Poster pot

As if last week didn’t give you enough posters to fritter your monies away on, there are still more.  Really quite a lot more too.

First, Swann Galleries, whose auction is on 15th November.  Usually the appearance of a whole swathe of high quality London Underground posters on the other side of the Atlantic would be worth making a fuss over.  This time though, unfortunately for them, they’re in competition with the stellar collection on sale at Christies this month.  With the result that theirs don’t look quite as enticing.

Alma Faulkner vintage London Transport poster 1928
Alma Faulkner, 1928, est. $1,000-1,500

This may just be because I am jaded.  But I also think that there’s a different feel to this collection – a bit more pastel and bucolic, possibly even a bit more fey, which means that they don’t appeal to me as much.

Austin Cooper vintage London Transport poster out of doors 1923
Austin Cooper, 1923, est. $1,500-2,000

There are a few exceptions to this, though.  One is this wonderful piece of modernism by Andrew Power (which, the catalogue tells me, was a pseudonym used by Sybil Andrews, something I didn’t know).

Andrew Power wimbledon vintage london transport poster 1933
Andrew Power, 1933, est. $4,000-6,000

There is also this fabulous vision of modern transport.

Harold McCready vintage London transport tram poster 1930
Harold McCready, 1930, est. $1,200-1,800

Although it does make me very unsure about taking a tram, for fear of the large explosion when they all reach the centre.

Even further away in San Francisco, Poster Connection have only a handful British posters at all in their auction on 6th November.  Your starter for ten are two Frank Newboulds for the Ideal Home exhibition.

Frank Newbould 1928 vintage Ideal Home poster
Frank Newbould, 1928, est. $600.

My favourites are these two Lewitt-Hims for BOAC.

Lewitt Him vintage BOAC poster 1948
Lewitt Him, 1948, est. $400.

Vintage Lewitt Him BOAC poster 1948
Lewitt Him, 1948, est. $500

And there’s also a Games.

Abram Games BOAC poster 1949
Abram Games, 1949, est. $500

Plus a couple of interesting McKnight Kauffers too.

mcKnight Kauffre vintage American Airlines poster
McKnight Kauffer, 1948, est. $700.

Vintage McKnight Kauffer American Airlines poster
McKnight Kauffer, 1948, est. $800

The whole catalogue is worth looking at though, as they have put together a selection of the European greats, including Herbert Leupin, Donald Brun and Raymond Savignac.

Donald Brun 1949 Vintage poster
Donald Brun, 1949, est. $300

And I’ve rather taken a shine to these two by Max Bill, mainly because no one in Britain ever really did type like this and so I pine for it.

Max Bill vintage poster 1933
Max Bill, 1933, est. $1,700

Max Bill vintage poster 1933
Max Bill, 1933, est. $1,000

That’s not all, either.  G.W. Railwayana have an auction on 13 November (with no estimates in the catalogue, in case you wonder why I haven’t attached them).  For those of us who aren’t after Pictures of Trains, there are only a few curiosities, like this rather nice bit of early 1960s Ladybird book styling.

British Railways vintage poster barry 1961
Anonymous, 1961

Although this is rather nice – it’s half of a pair poster of London’s Street Markets, from 1949 and would be a lovely thing to look at every day.

London Street Markets vintage poster 1949 AR Thomson
A R Thomson, 1949.

I’m pointing out these GPO Schools posters, simply because they’ve come up for discussion here last week.

Keeping in Touch, the post office in town vintage poster 1960s

These (there’s another one too) are quite late, 1960s, and not very appealing if you ask me (we had some, no idea why, and sold them).

But, if you’re interested in piecing together the archaeology of poster display, this little lot is quite interesting, even though it isn’t a poster.

Poster Paste pots

They’re poster paste pots, designed, I suppose, to be non-spill and to get just the right amount of paste on your Tom Purvis.  What’s particularly interesting is that one, unsurprisingly has  GWR on it.  But the other says Waterlows – who were of course one of the great printers of posters.  So is this a very early promotional gift?  I need to know.

And finally, who wouldn’t want to be Babycham Coal Queen of 1980?

I am speechless

Yours with Scotland For Me (7 assorted); Visit Moscow; Manchester plus others.  A bargain in the making.

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Edge wear

And still they keep c0ming.  Today – cue drum roll – it’s eBay Watch.  Along with a bit of complaining from me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got no problem with what’s out there.  Because there’s loads of it.

Let’s start with this Aer Lingus poster, which is very stylish.

John Bainbridge Aer Lingus poster c1950s

Although it’s in German it was printed in Ireland and is by Bainbridge.  This is almost certainly the John Bainbridge whose London Transport poster I mentioned the other day (and about which more later).

Then there’s this lot.

Beath Winter Number vintage London Transport poster on eBay

Beath vintage London Transport poster Green Line Coach Guide eBay

Beath vintage London Transport Poster March timetable eBay

They’re all by Beath, all from 1936 and they will cost you £49.50 a poster at the moment.  I also think  that they’re all rather good bits of modern typography.

But what pains me is that the descriptions say that they have all three been mounted on canvas.  Now it may just be that they’ve been stored badly (that’ Mr Crownfolio’s theory) but even if that’s so, they’re in pretty poor condition for a mounted poster.  I also can’t see any of the mount around the edges, which is a bit odd.

Now if these were the only examples, I wouldn’t be so bothered.  But it’s happening elsewhere.  The Henrion and Bainbridge posters that I mentioned yesterday also claim to be linen backed.  But the Bainbridge in particular is in even worse condition – take a look at the edges.

HEnrion 1950s London Transport poster as seen on our walls

John Bainbridge 1950s London Transport poster

And again, no edges of linen to be seen.

So what’s going on?  Is there just an outbreak of fibbing on eBay?  Or, more kindly, of sellers who haven’t seen a mounted poster before.  Or is there someone doing cut-price poster mounting and not doing it very well?  Or have I just got the wrong end of the stick altogether?

And finally, this.

Percy Drake Brookshaw

My beef here is with the description:

On offer here is a beautiful original Percy Drake Brookshaw travel poster dating to the mid 20th century circa 1950’s.

Yes, it’s by Percy Drake Brookshaw, yes it’s original.  But no, it is definitely not beautiful.  Just look at it.

They (an eBay based antiques dealer in Chippenham) also want £200 for it, which is a bit steep considering that I distinctly remember it going for about £40-60 at auction earlier this year.

There ought to be large signs all over the relevant bits of eBay, warning people that just because a poster is old, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s valuable.  The same applies to the Beaths above.  £49.95 isn’t as much, but it’s still a lot when you think that we bought a similar (and in fact better because nicely mounted on linen and therefore flat) Beath Winter Number for just £7.99 only last year.

Right, enough complaining.  On the positive side, you could have this smiley chap by Daphne Padden for a mere £4 or so at the moment.

Daphne Padden menu design from eBay

As well as a ton of WW2 posters from this seller.   They’re not the most visually appealing – this is probably the best of the bunch.

nurse WW2 poster from eBay

Once more, they’re not cheap,with opening prices from £50 for this, to £200 for a fairly tatty Norman Wilkinson.  Perhaps I’ll come back to this post next week and see how they all fared.

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A lot

Really, there is more being sold at the moment than I can properly keep tabs on. Hence a rather scrabbled post to tell you that these are up for sale in Nantwich tomorrow.

Henrion lot for sale in Nantwich - wide

The lot is a heap of Henrion posters.  A big heap.

Henrion posters for sale in Nantwich - second wide

Sadly, they’re not entirely what they seem.  On the plus side, some of them are signed by Henrion himself. The downside is that they are all reprints, done for Staffordshire Polytechnic in 1989 – I think for an exhibition.  But interesting nonetheless, if only because they reproduce posters that don’t tend to turn up elsewhere.

Henrion signature and printing detail from Nantwich lot

If this tickles your fancy, they are being sold by Peter Wilson Auctioneers tomorrow, and come with an estimate of £30-50.

More auctions tomorrow, whether you like it or not.

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That’s Shell, that was

I really wish I hadn’t started this post now.  It was meant to be a simple one about stuff on eBay, and now it’s gone and turned into a mystery.

The beginning was this poster, which ended two days ago.  Along with a confession.

Shell Poster Long Man of Wilmington Denis Constanduros

Which is that I didn’t actually mention it while it was on sale, on the off-chance that it went un-noticed and we could pick it up for a pittance.  Some chance – six bidders and twenty bids pushed it up to £412.  I almost wish that we’d gone that high.

So, piqued, I started investigating Denis Constanduros.  It turns out that he also did this rather lovely rendering of Llanthony Abbey (one of my favourite places anyway) for Shell.

Denis Constanduros Llanthony Abbey Shell poster

As well as this Farmers Prefer Shell poster too.  Which, although very pretty, I find a bit odd because looks as though someone’s just being eaten by the machinery.

Denis Constanduros Farmers Prefer Shell poster

But that’s about it.   His only artistic remains seem to be those three Shell posters, all probably pre-war.  So what’s the problem, you say?

Well there’s also a Denis Constanduros who wrote a 1940s radio serial called ‘At the Luscombes’ about West Country village life (by coincidence, set no more than ten or so miles from here, in a place I drive through quite regularly).  Who then – unless there’s a third Denis Constanduros which I have to say seems pretty unlikely – worked throughout the 1960s and 70s on adapting classic books for television, particularly Jane Austen.  That Denis Constanduros died in 1978.  But is it all the same one?  Did he just do a few posters and then go off into writing, in the style of an earlier Patrick Tilley?  I do not have the foggiest idea, the internet is just confusing me and the Shell Poster Book says nothing at all.  Can anyone else shed any light?

I’m bothered not just because it’s not making sense and so needs sorting out, but also because these three posters are all really rather good.  They’re very much of their late-1930s period, but in a good way, with echoes of Ravilious in the style and colours.  And also in the subject matter of course; Ravilious wasn’t just a painter of chalk hills, but also drew the Long Man himself too.

Eric Ravilious the Long Man of Wilmington

So it seems a pity that Constanduros never painted much more than his Shell posters.  But then, if it was him who went on to write ‘At the Luscombes” and adapt classic novels for television, his journey was very much that of his times.  Before the war, the poster was king.  But afterwards, the new, shiny, exciting broadcast media took all the glory; if you had the talent for it, who wouldn’t have made the switch.  Posters were no longer the place for a smart young man to be any more, there were new and more exciting furrows to plough.

One final note, and that’s the price.  Its not remarkable for itself – it’s a fine poster and well worth the money.  But it is remarkable for having been achieved where it was – I can’t remember having seen a poster match the price it would have reached at a specialist poster auction on eBay before.   Not that many of that quality turn up, but still, it’s an interesting precedent.  (I can’t be bothered to do the maths, but I wonder how the eBay selling fees compare to  Christies charges.  Not that well, I should have thought…)

And, having said that these things don’t turn up very often, there in fact a couple more classics out there right now.  This Henrion,

HEnrion 1950s London Transport poster as seen on our walls

And this John Bainbridge too.

John Bainbridge 1950s London Transport poster

They’re both from the same seller, and it will be interesting to see how they go.

The Bainbridge, meanwhile, is also being offered by Sotherans at the moment.  for £895.  If eBay can scale those heights, that really would be a turn up for the books.

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Keep the noise down

We’re all about selling this week on Quad Royal.  Partly because time for contemplation is a bit thin on the ground, but also because there’s a lot of stuff about demanding our attention.

Firstly, Fougasse.

Fougasse YWCA World War two poster

Quite a number of his posters are currently being sold by a dealer called Neil Jennings.  Now I wouldn’t usually bother you with this kind of thing, but these are quite an impressive set.

Fougasse NSPCC poster world war two

To start with, they’re not the most reproduced examples of his work (there are some that I haven’t seen before; but then Mr Crownfolio says he’s come across them all, so I clearly haven’t been paying proper attention).

Fougasse Wartime blackout poster

They’re also interesting because of their provenance, which is from the family.  Hence the pristine condition.

Clatter does matter Fougasse post war hospital poster

Finally, I do rather like the series that he did about noise for hospitals, not just because they’re less common and I hate extraneous noise, but also because the one below is curiously modern.

Clatter does matter fougasse hospital poster

And I’ve definitely never seen it before.

I’m not sure why I’m being nice to Neil Jennings, though.  He waved this in front of me.

Barbara Jones Black Eyes 1951 exhibition poster

Now I’ve raved about this before.  It’s Barbara Jones’ poster for the exhibition she curated as part of the Festival of Britain, and it’s one of the very small list of posters that Mr Crownfolio and I would buy at almost any price.  I didn’t think I’d ever see it turn up, to be honest.  But Neil Jennings has only gone and sold it already.  Humph.

Elsewhere in the world of dealerism, something which is definitely not for me but I will tell you about as it is slightly out of the normal run of things.  The Travelling Art Gallery, who mostly deal in carriage prints, are selling seven Norman Wilkinson original art works.

Norman Wilkinson Cairngorms LMS original painting for poster

This is his painting for the 1930 LMS poster of the Cairngorms below.

Norman Wilkinson Cairngorm mountains LMS Poster 1930

These come with a good story, too.  All seven were apparently found down the back of a wardrobe in North London.  A wardrobe which did once belong to an LMS official, so that’s a fair kind of provenance.

They have been priced quite highly though.  The Cairngorms artwork has a reserve of £2,500, whereas the poster itself went for just £400 at Morphets earlier this year, so we’ll have to see whether or not Wilkinson’s reputation means that his artwork commands that high a premium over the poster when most don’t.  Although the way that the auction is being conducted – bids to be sent in before the 31st October – means that we might in fact never find out.  I imagine poster collectors and Wilkinson fans will find that a bit of a shame.

I have to say that I prefer the slightly enhanced contrast and colour of the poster to the original artwork itself.  But I may be in a minority there.

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Put it there

What do these four posters have in common?

John Burningham for London Transport vintage poster autumn
John Burningham, London Transport, 1961

Andre Amstutz Camping Coaches poster British Railways
Andre Amstutz, British Railways, 1956

Royal Blue Daphne Padden Coach Poster c1957
Daphne Padden, Royal Blue Coaches, c. 1957

McKnight Kauffer for Shell 1934
Edward McKnight Kauffer, Shell, 1934

Well, three out of the four of them are on the walls here, but you’re not really expected to know that.  Perhaps more to the point is that they represent four out of the five areas of ‘collectable’ posters: railways, London Underground, Shell and coach* posters (the fifth for me would be World War Two posters, for what it’s worth).

*This may be wishful thinking on my part, but we do seem to have quite a lot of them now (thanks to Malcolm Guest, mainly) and so they are at very least collectable by us.  Anyone else?

But those four areas also share something more than just being collectable.  In each case the companies they are advertising owned the hoardings that the posters went on.

South Kensington Station January 1938

That’s reasonably obvious for the bus, tube and train stations – but Shell posters were also designed to be displayed on the vans which delivered petrol to the garages.

Shell van displaying poster on side 1925

Now set down like that it doesn’t seem like so much of a blinding revelation.  But it isn’t, as far as I know, something which has been much commented on.  And yet it had a big impact on their posters.

The most obvious example is that all of these companies had a much greater incentive to produce posters than anyone else.  Not only was this in effect a subsidised form of advertising for them, but they also needed to churn them out in order to fill up spaces when they hadn’t sold enough commercial advertising.

Enfield West station with advertising visible

Here’s Enfield West Station in 1934, with a McKnight Kauffer poster for Eno’s Salts clearly visible on the hoardings.

They also continued to produce posters in great numbers later on, when the poster had ceased to be the main medium for advertising, because the spaces were still there and still needed filling.

In addition, there may have been more reason for the companies  to produce ‘artistic’ and possibly also more subtle posters, because this will have a very direct effect on the station environment.  Although this probably worried Frank Pick more than it did the owners of Victoria Coach Station.

Victoria Coach Station 1962

I’ve also read an interesting suggestion that in the early days, London Underground commissioned lots of posters of wide open spaces to counteract the perceived claustrophobia of the tube, but I don’t think there’s any proof of that.

Burnham Beeches walter spradbury 1912
Burnham Beeches, Walter Spradbury 1912

Now originally this was going to be my only point, that all of these people owned their hoardings and so had to invest more in posters and poster design than other companies, which in turn may be one reason why their posters are collectable.  And that this hadn’t really been noted until now.

But then I found a really interesting article by David Watts (insert Jam or Kinks record into your head here as you wish) about pre-war depictions of Yorkshire in railway posters.  It’s an exemplary look at how posters worked and were consumed, rather than just what they looked like, and backed up by a ton of research.  The world of posters could do with a lot more of this kind of rigorousness (not that I’m volunteering to read 200 volumes of railway company internal correspondence, you understand).

One of his points is that the context of railway posters is all-important.  They didn’t need to have pictures of trains on, because they were posted up in stations.  The fact that they were advertising railway travel rather than just the location pictured could be asssumed.

Woodhall Spa vintage railway poster
Andrew Johnson, no date

The same is true of London Transport posters.  They can just say Go to Uxbridge.

Uxbridge London Transport poster Charles Paine, 1921
Charles Paine, 1921

That you’d use the underground to do so is implicit in the fact that the poster is displayed at a tube station.

But, as Watts points out, this contextualisation of the posters has other implications.

…omitting any visual reference to rail travel allowed posters to be detached easily from their ‘mundane commercial purpose’.

So the companies, as I’ve mentioned before, could promote their posters as examples of good design for the masses, and even as fine art, in part because they didn’t need to say Go By Train in large letters at the bottom.

Now Watts argues that this made railway posters at least a rather poor form of advertising.  And he does put forward some evidence that the train companies themselves thought this way by the early to mid 1930s too.  Images of trains, or at least the idea of train travel did become more prominent after then – as in the Tom Purvis that is coming up at Christies next month.

Tom Purvis 193o LNER poster

But he also says – and I think that this is entirely right – that the fact that the posters were semi-detached from their commercial purposes is one of the factors that has made them so collectable.  They exist in a limbo between fine art and outright commercialism, and are so more appealing than an advertisement for Eno’s Fruit Salts or Gilette Razors.

Although it is worth remembering that it’s only because the companies were promoting them as ‘art’ that these posters are available to collect at all.  Shell, Underground and railway posters were all available for sale to the public when they were first produced, so they do survive in attics and collections, while the most commercial billboard posters weren’t and so aren’t.  (I’ve mentioned this in passing before, but really ought to pull together all the sources on this one day, because it’s not said often enough.  Even here.)

But I think there’s also another way in which the context affected railway posters in particular (although the same is probably also true of London Transport and coach posters to some degree as well).  Watts points out how much the railway posters are selling an image of ‘deep’ England, by which he means an archaic, un-modernised and highly rural vision of the countryside.  Now whenever this vision is called up at this time, it is almost always intended as a direct contrast to the modernity, ribbon development and speed of the 1920s and 30s.

Edwin Byatt Vintage railway poster 1940
Edwin Byatt, 1940

But in the railway station, that contrast is always there anyway.  Most of these poster would have been displayed in an urban setting, and even where they were put up at local stations, there was the machinery and bustle of the railway itself.  So the posters are also using their context to suggest that there is an alternative, an escape.  And that’s something else that they don’t need to spell out in words at the bottom.

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