Poster Mathematics

I can’t resist a few instant observations about Morphets.  The full set of opinions will have to wait until I’ve got the complete results in front of me and some more time, but for the moment, we’ll deal with what I know.

Firstly, it’s clear that not many people like Daphne Padden and Royston Cooper as much as we do.

2 x Royston Cooper vintage coach posters from Morphets

This is both a good thing and a bad thing.  It does mean that we can pick up some lovely posters for rather less than we thought we’d have to pay – the lot above went for just £85.  How anyone can not like that right hand poster in particular is beyond me.  I particularly love it because the woman looks like all of my aunts in old photographs, but that’s incidental, it’s wonderful anyway.

2 x Royston Cooper coach posters from Morphets

But it also means that their work still isn’t getting the acclaim and recognition that they both deserve; particularly when kitschy 1950s seaside posters were going for way more.  Perhaps it will just take a bit longer for the 1960s to come into fashion properly.

Eckersley Royston Cooper vintage railway posters

A possible third explanation (which would account for more than just these prices) is that the kind of people who buy 1960s posters don’t tend to hang around at railway and coach sales in Harrogate.  Which is their loss.  The left hand one above, incidentally, is an Eckersley which I have never seen before.  Has anyone else spotted it elsewhere?

Although more likely is that there just isn’t a developed enough market in coach posters for people to be competing over them.  Because 1960s London Underground posters did do well, with most of them hitting £80 – £100+, like this delectable John Burningham.

JOhn Burningham Autumn London Underground poster

All of which adds up to the fact that I don’t really have a definite answer on Padden and Cooper values; if you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

My other main observation is that auctions and their prices operate outside the world of logic, and I shall illustrate this with a small amount of mathematics.

This pair of posters went for £80.

Daphne Padden Royal Blue coach poster Morphets

If we say that the poster on the left is worth no more than £20, that values our sailor at £60.  So far so good.

This pair then went for £260.

2 x Daphne Padden Royal Blue vintage coach posters

Which makes our friends with the cat worth £200-ish.

Except that, just a few lots later, this went for just £65.

more vintage coach  posters from morphets

Despite the fact that this version is in better condition.  Unless the very subtle differences in the typography matter to people, this makes no sense at all.  But I can’t think about it any more because it’s making my head ache.

More thoughts on Morphets later on this week, something completely different tomorrow.

Posted in auctions | Tagged , , , , | 6 Responses

The thick of it

It’s impossible to get a sense of the Morphet’s sale while it’s still yelling away in the corner of my screen, but two brief observations from yesterday.

Firstly, what kind of a mad world is it where this costs £160

Tom Eckersley Paignton vintage railway poster from Morphets

while this

Minehead Studio Seven vintage railway poster

costs hundreds more.  I don’t understand, I really don’t.

I also noticed this go past yesterday.

Jack Merriott vintage railway posters which are cheating

Same picture, four different towns.  That’s cheating.  But does anyone know where it is really?

But much more exciting is that we won this wonderful Amstutz.

Amstutz Camping Coaches poster

It’s been on this blog’s ‘About Us’ page since the very start.  And now it’s going to be on our walls.  Hurrah for that.

More on the sale next week, once I’ve sold all my household goods, cats and anything else that might meet the bill.  And built a few more walls to hang everything on.

Posted in auctions | Tagged , , | 5 Responses

Further Coaching

It’s the last stage of the giant Daphne Padden archive-fest on Quad Royal.  Most of the posters I’m putting up today are for coach companies and so have at least been seen before.  In fact well over half of these are on sale at Morphets tomorrow, so if you take a fancy to any of them, you can probably have one, although I can’t promise at what price.

Daphne Padden coach party travel star signs

I know I should stop making fun of these poor northerners and their low prices, but this one is estimated at £50-100.   The rabbits below get the same estimate, and you get another spring poster to boot.  If only.

Coach tour rabbits Daphne padden coach poster

But I haven’t just come here to mutter about Morphets once more, there are a couple of things worth saying about these posters.

Daphne Padden Owl Party travel poster

One is just what a difference an archive makes.  Daphne Padden’s posters are beginning, over the last few years, to surface into the general design consciousness.  But I do wonder whether she would have been better known if she’d worked for British Railways or London Transport as well.

Daphne Padden luggage poster coaches

Royston Cooper has had a similar, if less dramatic problem.  Both he and Padden designed a whole series of really great posters for the coach companies.  But because the coach companies both had a more chequered history, and were never really considered as a national asset in the same way anything which ran on rails, the nuts, bolts and printed matter of their past didn’t end up being preserved.

Lovely Royal Blue Daphne Padden coach poster

A very brief summary of what happened in the world of coaches is that the many small companies like Royal Blue which served the different parts of the UK, were gradually bought up and amalgamated into larger groups.  In 1947 – after a war in which few coaches ran – the whole industry was nationalised, eventually becoming National Express.  This was then split up and de-nationalised between 1983 and 1987.  And somewhere in all of that, we stopped caring about coaches and, most likely, a whole pile of history was thrown out into a skip.

Spring coach poster Daphne Padden

With the result that we now don’t really know anything about coach posters at all, never mind having an archive or even dates for them.  Well, except for a few like the one below.

Daphne Padden Christmas Coach Travel 1964 poster

Which is an enormous shame as there are some wonderful posters made for the coach companies which have almost disappeared into oblivion.  And is why I keep banging on about them here, trying to give them some kind of visibility on the web.

Daphne Padden Southend coach poster

My other thought is a bit more positive though, which is that her particular style of design is now becoming interesting (possibly even fashionable) for a wider audience of designers and, possibly, collectors.  Take a look at the Fears and Kahn website, which I’ve been meaning to mention for a while.  They’ve put together, for selling, a rather distinctive set of posters, some from  coach companies, but very much in this particular idiom.  I’m hoping that this will be the start of more recognition for designers like Padden and Royston Cooper.

Daphne Padden Coach information poster

And finally, a few odd notes on some individual items.  I am guessing that this is some kind of early artist’s proof for her famous Royal Blue poster.

Daphne Padden Royal Blue artists proof

What’s odd, is that it’s not a print with just one colour missing – the text in the final poster is in the same dark blue as his hat and the lighthouse.

Finished Royal Blue Daphne Padden poster

Even odder, is that his smile is missing in the proof too.  I’m glad he cheered up.

And finally, I just like these.  I think they should be on t-shirts or something.

Daphne Padden Summer coach tour poster tree

Daphne Padden spring coach tours poster tree

Do we have any takers for Quad Royal branded goods?

Posted in designers | Tagged , , | 5 Responses

Coming in to land

Another thing that Morphets has made me think about is the work of Lander, Reginald Montague Lander to be precise.  (I used to think he was called Eric, perhaps as the result of a misattribution somewhere, but he isn’t.  So there.)

Now, I am a huge fan of his work, mainly as a result of this poster.

British Railways RM Lander English lakes poster

It’s a poster I have a sentimental spot for, because it’s the first one I ever bought at auction.  But I also think it’s brilliant; it’s a modernist re-imagining of the great tradition of railway Quad Royal landscape posters in a way that really works.  I can’t think of another poster quite like it.  (Apologies for the flash reflection, by the way, it’s an unfortunate side-effect of framing things).

So, considering that he can produce posters as great as this, why doesn’t he get more recognition for his work?  There are a couple of reasons I think.

One is that, reinforcing Paul Rennie’s point of the other day, his stuff rather falls between two stools.  The vast majority of his posters were produced for British Railways.  But they’re not (with the odd exception above) the kind of nostalgic landscapes that railway collectors really fall for.  So the railway buffs don’t much care for his stuff, and the mid-century modernists don’t notice him that much because, well, it’s railway posters.  (Almost all the images here come from the National Railway Museum via the NMSI search engine, as you can see.  No one else seems to have any quantities of his work at all).

He did produce a few images which are instantly recognisable, and do sell, in particular these two for Paignton, both from 1956-ish.

Lander Paignton Poster British Railways

Lander Paignton British Railways poster

At its best, his work can hold its own with any of the designers of the time, as the images above, and this 1960 poster  show.

Lander Car Ferry British Railways poster

But part of the problem is that he can’t be pinned down to a recognisable Lander style.  He did cheerful cartoons in the style of Amstutz and  Bruce Angrave, or even early Tom Eckersley.

Lander original painting for get out by train british railways poster

Lander Plymouth British Railways poster

(Original painting from 1960, poster from 1961).

He could do more traditional railway posters too; these are from 1957, and the second one reminds me a great deal of Percy Drake Brookeshaw, although with slightly less migraine-inducing colours.

Lander British railways north east coast poster 1957

Lander British railways folkstone poster 1957

He could do you whimsical neoclassical or modern text if you wanted, too.

Lander Brighton and Hove british railways poster

Lander Hastings by train British Railways poster

He was also very good at drawing complicated buildings.

Lander Leamington Spa poster British Railways

But this great long list also hints at the other problem with his work.  He was so prodigously productive, that not every poster of his is great, or even good.  How could they be when he seemed to be churning out a poster every other day?

But that’s not a reason to under-estimate his great designs.  He still deserves to be seen by more than just railway poster fanatics.

Lander Porthcawl British railways poster

It’s also worth noting that his extraordinary energy meant that he carried on as a poster designer for far longer than almost anyone else.  We’ve got a selection of BR posters of his from 1978.  And the NMSI collection includes a set of designs from 1980, including this.

Lander Surrey Towns British Railway poster 1980

I had no idea that anything of the sort was being commissioned by then.

Finally, should I have persuaded you about Mr Lander’s work, Hastings and the Plymouth poster above are both for sale at Morphets tomorrow and Thursday, estimated at £75-125 and £1oo-150 respectively, along with fifty or more others.

Lander mixed lot from Morphets

Hurry now, it’s almost time to get your bids in.

Posted in designers | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Too many auctions

Today, for a bit of light relief, I’m going to write about some auctions that aren’t Morphets (although, fear not, a normal service will return later this week).

To start with, Wallis and Wallis down in Lewes are selling yet more of their seemingly inexhaustible supply of World War Two propaganda posters.

Pat Keely World War Two poster full production

I’m not going to go into much detail, partly because it’s much the same as the last three times, but mainly because the Wallis and Wallis website is so infuriating.  Most of the posters aren’t illustrated at all, and I can’t find out what anything made at the previous sales because it simply won’t tell me.

Navy Thanks You Pat Keely World War two propaganda poster

They have at least photographed these three rather fine posters that I think are by Pat Keely.  Mind you, I’ve had to conclude that from squinting at the signatures, because the descriptions are rather vague.  But I like them, and haven’t seen them illustrated elsewhere.

Pat Keely royal navy world war two recruitment poster

I’m also minded to try and advance to Air Artificer as well.  Any suggestions as to how?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Swann Galleries are also having a poster sale.

A quick flick through the catalogue reinforces the point that Paul Rennie makes about his own collection in Modern British Posters,

British items were generally of little interest to international collectors and were, accordingly, less expensive to purchase

Fight your way through the swathes of American war posters and French Art Nouveau, but you still won’t find much from Britain here.

There are railway posters.

Skegness Railway poster from Swann Galleries

Of course there are railway posters.  Although this set (lot 230), by Pat Keely for the Southern Region just before the outbreak of war, are more interesting than the average.

Pat Keely Southern Region London railway poster

There are four in total, and they look even better en mass – a stylistic bridge between Art Deco and the simplifications of the post-war style.  Worth a look.

There are also London Underground posters too.  This is by Charles Burton, from 1930.

Charles Burton Chestnut Sunday LT bus poster

While this bus poster, by Fred Taylor, seems impossibly sleek and minimalist for 1923.  It’s wonderful.

Fred Taylor Harewood bus poster 1923

There’s some Hans Unger too, if all that’s a bit too pre-war for you.

Hans Unger Christopher Wren London Transport poster

It’s one half of a pair poster from 1957 and quite expensive at $400-600.  We paid £130 for both halves not that long ago so let’s see what the Americans think it is worth.

Aside from the expected, there are also a few interesting odds and ends, like these BOAC posters for Earls Court Motor Shows.  The first one is particularly good, and I’d love to know if anyone has any information on it.

BOAC earls court motor show poster

BOAC commercial motor show Earls Court poster

There are also, not for the first time, dozens of American motivational posters.  I’m rather intrigued by these, in a slightly horrified way.  Were they the from the war or the depression?  Were they produced by the government, or like educational posters, sold into workplaces?  Does anyone know and can tell me?

But I rather like this one, although for all the wrong reasons.

Spanish motivational poster

It’s not just the libel against the Spanish, although that’s quite funny on its own; it’s also the fact that I think I’d have the siesta and the work-life balance of the Spaniard over the American motivational poster any day.

Finally, there’s this, which is here for no other reason than I like it very much indeed.

Air India poster from Swann Auctions

It’s like an Indian Daphne Padden.  More of her stuff later this week, by the way.

Posted in auctions | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Responses

Holiday Haunts

Once again, I’m thinking about holidays.  I actually have got round to booking the Crownfolios’ annual fortnight, but two things have brought my mind round to the subject again.  Or to be precise, to Holiday Haunts. This was the railways’ annual guide to hotels, B&Bs, and other such places to stay in Britain, the idea being, of course, that you got there by train.

In the first place, the ever-attentive Mike Ashworth sent this over, pointing out that it was by Bruce Angrave.

Bruce Angrave Holiday Haunts brochure cover

Considering the date and the Art Deco style, it must have been one of the earliest things he did.  Which is interesting enough on its own.

But it also, and unsurprisingly, got me thinking about Morphets, where a whole slew of Holiday Haunts material is for sale.  Anyone fancy 20 volumes from the 50s and 60s for your shelves?

20 volumes of Holiday Haunts at Morphets

It’s lot 584 if you do.

Now, I know that we’re veering close to the dangerous territory of railway ephemera here, but bear with me.  Can you see that Eckersley peeking out at the bottom left of that picture above?  Well exactly.  Here it is in full.

Eckersley holiday haunts cover image 1961

Now Holiday Haunts was a blockbuster publication.  At the height of its success it sold over 200,000 copies a year, so covers like this, and indeed the Angrave above, would have meant modern design going into the homes of huge numbers of railway-travelling, seaside-holidaying people who perhaps wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.  I hope they, or at least their dissident teenage children, liked it.

Because this is ephemera, I won’t go into too much detail but Holiday Haunts was originally created by the GWR in 1906,

'Holiday haunts on the Great Western Railway' guidebook, 1906.

reached its height in the 1920s and 30s,and was then continued by British Railways after nationalisation in 1947.  And I am mostly telling you this because I have found this photo.  It’s the 1930 edition of Holiday Haunts being printed at the old Butler and Tanner print works in Somerset.

Printing Holiday haunts

These men were printing about 50 metres from where I am typing this now.  I’d be able to see the building from my window, if they hadn’t taken the top two floors off when they converted it into flats.  So, Holiday Haunts, printed right next door to Quad Royal.  How about that.

The Guide to Happy Holidays', GWR poster, 1939.

But, in case you think me entirely lost to ephemera and local history, there is more purpose to this.  Because designers like Eckersley and Games didn’t just design covers for Holiday Haunts, they also designed posters to advertise it.  I’ve mentioned this Morphets lot already – there’s an Unger in there too.

holiday haunts posters

Here’s a different version of the Eckersley poster, courtesy of VADS and the Eckersley archive.

Holiday Haunts eckersley poser

But there were also carriage-print scale posters too (top right, below, again from Morphets).

Holiday Haunts carriage prints

But there’s more of an attraction for me in Holiday Haunts than just the great posters and the cover designs.  It also evokes a nostalgia in me for a past I never had.

Holiday Haunts 1958 cover

The kind of British seaside holiday where the sun shone every day and you could get tea in proper cups on the beach (I know this is true, I’ve seen it on railway posters).  The kind of holiday where your family would stay in a camping coach.  And like it.

Riley 1957 vintage camping coaches poster

(Riley, 1957, also on sale at Morphets.  Isn’t everything.)

There are probably some clues in here about what posters – and particularly railway posters – mean today, and why they attract us so.  Ah the past, when the countryside was prettier, things were simpler  and people were happy anyway even if they did have to stay in a shed.  Possibly, but also possibly not; there were just fewer consumer goods and people thought that a railway coach for 8 for a week was a form of luxury.  Mind you, I’m off to stay in a mobile home on a French campsite.  So perhaps holidays – and people –  haven’t changed that much after all.

Posted in railway posters | Tagged , , , , | 1 Response