleger, 1945

Partly this annoys me because I got my critical grounding in English Literature during the late 1980s, where any belief in the Canon of Dead White Males was to be stamped on as a sign of a backward and outmoded way of thinking.  I’m probably not so extreme about it now, but the ingrained urge to stamp hasn’t quite gone yet.

But again, I also think that it can get in the way of us seeing what is really there.

Pieter Huveneers vintage airmail poster 1954
Pieter Huveneers, 1954

Because one of the joys of the GPO Archive is that they commissioned a wide range of artists, some of whose work I’ve never seen anywhere else.  (The illustrations of the book do reflect this, by the way.)

For example, I was furtling around in there this morning for another reason altogether and came across this, which I have known and liked for ages.

Derrick Hass postcards crab vintage GPO poster
Derrick Hass, 1954

It’s by Derrick Hass, who also did this Christmas design, as seen on here before.

Derrick Hass shop early post early vintage GPO Poster holly

Now it turns out, after I got curious, that Derrick Hass went on to have an extraordinary career in advertising, working as an art director in most  of London’s top agencies for almost forty years, and winning prizes for his work into the 1990s.  His life and work is an important part of graphic design history, and one I’d like to know more about.

But if we only keeps looking at what we already know, histories like that will fall by the wayside.  So it’s fantastic that one book on GPO Design is at last available, but now we need a much bigger one too.  One which tells all the stories.

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Over-modern and over here

An interesting comment appeared a week or so ago on a older post about Beverley Pick.

He was a man.  Bless him… He was my uncle and a very clever man..He also did the original Moby Dick… Beverley was originally from Austria and lived many years in Sunningdale during the winter. Autumn he would visit his House in Cork and in his latter years he and his wife would live in France where they had a gorgeous home. He is now buried in the Churchyard at Sunningdale. There was so much to this man we will never know it all…

I’ve written to Odile Walker, who posted those intriguing memories, and I hope she’ll come back and tell us more.  But in the meantime, one thing that I never knew stands out.  Despite his British-sounding name, Beverley Pick was an emigré from Austria.

Beverley Pick pig waste vintage WW2 propaganda poster
Beverley Pick, WW2 poster

Now, I’ve been thinking for a while about the degree to which post-war British graphic design was shaped by people who were one way or another foreigners. There are so many of them that it would be hard not to really.  But finding that this is also true for Beverley Pick has pushed me into action.

So here is a roll call of as many emigré designers as I can think of who worked in the UK in the decade or so after the war.  It’s an impressive selection. With, for no particular reason other than that’s the way it turned out, lots of GPO posters as examples.

Andre Amstutz

Whitley bay poster Andre Amstutz vintage british railway poster
British Railways, 1954

Dorrit Dekk

Dorrit Dekk vintage GPO wireless licence poster 1949
GPO, 1949

Arpad Elfer

Arpad Elfer design for DH Evans poster 1954
D H Evans, 1954

Abram Games

Abram Games vintage London Transport poster at your service 1947

F H K Henrion

Henrion Artists and Russia Exhibition 1942
1942

H A Rothholz

H A Rothholz stamps in books poster vintage GPO 1955
GPO, 1955

Pieter Huveneers

Pieter Huveneers fleetwood poster 1950 vintage railway poster
British Railways, 1950

Karo

Karo vintage GPO soft fruits by post poster 1952

Heinz Kurth

Heinz Kurth design for Artist Partners brochure divider
Artist Partners

Lewitt-Him

Lewitt Him Pan American vintage travel Poster

Manfred Reiss

Manfred Reiss vintage GPO poster 1950
GPO, 1950

Hans Schleger

Hans Schleger vintage GPO ww2 poster posting before lunch
GPO, 1941

Hans Unger

Hans Unger 1951 vintage GPO poster
GPO, 1951

Together they make up pretty much half the content of this blog most months.  And I am sure that there are plenty more I have left out – please feel free to remind me who they are.

That’s all I am going to say for now, partly because this is quite long enough as it is, but also because I am in the process of working out what the story might be.  So if you have any thoughts on why British design became such an emigré profession, I’d love to hear those too.

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Spacing Oddity

Just in case you thought it was all organised and museum-perfect here, a tale.  I discovered a poster tube in Mr Crownfolio’s office, labelled ‘selling’ and in it, quite apart from a poster I could have sworn we’d sold years ago, I found these two oddities which I had also completely forgotten about.  But when I took a proper look at them, they turned out to be quite interesting.

British Railways rail alphabet jock Kinnear display poster

They’re spacing rules for a typeface.

Detail from British Railways vintage poster Rail Alphabet Jock Kinnear

There’s something rather attractive about this kind of very detailed practicality, I think.

And a bit of research gave me some ideas of what they might be.  One clue is on the lower case chart.

British Railways Railway Alphabet vintage poster spacing detail Jock Kinnear

For those of you reading on your iThing, these instructions are by the great graphic designer Jock Kinneir. He’s best known for designing the template and typeface for Britain’s road signage along with Margaret Calvert (the Design museum have written an interesting piece about it if you want to know more). But in 1964 they also designed Rail Alphabet, as part of the Design Research Unit‘s rebranding of British Railways.

British Railways Rail Alphabet poster Jock Kinnear Margaret Calvert

So that’s what I think this is, particularly as the posters came as part of an assorted lot from the Malcolm Guest sale. I imagine that, given their battered and used state, they were up on the walls of a design office somewhere in the British Railways system.

British Railways Rail Alphabet poster Jock Kinnear Margaret Calvert

Now of course rendered obsolete by the computer. But a rather a fascinating bit of graphic design history nonetheless.

What I’ve also discovered in the course of writing this post is that Rail Alphabet wasn’t just used by British Railways, but also by Gatwick Airport and the NHS too, right up until the mid 1990s.  So it’s more than just a typeface, it’s the written identity of the post-war British state.  That’s quite an achievement by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert, and one that deserves more than just being taken for granted.

Even though Mr Crownfolio spends his working days adjusting type into just the right places, I’m not sure that we’ll ever put these up on the wall.  Which begs the question of what to do with them.  Might the National Railway Museum want them?  Or anyone else?  Any thoughts?

While we’re on the subject of oddities, it also gives me the chance to post this.  I’ve always been fond of pictograms anyway, but some of these are particularly choice.

Chart of symbols published by British tourist authority

The poster is a chart of symbols for tourist attractions, published by the British Tourist Authority, sometime after decimalisation.  I’m guessing it’s meant as a set of suggestions for designers and guide authors.  While a few of them are familiar, not all of them caught on.

Symbol for traditional dishes

Some are possibly only required once or twice on any map of the country.

Coracle maker symbol

While others were too frightening ever to use at all.

Solarium symbol

Caravan of doom symbol

I particularly like the caravan of doom.  But there are so many.  Anyone for underground disco?

Caves are open symbol

This has to be my favourite, however, and heaven knows I’ve lived in some bits of London where it could have been applied.

Shooting arranged symbol

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Set fair for Hastings

After seeing the Bruce Angrave Hastings poster yesterday, Mondagogo tweeted with a link to her photos of this wonderful object.

Cartoon forecasts on Hastings Victorian Weather station

It’s a strange mechanical weather forecasting device – part of the Victorian weather station in Hastings.  Here’s the whole thing.

 Hastings Victorian Weather station

Although if you look closely, the cartoons aren’t actually Victorian.

Cartoon forecasts on Hastings Victorian Weather station detail

In fact they look suspiciously as though they might also be by Bruce Angrave.  Certainly the chins seem familiar…

Cartoon forecasts on Hastings Victorian Weather station detail

It seems Angrave did do cartoons as well as poster design (and illustration, and write books, and paper sculpture and  a lot more besides).  Here are a couple which were reproduced in Graphis in 1946

Bruce Angrave cartoons from Graphis 1946

Compare and contrast.

Cartoon forecasts on Hastings Victorian Weather station details

It certainly looks like his work, but I can’t prove it one way or another.  In a weird omission no one seems to have written anything at all about the weather station, so if you are in Hastings and know more, I’d love to hear from you.

And thanks to Anna from Mondagogo for the loan of the pictures.

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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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