A life in pieces

Once more, a post around a book, although a bit more tangentially this time.

Mr Crownfolio is reading Electric Eden, a book about British folk music (in the widest sense as it seems to include the god-like genius of Julian Cope as well).  And when he was reading about Fairport Convention, he made a rather surprising discovery, which was that Richard Thompson (a.k.a. Mr British Folk) had, for a year, been Hans Unger’s assistant, making the windows for St Columba’s Roman Catholic Church in Upton-on-Chester sometime in the mid 1960s.  Here’s the church and all of the people.

St Columbas Catholic Church Upton on Chester wide shot

And here’s one of Unger’s windows.

Hans Unger window for St Columba's Chester

Now quite apart from the unsuspected folk/Hans Unger overlap, my surprise was also because I had no idea that Unger made stained glass.  He did do a lot of wonderful posters.  The best known are for London Underground, like this fishy gem from 1956.

Hans Unger London Transport poster 1956

I’m also rather fond of this little GPO one from 1954.  Apparently this format was designed to be displayed in telephone boxes.

Hans Unger TV licence GPO poster 1954

These later (1962/1967) GPO ones were up at the most recent Morphets sale, and prove that his style evolved a great deal over the decades.

Hans Unger Post Early 1962 GPO Christmas poster

Hans Unger 1967 GPO Post Early Christmas poster

But perhaps I shouldn’t be amazed about the stained glass, because at the same time that he was producing the GPO posters, Unger also did a number of mosaic posters for London Underground,.  And mosaic is, after all, just a different way of making patterns with glass.

Hans Unger guard mosaic poster for London Transport 1962

Hans Unger Mosaic bus poster London Transport 1970

What’s interesting about these, is that they are jointly signed by Hans Unger and Eberhard Schulze.  Once again, it’s Richard Thompson who can tell us a bit more.

Hans was a terrific designer, who made some memorable posters for London Transport, amongst other things. He took his own life in the late 70s. I believe his partner, Eberhard Schultz, went back to Germany.

A sad ending.  But before that happened, it seems that they were very productive together.  Here’s St Stephen’s Astley, a Manchester church which was consecrated in 1968.

Unger Schulze St Stephens Astley window

Unger Schulze St Stephens Astley

And the chapel of the Rochdale Pallottine Convent.

But the stained glass was clearly a sideline in comparison to their main work in mosaics.  Here’s a mosaic for UNICEF,

Unicef Mosaic Unger Schulze

and a 1964 Christmas card for the BBC.

Unger Schulze 1964 Christmas Card for BBC

How about a mosaic of Elvis?

Unger Schulze Elvis mosaic

And this is just a tiny sample of what they produced together (there is a huge archive here if you want to take a look for yourself).  Their partnership became very well known, and their smaller works were apparently much in demand by collectors.  Here they are working together in about 1964.

And here is Unger being presented to the Queen with some great piece in the background.

He looks rather worried really.

So, a whole side of Hans Unger’s life and work that I had no idea about.  But there’s a rather odd coda too.  Sadly, soon after Unger’s death, Eberhard Schulze injured his back and had to give up mosaics.  But he clearly wasn’t someone who relished early retirement.

He went on to develop a successful career as a specialist aquarist, becoming England’s leading discus fish breeder and even carried out aquarium installations for the rich and famous, such as the Saudi Royal Family and the Sultan of Brunei. He now lives in Nonthaburi in Thailand.

If anyone can add to this, I’d love to hear from you, as I feel rather as though I’ve only just scratched the surface of the subject here.  And also, if anyone can explain why all these new churches were being built in the north, I’d also love to know.

And if you’re inspired enough to want to buy one for yourself, Martin Steenson at Books and Things has this Unger/Schulze fish poster for sale for just £30.

Unger Schulze London Transport poster fish

It’s a bit battered, but still lovely.

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I don’t know why I didn’t include this in Friday’s post.

Henrion Day View Television poster early 50s

It’s a recent acquisition, and it’s by

Henrion signature from KB television poster

It had only arrived earlier in the week too, so there really is no excuse.  Except perhaps for the fact that it doesn’t look, to my knowledge, anything like any other poster he did, so I forgot it was by him.  In fact, as Mr Crownfolio pointed out, it doesn’t look much like an English poster at all.

It also doesn’t look much like it’s advertising televisions, I keep thinking of cruises every time I look at it.  Which is perhaps why KB Television didn’t survive. But I rather like it.

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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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