Door 3

Another miniature today, but this time it’s singing postboxes.  Obviously.

Pieter Huveneers vintage singing post boxes GPO Christmas poster 1957

They’re the work of Pieter Huveneers in 1957.  They also exist in portrait format (below) but I think I prefer these ones.  Does anyone know where these small format posters were displayed?

Pieter Huveneers vintage singing post boxes GPO Christmas poster 1957

Maybe four is a jollier number for carol singers.

(Apologies for the quality of some of the photographs  by the way – they were only ever meant as reference shots for us, well before Quad Royal was ever thought of, never mind an advent calendar.  I am going to go and reshoot some of the worst offenders when I get a moment.)

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Old Romantics

I’ve been meaning to write about this book for a few days now, although I was going to wait until I’d finished it.  It’s Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper, by Alexandra Harris, and it’s brilliant.

Romantic Moderns Alexandra Harris book cover

But now it’s only gone and won the Guardian First Book Prize, so I thought I’d better post something before it turns into stale news.

The main thing I want to say is that it’s a fantastic book.  Not only is it clearly a great piece of research and art historical thinking but, joy of joys, it’s written to be readable.  Very readable in fact.

And it’s speaking to us.  To start with, any book which has this as a frontispiece,

McKnight Kauffer autumn vintage London Transport poster
McKnight Kauffer, 1938, How Bravely Autumn Paints Upon The Sky.

and this on the back cover has to be worth a visit.

Vanessa Bell Alfriston vintage shell poster 1931
Vanessa Bell, 1931, Alfriston.

But the whole book is in fact an extended consideration of a subject that I’ve been mulling over here before now: the relationship between being modern and being British/English.  Here’s Paul Nash on the subject in 1932, in a quote I’d never seen before.

Whether it is possible to ‘go modern’ and still ‘be British’ is a question vexing quite a few people today [...] The battle lines have been drawn up: internationalism versus an indigenous culture; renovation versus conservatism; the industrial versus the pastoral; the functional versus the futile.

The functional versus the futile is a great distinction, and one which makes me realise that I am probably on the side of the curlicue every time.

As I said, I’ve not got to the end oyet, so I can’t report any grand conclusions.  But I’m not sure that there are going to be any to be had.  The book’s genius is the way it meticulously goes through the details of art, architecture, theory and influences, mapping relationships, conflicts and coincidences.  Here you will not find the underlying narrative of modernism, or Britishness, or of any other ideology, just the complexity of things as they happened.

All of which should be more than enough to convince you to put Romantic Moderns on your Christmas list on its own.

But I’m finding the book even more compelling than that, because it contains almost everything that I am interested in.  That’s not just Bawden and McKnight Kauffer, Ravilious and Shell posters, the Johns Betjeman and Piper, but also a whole host of things that never find their way into this blog: aerial archaeology, Wiltshire, English regional food, gardening, Elizabeth Bowen and Virginia Woolf.

It feels as though someone has rifled through the piles of random facts in my head, sorted them out and then explained them back to me much more clearly than I could ever have done.  It’s an interesting, if not entirely comfortable sensation; and one which also makes me realise just how much my sensibility and interests are rooted in these times and ideas.

A proper consideration will follow when I have finished it, but I do also have to say that it was worth the price of admission to discover this alone.

John Piper Archaeological Wiltshire - genius

Archaeological Wiltshire by John Piper.  I used to live in that view, literally and figuratively.  Now, back to the book.

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Number 2

Through the second door in the Advent Calendar is this rather fetching sausage dog.

Beaumont Post Early Sausage Dog vintage 1950 GPO Poster

He’s by Beaumont, he’s from November 1950, and he’s also a miniature dog – in the version we have he’s only 6″ x 9″.

But the good news is that you can have one all of your own.  The BPMA have raided their archives to make some very fine Christmas cards, including Mr Sausage Dog – although he’s doing tricks for them.

Beaumont Sausage Dog as Christmas card from BPMA

There are lots of other lovely cards (and dogs) on their site too, including this Lewitt Him from 1942,

Lewitt Him vintage GPO poster christmas card from BPMA

this Henrion from 1950,

Henrion Christmas Card from vintage GPO poster 1950 BPMA

and this Eric Fraser, from 1946.  I really wouldn’t mind waiting in Post Office queues if I had artwork of that quality to stare at.

Eric Fraser vintage GPO poster 1946 BPMA christmas card

I will also just mention that I don’t own any of those posters above, so if anyone wants to send me one for Christmas, please feel free.  More posters that we do have tomorrow.

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December 1st

Introducing today, the Quad Royal Advent Calendar – a festive poster every single day until December 24th.

Mostly (because we seem to have rather a lot of them here at Quad Royal Towers) this will be the GPO haranguing you to post your cards and presents early.  So we’ll start as we meant to go on.

Tom Eckersley Post Early vintage GPO poster horse

This is by Tom Eckersley (of course) from November 1955.  What better way to start Advent rolling?

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As seen previously

Just  a quick note to point out two rather lovely things for sale, both of which have been mentioned here in the past.

One is the wonderful Design for Death by the equally wonderful Barbara Jones, which has appeared on eBay for a very reasonable £20.

Barbara Jones design for death from ebay

And on a Buy It Now, at that.  I would, if we didn’t already own it.

It’s even more of a bargain when you know that this rather battered edition of English Fairs and Markets went for £63 last week.

English Fairs and Markets Barbara Jones on eBay

So get in there quick.

Meanwhile in Surrey, this has appeared.

padden folio from surrey auction

Not apparently special until you read the description.

Percy and Daphne Padden, folio containing a collection of pencil sketches and watercolours, including an original poster design `Rolling Hills` and an illustration, `Carnival`.

The estimate is £100-200, which would make it a total bargain for any Padden fan out there.   It’s lot 1583 in a gigantic sale at Lawrences of Bletchingley, but you can bid online via the Saleroom if you want.

Over and out.

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Selling, cont.

There were so many railway and London Transport posters in the Onslows catalogue, that I ran out of time on Friday to consider the rest.  So, today, any other business.

The bulk of this is World War Two posters.  Onslows usually have a fair selection and this sale is no different.

Vintage WW2 poster of nurse from onslows sale
Clixby Watson, est. £100-150

The most interesting, for me at least, are a pair of Mount Evans posters.

Mount Evans waste paper vintage world war two poster from Onslows
Mount Evans, est. £200-250

Mount Evans rags vintage world war two poster from onslows
Mount Evans, est. £100-150

The second one, along with the anonymous fuel poster before, are making an appearance for the second time this year.  So it remains to be seen whether they will make their estimates or not.

Save More Fuel vintage WW2 poster from onslows
Anonymous, est. £50-100

But I still like them both.

There are also an interesting set of posters by Heinz Kurth.  This is the prime one in the listing.

Heinz Kurth AFs poster in Welsh from onslows
Heinz Kurth, est. £50-100 (4)

Of Welsh interest, clearly.  But I actually prefer the three subsidiaries, which are both striking and good.

Heinz Kurth Civil defence posters from Onslows
Heinz Kurth, est. £50-100 (4)

Then there are lots of other ones which are clearly classic and of great interest to collectors, but aren’t necessarily great pieces of design (like Bateman cartoons about saving fuel, for example).  Or like this.

Jobs that girls can do to help win the war vintage WW2 poster from onslows
Anonymous, est £100-150.

Now if that makes its estimate, I will eat my warm woolly socks.  But I shall do so quite happily, because we’ve got a copy of it – don’t ask me why – which we got on eBay for less than a tenner.  Actually that probably tells you why we’ve got it.  But if anyone wants to pay £100+ for it, I am definitely open to offers.

Related to the World War Two material, there are also quite a few National Savings posters.  Mr Crownfolio has pointed out that I keep omitting these from my lists of posters that have been collected, when quite a few of them do survive.  He’s right, but I think I keep leaving them out because while they may be interesting pieces of social history, the vast majority aren’t actually good design.

Vintage National Savings poster from WW2 from onslows
Anonymous, c.1940, est. £40-50

Vintage National Savings map poster from onslows sale
J P Sayer, est. £50-70

It’s an interesting question as to why the National Savings didn’t pay the same close attention to design that the GPO or even HMSO did at the same time.  But it’s not one I have a ready answer to – any suggestions?  There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, and two of them are also in this sale.

Eric Fraser save for progress vintage National Savings poster
Eric Fraser, est. £70-100

Myerscough walker vintage national savings poster from onslows
Myerscough Walker, est. £80-120

Although I’m not entirely convinced about the Myerscough Walker, but it’s still better than  most.

What there isn’t – and it’s a rare contrast to almost every other selling emporium in Britain – is a plethora of coach posters being redistributed after the Morphets sale.  Just a few of this type, which are not unpleasant.

Vintage Coach poster from Onslows sale
Peter Andrews, est. £100-150

The rest is miscellaneous.  I never knew that Schweppes once made cider, for example.

Vintage Schweppes Cider poster from onslows sale
Anonymous, est. £300-400

And looking at that picture, I don’t think that Babycham was an entirely new idea, either.

But this miscellaneous category also contains what are to my mind two of the finest posters in the sale.  They’re both by Clifford and Rosemary Ellis, and they’re both wonderful.

Ocean Cable, vintage GPO poster Ellis from onslows sale
Clifford and Rosemary Ellis, 1935, est. £250-300.

Vintage exhibition poster Ellis from onslows sale
Clifford and Rosemary Ellis, 1945, est £200-300

I covet both of these very much.  Here’s the catalogue for the wallpaper exhibition for your further delectation.

Wallpaper Exhibition catalogue from University of Northampton

This could be yours from Abebooks for a bit over £30.  Cheaper than a poster, that’s for sure.

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