And now for something completely different

It’s very easy to reconstruct the past through the sensibilities of today.  We go back through the copies of Graphis and Modern Publicity, wade through the posters and the magazines that remain, only picking out the things that chime with us now.  And so we put together a story about the fifties which is about how a friendly kind of modernism finally caught hold in Britain.  But that’s not the whole story, just one thread out of the many different styles and designs that were going on at the time.

And why, you may ask, am I being told this once more?  It’s because I’ve found this website, a lovely tour round the work of illustrator Norman Weaver, put together by his daughter.

Norman Weaver Rowntrees fruit gums advertisement

The website would be worth a visit for Weaver’s biography alone, which includes training as a cabinet-maker for Heals, being General Eisenhower’s personal map-maker during the war, becomng an official photographer during the aftermath of the concentration camps and finally settling down to a career as a a still life artist.  And he worked with Beverley Pick for a while too, creating giant murals for the Festival of Britain.  It’s enough for five lives, and well worth a read.

Norman Weaver Heinz advertisements

But the other reason to take a look is that Weaver’s work is important.  If you flip through any magazine of the period (and I can speak with some authority here, having been required to read both Woman and Woman and Home right through from 1949-1963 in my time) they are full of these kinds of slightly hyper-realistic illustrated advertising.  And Weaver was one of the very best exponents of this style.

Norman Weaver Smedleys advertisement

He was represented by Artist Partners, and like many illustrators of the period did a lot more than just advertising.  There are some very recognisable book jackets too.

Norman Weaver book cover for the spoilers

As well as some beautiful wildlife illustrations – these were for a Sunday Times article about wildlife returning to London.

Norman Weaver London wildlife

But it’s still the commercial and advertising drawings that are the most compelling for me.

Norman Weaver Afamal advertisement

I think that’s because they tell another one of the really important stories of the time.  While the architects and the designers were all busy embracing Scande-lite modernism, with its wide plains of wooden floors and less is more ethos, for an awful lot of people the opposite was true.  More was very definitely more.

Norman Weaver mackintosh food ad

The rising tide of consumer goods in the years after the war must have seemed almost impossibly abundant after rationing, utility and bombs, a time at last of fridges, colour and as much food as you could want to eat.

Weaver’s drawings celebrate this bounty in all of its vibrant, glistening detail.

Norman Weaver sweet wrappers

It’s impossible not to look at the past through the lens of the present, and I know that one of the reasons I like these illustrations is the fantastic colour and optimism – the latter in particular isn’t something you often find in modern design.

Norman Weaver Cadburys Dairy Milk

So all I’m really doing is telling another, slightly different story about what things looked like fifty or sixty years ago, it’s not any closer to the truth than any other.  But it’s a start.

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It’s the economy, stupid

At least that’s my theory. I can’t account for the Onslows’s sale otherwise.  More posters than usual didn’t sell, or didn’t make their reserves, and very few indeed made more than their estimate.  It seems that after two weeks of hearing about nothing but austerity budgets and cost-cutting across the board, everyone is now too frightened to spend money on posters.

There were a few honourable exceptions.  This World War Two poster reached £420, from an original estimate of £100-150.

Lend a Hand on the Land WW2 poster fron onslows

I don’t quite know why; plenty of other wartime posters didn’t sell that well, or at all, and it’s not even a particular design classic – I prefer the idea of the Londoner’s Land Club (which I would join in a flash if it still existed) to the actual poster itself.

A few other categories did well – Munich Olympics posters, and a smattering of French things and old things that I can’t get too excited about.  This Frank Sherwin poster also went for £20 over its £600 high estimate.

Frank Sherwin Redcar British Railway poster from Onslows

But many classic railway posters weren’t as popular as they might have been.  Lots of Terence Cuneos and landscape Quad Royals were passed over.  As was this delightful chap, from Studio Seven.

Studio Seven British railways Dogs Need Tickets too poster 1957 Onslows

I’d have thought him irresistable, but not even cute can sell in a recession it seems.

Mind you, I can see why there might be a shortage of buyers here.  After Morphets and Bloomsbury’s big railway poster sale in New York, I imagine quite a few collectors may have spent over their annual budget already.  Or they may just have auction fatigue.  I’m getting quite close to it, and I’ve hardly bought anything.

There were some exceptions to the general trend though.  The Shell Educational Posters all did well, almost all of them selling at their £50-70 estimates.

Shell Guide to Sussex poster Rowland Hilder from Onslows

Which is possibly surprising, because the set on eBay which I blogged about recently, have almost entirely failed to sell for £60 each.  (Should you fancy a bargain, they’re now coming round again at a more enticing £39.99 each.)

Other than that, the strange rule of the poster world was once again proven, which is that original artworks are less valuable than the mass-produced reproductions that sprang from them.  (Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr Benjamin).  There were a whole set – nine in total – of Frank Newbould railway safety posters.  Each one paired the poster with the artwork and one or more original design treatments.

Frank Newbould Railway safety posters with original design onslows

You’d have thought it would be a museum or a collector’s dream; but none of them made their £150-200 estimate, and a few failed to sell altogether.  I’d love to know where they came from.

Also of interest is that a selection of 1960s London Underground posters (like this 1963 Frank Dobson) almost entirely went for £55-60 each.

Frank Dobson bus tour poster for London Transport 1963

Which perhaps makes the estimates at the Morphets sale look more reasonable, a thought which quite perks me up.  Perhaps I’d better go and order that truck then…

But if you fancy buying any posters in the meantime, Onslows will consider offers on any of the unsold lots, so take a look, there may be a bargain or two to be had.

Disclaimer:  this is an entirely personal view and has probably missed lots of interesting prices out.  Please feel free to point them out, or to suggest any other theories you may have about why auctions and prices are as they are.

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Starting Small

I did promise some more Daphne Padden a couple of weeks ago, but there is a vast mound of posters to photograph (forty or more, not counting the duplicates) and with all the windows open for a breeze to stop my brain boiling in the heat, it’s not the easiest job right now.

So, as a starter, here are some small things, but ones that you might not have seen before.  (One or two of them might make it onto eBay in the next week or two, as we do now have quite a bit of her stuff…)

Daphne Padden P&O menu from estate sale

I’m guessing that this is another menu for P&O, but I can’t say for sure as it’s blank inside.  There is also a rather delightful trident-load of little birds on the back.

Daphne Padden menu birds on trident from back

Then there’s a BOAC children’s menu.

Daphne Padden BOAC children's menu

I don’t know when this was done, but the food police weren’t too much in evidence then; the menu includes chocolate biscuits, preserves and Madeira cake, but no mention of vegetables at all.

This equatorial certificate was for BOAC as well.

Daphne Padden BOAC equator certificate

She clearly liked all three of these designs, as they’d been framed for display and kept that way.

Finally, there’s a jigsaw for Nestle.  My guess would be that this came with a box of chocolates or biscuits.

Daphne Padden, Nestle animal jigsaw

The lions are particularly fine – and there will be plenty more animals when I do get round to photographing the posters properly.  Here’s an owl and four rabbits to whet your appetite until then.

Daphne Padden National Savings Poster

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The return of Mr Huveneers

Mike Ashworth, whose Flickr stream brought us the wonderful lost posters of Notting Hill Gate, is clearly a man with much design ephemera to his name.  He very kindly sent me a link to this – a wonderful brochure cover by Pieter Huveneers from 1956.

PIeter Huveneers LM party brochure cover 1956

Now I blogged about Pieter Huveneers a while back, trying to find out discover whether the British designer of the 1950s then became the Australian corporate design guru of the 60s and 70s.  I had one enigmatic reply which said that this was the same person, but no more information than that.  Still, it’s good to know that he didn’t just disappear.  And it does give me an excuse to post this, which I love.

Pieter Huveneers vintage poster June Dairy Week

It’s a 10″ x 15″, and while Google has taught me that the June Dairy Festival was a big and regular do in the 50s, I still don’t really know what it was, or what the postie had to do with it.  So, once again, any information would be gratefully received.

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Throw a Coach Party

It’s here.  The much anticipated Morphets everything-you-ever-wanted-to-own-from -the-sixties-and-seventies Malcolm Guest catalogue has arrived at The Saleroom and on their website.

Wales and Coach tours 2 vintage posters from morphets
Donald Smith, two posters for Hants and Dorset Coaches

My brain is going to take a while to absorb it all, especially in this heat – there are over a thousand lots, and with many of them multiples of between two and fifteen posters, I haven’t a clue how many posters are actually for sale.  Really quite a lot I should think, and all I’ve been able to do is skim through them.  So, for the moment, here are a few nice items chosen at random for your entertainment.  And a few first thoughts too.

Bruce Angrave, Party Travel for 8 or more, vintage rail poster morphets sale
Bruce Angrave, Party Travel, British Railways poster

There are huge numbers of posters which I certainly have never come across at auction or illustrated before, from, the whimsical to the modern.

Longman Party Outings By Rail vintage railway poster from Morphets
Longman, Party Outings By Rail, British Railways

JOHN WRIGHT Rail Rover Tickets vintage railway poster from Morphets
John Wright, Rail Rover Tickets, British Railways

And a few which seem to have fallen off the first sale, like this rather lovely bit of GWR modernism.

RALPH MOTT Factories and Factory Sites vintage GWR railway poster from Morphets
Ralph Mott Factories and Factory Sites, GWR

There are also a lot of coach posters in addition to the railway collection – well over three hundred.

Studio Seven Hire A Coach 2 x vintage posters from Morphets sale
Studio Seven, Hire a Coach

KARO/JACQUES Luxury Coach Tours; Send Your Parcels by Bus vintage coach posters from Morphets
Karo/Jacques, Luxury Coach Tours; Send Your Parcels by Bus

But mostly it’s the sheer quantity of posters itself that I find overwhelming.  I could – and probably will – do a whole post just about the Royston Coopers that they have, most of which I’ve never seen before.

Royston Cooper Marble Arch vintage coach poster Morphets sale

I should also point out that, once again, the estimates are insanely low.  That Royston Cooper is estimated at £50-100, as are the two Daphne Paddens below.

Daphne Padden 2 x spring vintage coach poster from Morphets sale

If even half the lots go for close to these estimates I will a) eat my hat and b) need a removal van to bring all of my purchases down from Harrogate.

It gets even madder when you start to look at the multiples.

Unger Eckersley Games from Morphets sale

Anyone fancy the Games, Eckersley and two Ungers above for £100 to £150?  I do, but I also don’t rate my chances too highly on that.

A full appraisal will follow in due course, but it really is worth going to take a look yourself – and then please do come back and tell me what you think.

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Lucky for some

I posted a few weeks ago about our giant black cat, but this more manageable version (well, manageable-ish at 40″ x 60″) has just come up on eBay.

Black Cat National savings poster from eBay

This sleek feline could be yours for just £99.  Ours, meanwhile, has been re-homed at the History of Advertising Trust, to be properly looked after.

Also on eBay at the moment, your choice of pretty much any Shell County poster you want.  Here’s Wiltshire, by Keith Grant, by way of an example.

Wiltshire Shell county poster illustration Keith Grant

But with 22 on offer, you are spoilt for choice.  At £59.99 a go, that could be a nice little earner for the seller.  If they get that of course.  Some very similar ones come up at Onslows tomorrow, so it will be interesting to see what they make.

(These are offered as Buy It Now or Best Offer, so might go for less.  Am I the only person who is regularly tempted by Best Offer to make a really low punt, just in case they say yes? Or is it a universal urge?)

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