Ahead of his time

This may be the only blog post I ever write in praise of estate agents, particularly as we’re thinking of selling our house and so will be dealing with them on a regular basis.  But here goes.

We had one round today for a look, and he was clearly a very nice man because he spent as much time staring at the posters on the walls as at the house itself.

He was also very perceptive.  After a long hard look at this Henrion, he pointed out that it really was pop art before its time.

Henrion London Transport poster 1956 Changing of the Guard

Or at least completely of its time.  The LT poster is from 1956.  Which is exactly the same year as Richard Hamilton’s iconic collage, Just What Is It that Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? (I use iconic here in the technical sense, meaning over-represented and over-cited to the point of tiredness, if not actually cliche).

Richard Hamilton Just What Is It that Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? 1956

Yes, there are other things going on with the Henrion too.  Its angles and sense of speed owe a lot to Rodchenko et al, while its raiding and reworking of Victorian imagery was part of a wider trend in the fifties.  But it’s still as genuinely weird as the Hamilton, if not stranger.

Adrian Shaughnessy writes of Henrion, much later on, that

despite his work with government departments and giant corporations, despite his OBE, and despite his eminence within post-war British design, he retained a radical sensibility.

Which, again, is spot on.  The whole series of three posters that he produced for London Transport in 1956 are peculiar, not least because theu’re a series which don’t match.  Every time I see this poster, I am convinced that it was designed in about 1972, if not later.

F H K Henrion Hampton Court London Transport poster 1956

Here are a couple more strange ones from his earlier wartime work.

Henrion GPO vintage wartime poster

Henrion GPO telephone vintage WW2 poster

And a reminder that he could also do cute.

Henrion post early

All of which means that Henrion deserves rather more credit than he ever gets.  He designed the British Leyland logo too,

British Leyland logo henrion

And, while we’re here, let’s have a cheer for visually literate estate agents too.  Let’s hope he can sell houses as well.

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Owls, further

It’s seems to be book week here on Quad Royal.

I was leafing through the wonderful Barbara Jones book (as mentioned before, but I have now read it and it is worth every penny and some more) and found this.  It’s late Barbara Jones, from 1970, but she’d clearly lost none of her touch, especially where owls were concerned.

Barbara Jones Twit and Howlet book

There is more owlage on the other side.

Barbara Jones Twit and Howlet back cover

And, from the sound of it, even more within.

The Owls were a large family of uncles, aunts, cousins and Grandma, who lived in an oak-tree called The Pines. Howlet and Twit, the twins, were the youngest of them, and sometimes they were indulged and sometimes they were sat upon, like everyone else.

But I shall never know any more of it than that.

Because, having a thing for owls, and Barbara Jones owls most of all, I went out searching.

And it is there.  But it’s £650.  Ouch.

So no more pictures – unless of course someone out there has a copy?

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Autumn thoughts

One of the pleasures of the last Morphets sale was a few of John Burningham’s delightful London Transport posters.  We bought this one.

John Burningham Prunifer Autumnus London Transport poster Morphets

It’s even better in person, as everyone on the poster, the people, the dogs and especially the birds, are all real characters.

Perhaps that’s not so surprising.  Because, if you have anything much to do with small children, he’s much better known as a writer and illustrator of children’s books (and a few for adults).  That’s what he spent most of his life doing.

But when he was just setting up as an illustrator in the early sixties, he was commissioned to produce a series of posters for London Transport, each of them very different.

John Burningham Zoo Poster London Transport

This one is probably my favourite, as much for the eccentric text as the picture itself.

JOhn Burningham Country Walks poster London Transport

This is a farmer.  He has forgotten his bucket.  The cow’s name is Buttercup.  The wheel came off the cart on the last load of hay.  Green Rover, the god, is helping the hens find the egg they laid yesterday.  The goose won’t lay any golden eggs as he is a gander.

First steps in farming are best made with London Transport’s Country Walks Books.

All of these images come from his autobiography, John Burningham,which came out last year, which also means I could scan in this fantastic detail from his Winter poster from 1965.

John Burningham detail of Winter London Transport poster 1965

Here’s the whole thing.

John Burningham London Underground winter poster whole

The day [my first] poster was to appear at London Underground stations and bus shelters, I got up early and went on a local tour.  I thought people would be discussing my poster, but their reaction seemed to be to ignore or lean against it.  This was disconcerting, but happily I continued to do more posters for London Transport.

I can’t recommend the book too highly, even if you have no interest at all in children’s illustration.   Burningham had an idiosyncratic childhood, raised by Conscientious Objector parents and a succession of off-beat and progressive schools, including, finally, Summerhill.    He writes very well, but, even better, the book is very much written with a designer’s eye, telling the story through images as much as words.  There aren’t as many books like this as there ought to be.

John Burningham rush hour poster London Transport

If you don’t want to buy it, although I can’t think why that might be, there are a couple of interesting articles out there fom the book’s publication, including an interview and this thoughtful review.

John Burningham Downs poster London Transport

So there’s no excuse not to discover, not only his work, but also what a fascinating and thoughtful designer he is.

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Friday Miscellany

Odds and ends from the internet today.  Mostly because I wanted to post this.

Tom Eckersley aluminium elephant

Normally it lives on the shelf in Richard Hogg‘s studio.  Lucky him.

You can buy some later Eckersley on eBay at the moment too.

Tom Eckersley London Transport poster 1974 on eBya

We’ve got a copy of that already.  But I can say with some certainty that it didn’t cost £100, which is its starting price.

There on the other hand, people seem to have come back to eBay after the summer holiday lull with high expectations of what their posters are worth.

Both this Unger

Hans Unger 1966 London Transport poster from eBay

and this William Fenton reproduction (previously mentioned in despatches here)

William Fenton London Transport poster from eBay

are up with a starting price of £44.99.

But perhaps the seller isn’t deluded.  Because this delightful John Burningham – also a reproduction – has just sold for £56.01.

John Burningham London Transport Country Walks poster

The John Burningham book has arrived, by the way, and is an utter delight.  So more on him next week.  For now,  a look at the proper version of the poster above to cheer you up on a dull Friday morning.

John Burningham Country Walks London Transport poster

Perhaps I might even go on a country walk myself this weekend.

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Havinden it all

She made me do it.  (Points to Shelf Appeal at the next desk).  She posted about Ashley Havinden and asked a question.  So then of course I googled.  And found this.

Ashley Havinden Stick To Beer poster

Which meant I had to post it.  I can’t tell you much about it though, other than that it comes from the Penrose Annual 1939 and really should be reproduced right now.  Who needs ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’?

That alone would be enough.  But both Shelf Appeal and the search have reminded me that Mr Havinden was an interesting cove.  He was clearly a man of such prodigious talents.  As well as enlivening socks, it seems that he invented the idea of the brand as personality and was responsible for huge swathes of the Britain Can Make It Exhibition, including its poster.

Ashley Havinden Britain Can Make It Poster

But  he isn’t that well known these days.  Which is strange because I get the impression that just before and after World War Two, he was considered very influential indeed; the man who, along with McKnight Kauffer, brought modernism to Britain.

an illustration about printing Ashley Havinden

I think there are a couple of reasons for this.  One is that he spent most of his working life as an Art Director at the Crawfords Agency.  So not only did a lot of his work perhaps go out anonymously, but he was an art director as much as designer, a back room boy.  Which still made him very influential.  I’ve been flicking through Designers in Britain in search of him, and discovered that he commissioned Tom Eckersley, for instance, to produce this campaign for Eno’s Fruit Salts

Tom Eckersley Eno's Fruit salts advertisement 1947

(Eno’s went from McKnight Kauffer pre-war, to Eckersley in 1947; they always did have good taste in graphics).

But I think Havinden’s other problem is that he didn’t produce many posters.  Which is a daft reason for leaving someone out of the histories, but it is the lens through which graphics of the time are, mainly, viewed.

The few of his posters that I can find seem to have been produced for the war effort.

Ashley Havinden drink milk daily

Ashley Havinden First Aid parties poster

Perhaps there are more – in which case, I’d love to see them.

I’ve got a few more thoughts on why he is perhaps not as well-known as he might be, but they’re going to have to wait until I’ve read this book (for which I also have to thank Shelf Appeal) in case I am completely wrong.

But whatever the book says, I definitely don’t think his obscurity is deserved.  Take a look at these images that he produced in the early 50s (from the 1953 Penrose Annual, which was also on the shelves).  They’re illustrating an article he wrote on “Designing for Fluorescent Printing” (top tip: use a dark background).  He was an artist and a modern, and rather a good one too.

Ashley Havinden from Penrose Annual 1953

Ashley Havinden Penrose Annual 1953

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Look, there are fish on this page

So, family Crownfolio are back from France, and we have bought some fish.  Which is not unusual, but this is graphically handsome fish.  And charmingly retro to boot, too.

Mackerel tin

It comes from the Conserverie La Belle Iloise who have reissued, if that’s the right word, some of their packaging from 1960.  So we had to buy some.

We brought home some slightly earlier works too.

Even their more modern graphics are worth a look.

There’s plenty more on their website – there is only so much tinned fish that could be carried home in a small car – including the lobster soup and a particularly lovely box of 1960s-packaged goodies.  But the website’s a bit odd and won’t let me link to them, so you’ll just have to go on there and find them yourself.  Mind the seagulls when you do.

A normal service will be resumed later this week.  Did I miss anything while I was away?

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