Enough already

Will everyone just stop it please.  Right now.  Because I can’t keep up.

Alma Faulkner vintage London Transport poster 1925 tennents auction

Yes, this kind of thing.  It’s a 1925 Underground poster by Alma Faulkner, and what it signifies is that yet more high quality London Transport posters are up for auction.  As if we hadn’t had enough already

These are at Tennants Auctioneers up in Yorkshire, and although there are only a few of them (in a huge general sale), they’re all rather splendid.

Particularly interesting are these two, both by Andre Marty and from 1931.

Andre Marty vintage london transport poster 1931 from tennants auction

Andre Marty vintage london transport poster 1931 from tennants auction

They’re intriguing not just because they’re good, which they are, but also because they form part of a quad poster series, all designed to be hung together.  Which I had never heard of until now

Andre Marty vintage london transport poster 1931 from LT museum

There are a few on the London Transport Museum site, including, to my surprise, this one.

Anthony Blunt did posters you know and here are four of them stuck together

Which is by Anthony Blunt.  Well knock me down.

But the most interesting lot of all has, of course, no images with it.

Six Small London Transport Advertising Posters, for both underground and bus, lithographed in colours, comprising Wimbledon Championships by Phylis Bray, Richmond Royal Horse Show, Derby Day, Aldershot Tatto by E A Marty, The Royal Tournament, Olympia by E A Marty and Ascot Summer by Walter E Spredbery, various sizes, in matching frames

Guide Price: £300-500

Bray Wombledon london transport posters 1938

marty Aldershot tattoo poster 1933

It’s not the work of too long to track them down – although it would still be nice to see the real thing.

So if you missed out at Christies, you know where to go.  And as all of the single posters above are estimated at £100-£200, you may also get more poster for your buck too.

Should you be interested, there’s also this rather good Bawden print too.

Edward Bawden print from Tennants

Along with another Bawden, and two John Pipers too.  Estimate £300-500 for that Bawden, a bit less for the others.

There’s more too, much more, but I’ve run out of time for today.  More auctions when I can face it, something different tomorrow.

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Didn’t they do well?

Thirty thousand pounds.

HErbert Bayer vintage 1930 exhibition poster from Christies sale

For what is, in the end, just a piece of printed paper.

I know I’m a fine person to be saying anything of the sort, but it does seem a bit absurd.  Mind you, I’m possibly think that £20,000 for this Dupas is even more absurd, because I do quite like the Bayer.

Jean Dupas Hyde Park vintage London Transport poster 1930 from Christies

That had an estimate of £7,000-9,000, which gives you a pretty good index of how Christies Friday poster sale went.  Most of the lots I was watching went for way over their estimate, including the idiosyncratic Polunin which I blogged about a few weeks ago.

Vladimir Polunin Electricity supercedes St Christopher Vintage London Transport poster 1934 from Christies

Writing about it made me look at it carefully, and I decided I rather wanted it.  Perhaps for the low end of its £700-900 estimate though; definitely not so much that I was prepared to pay over £2,000.

So are there any conclusions to take from this wild flurry of spending?  In some ways (and despite the fact that we could afford nothing at all as a result) I’m quite pleased to see posters going for high prices again.  In the last few sales I’ve watched, things have been pushed to even reach their estimates.  Whether this was a result of the recession, or a sign that the poster collectors market had reached its peak was hard  to judge. Whatever the reason though, it wasn’t a problem this time round.  Of course this may just be a blip – the bidding madness engendered by a really good collection can’t be disregarded – so we shall have to see where the next few sales take us.

Severin vintage London transport poster 1938 from Christies
Mark Severin, 1938, fetched £4,000

Mr Crownfolio – who watched the whole thing go by on his computer as he worked – thought that the sale also marked an interesting change in taste.  For once the countryside scenes didn’t seem to be the ones fetching the high prices; instead the metropolitan posters were doing better.  So this little Austin Cooper bunny only fetched £250, well below its estimate.   (Now I am really surprised about this, although given my prediliction for posters of slightly fey animals, I may not be the best person to judge.)

Austin Cooper vintage London Transport poster bunny rabbit 1928

While T.S. Eliot on an overstuffed armchair below fetched £4,000 – when it had been estimated to go for less than the Cooper.

Frederick Charles Herrick, Lap of Luxury vintage London Transport poster 1925 from Christies

Mr Crownfolio suggested that perhaps this means that there is a new set of collectors coming into the market, urban professionals who like modernism and cityscapes rather than those – whoever they were – who wanted restful rural scenes.  It’s an interesting thought, and we shall see if the trend holds.

In other news, size isn’t everything.  This, which is by Percy Drake Brookshaw in his less lurid phase, doesn’t even measure 12″ x 20″ but went for £1,250.

Percy Drake Brookshaw footbal London Transport vintage poster 1928

I’d say the football connection might be driving the price up, but then this similarly-sized Charles Paine went for £3,500 too.

Charles Paine vintage London Transport boat race poster 1925 from Christies

I rather like the disclaimer, presumably to stop Oxonians complaining that Cambridge were in the lead.

While we’re here, I also failed to notice this rather good Norman Weaver in the tail end of the lots.  It’s more stylised than most of his work and rather pleasing on the eye.

Norman Weaver BOAC poster 1950s

It went for £1,000 – over estimate once more.

Which leads me to my main conclusion for the day.  Lots of people have way more money than we do to spend on posters.  Any other thoughts, anyone?

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Today, I’m turning the blog over to the floor, because there have been lots of interesting comments recently.  Some of them are thought-provoking enough to need whole blog posts in reply (like yesterday’s).  But there are also plenty more which deserve attention too.  So here goes.

Hans Unger vintage GPO TV licence poster 1954
Hans Unger, GPO, 1954

Firstly, the post on Hans Unger and his life attracted an evocative reminiscence from D.E., which I definitely didn’t want to leave languishing at the bottom of an old post from last month.

I lived in Hans’s house in Muswell Hill with my parents from shortly before his death until the late 70s. Hans rented us the upstairs of his semi-detatched, furnished the whole place for us all the way down to the linens, plates, and cutlery, and was very kind. My mum, herself a Jewish escapee from Nazi Europe, and an artist, marveled at him and his work. It wasn’t long after we moved in, sadly, that we became concerned at not seeing him for a few days, and… well… led to his discovery with a bottle of sleeping pills by his bedside, with a goodbye note. Needless to say, shocking for a 14 year old. Still, we stayed in the house for about 4 more years, and had Hans’s giant outdoor mosaic to look at in the back yard, the stained glass over the front door, and several of his LT posters scattered throughout the house.

Hans’s spirit was complemented well by the woman who moved into the lower part of the house afterwards. I believe that she knew Hans, and herself was a Jewish South African illustationist – Lixi Darvall. She filled the house with art and laughter, but sadly, she too died while we lived there, in her case from cancer.

I remember the house well, full of art and artists, and of the odd collection of Jewish survivors, and am fond of all those creations by these wonderful people.

It’s wonderful to hear him remembered as a person as well as a designer.

Hans Unger vintage London Transport poster Christopher Wren 1957
Hans Unger, London Transport (half of pair poster), 1957

But comments can also be corrections, and I was put right after complaining that a whole host of London Transport posters on eBay didn’t look linen mounted to me.  I now know that I was wrong, as Martin Steenson told me that old-fashioned linen mountings were often trimmed to the size of the poster.  Mike Ashworth gave an explanation of just why these particular posters might have been mounted this way, too.

I suspect many of the posters such as these currently on sale at Ebay have, over time, been released from the spares held by the old LT Publicity stocks by the LT Museum. I recall that many of these ‘information’ posters (rather then pictorial posters) were linen backed so that they could be trimmed and then used on a more semi-permanent basis at offices, stops, etc. A good example would be the LT ‘you are here’ posters (the area maps for tube stations) that were printed in 10s or 20s (as spares/replacements) and that were seldom replaced. The ‘spares’ were released to dealers etc by LTM some years ago and now show face on Ebay and at dealers – they’re often linen backed, either trimmed or not.

We have this one, also linen mounted, and now I know why it is the way it is, so thank you.

Vintage London Transport poster

Finally, more of an addendum.  When I wrote about Denis Constanduros last week, I couldn’t work out whether the artist of the Shell posters was the same man who went on to adapt Jane Austen for the television in the 1960s.  It turns out – perhaps not surprisingly given his rather less than common name – that it was.

Denis Constanduros long man of wilmington better pic shell poster

I found out thanks to the wonder that is our local library system, which lets me order books online from about six different counties around.  So, from the depths of the Somerset Reserve Stacks, I called up My Grandfather by Denis Constanduros on the offchance that it might reveal something.  I can’t tell you anything about the merits of the book itself yet, but it did contain this biography of Denis himself.

Born in 1910, Denis Constanduros escaped a formal education and had, instead, a succession of private tutors.  He was only 15 when he sold his first cartoon caricatures of Wimbledon players and characters to the press.  Later, he went to Chelsea Art School and produced Shell posters at the same time as Graham Sutherland and McKnight Kauffer.

At the age of 27, he had his first radio play produced, although he had already collaborated with his aunt, Mabel Constanduros, on some of the Buggins Family sketches.

The mother of Denis Constanduros was a daughter of Richard Tilling of the successful Tillings Transport group.  The two daughters married two sons of the Constanduros family.  Denis’ father was an unqualified architect and a compulsive gambler, and his mother and father parted company after the First World War.

In 1938, Denis Constanduros married Barbara Neill and moved to Wiltshire.  Classified unfit, although he had at one time been mixed doubles champion of Portugal, he spent much of the Second World War working in the office of a munitions factory.  in 1948, he had his first television play accepted and My Grandfather was published.

The West Country radio serial Denis Constanduros created and wrote, At the Luscombes ran for 16 years. He adapted many classic novels for television during the 1960s and 1970s, including works by H.G. Wells, Henry James and Jane Austen, and died in 1978.

Denis Constanduros Farmers Prefer Shell poster

So now we know.  The Shell Art Collection at Beaulieu tells me that he did six artworks for Shell, but I haven’t been able to find images of any of the others.  Still, these two are so lovely that I, for one, am very happy to see them again.

Finally, a dilemma, posed by “mm” last week.

I’ve got mixed feelings about all this pre-auction promotion…Of course, if you alert me to something I’ve missed it’s great. But if you alert everyone else to something I’ve spotted and I’m hoping has slipped under everyone elses radar it’s not so good! I’m not sure what the answer is…Only discuss items post auction?

Now I have to admit that I have the advantage here, because if I spot a potential bargain coming up, I do only mention it once the auction has been and gone – as with the Constanduros above.  Which means that I can’t really judge this one fairly.  Although my personal suspicion is that no one takes the blindest notice of what I write on here, and one of these days I’m going to go back over all of the things I’ve highlighted on eBay to prove this, as I will happily bet that loads of them don’t even get a bid.

But what do you think?  Would you rather hear about auctions coming up and take the risk that I might reveal one of your carefully-spotted bargains?  Or would you rather I shut up until it’s been and gone?  And have you ever gone for something because I mentioned it?  Answers in the box below, if you don’t mind.

While I write this, incidentally, the Christies Auction is rattling away in the corner of Mr Crownfolio’s screen and it is officially Going Bonkers, with everything way over estimate.  More next week.

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When I wrote about poster hoardings and their rather surprising effects last week, the comments section ended up as a bit of a debate on how posters survive.  Were the few that remain only saved because the designers and a few other far-sighted people connected with their production and display collected them (the Malcolm Guest model)?  Or were there more which were sold on to the public of the time as well?

I promised to go away and try and find out as much as I could and report back.  There’s lots more research that can be done, so this is very much a work in progress.  But by asking the questions here, I’m hoping that I might get some answers from you as well.  So please do pile in if you can help.

John Minton London's river vintage london transport poster
John Minton, London’s River, 1951

What strikes me is that some kinds of posters survive in disproportionate quantities.  Any auction, or even a look at eBay will show you a lot of London Transport posters or railway posters, with lesser amounts of Shell and Guinness items too.  But very little British commercial advertising survives at all – you can go through swathes of auction catalogues without seeing any for months or even years.

The same is true of GPO posters – which are examples of great design but nonetheless come up very rarely. (To give you an idea of how rarely, Christies catalogue archive can turn up only 10 or so GPO posters which have come up for sale.  Put in “shell poster” and you get hundreds of results.  I daren’t even type in railway poster.)

Lewitt Him 1951 vintage GPO poster
Lewitt Him, 1951

So my suggestion would be that the kinds of posters which survive in numbers were also sold on to the public one way or another.

There is no dispute that this is what London Transport did (as mentioned on here before).  Here’s Oliver Green of the London Transport Museum on the sales pattern in the 1920s:

A typical print run in the 1920s was 1,000, of which 850 were required for posting on the system where they were displayed for one month.  The remaining 150 copies were available for purchase at the company’s head office for between about two and five shillings, depending on the printing cost.  Posters in demand with the public were invariably those which followed the more traditional artistic designs, such as Gregory Brown’s St Albans, Fred Taylor’s Kew and Dorothy Burroughes’ For the Zoo.  These three were all in the top ten of a bestsellers’ list which was announced by the Underground in 1923.

Dorothy Burroughes Zoo vintage london transport poster 1922
Dorothy Burroughes, 1922

By 1931 the best sellers were selling over 300 posters each, and London Transport were selling a total of 10,000 posters in a year.  But even the modern art posters did sell to some.

Edward Bawden has also recalled that he and Eric Ravilious, when students together at the Royal College of Art in the 1920s. looked forward eagerly to the appearance of a new Kauffer Underground poster which was then, literally, one of the cheapest forms of good modern art available.

McKnight Kauffer vintage London Transport poster 1934
McKnight Kauffer, 1934

In 1933 the London Transport poster shop opened in their headquarters at 55, Broadway, and designs were, it seemed, commissioned specifically with shop sales in mind.

London Transport poster shop exterior
London Transport shop,c.1935.

Furthermore, some posters were also created so that they could be easily cut down for framing and display in the home.

Laura Knight September Freshnes 1937
Laura Knight, September Freshness, 1937

Poster sales continued on and off, with a break for the war, sometimes only to schools and other educational establishments, sometimes to the public.  Claire Dobbin writes about it in some detail in her essay in London Transport Posters if you want to know more.

She also mentions is that London Transport held poster exhibitions too, at Burlington House in 1928 and the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1949.

LT exhibition Burlington House 1928
London Transport poster exhibition at Burlington House, 1928

For London Transport, these were infrequent special events, but in the case of  the railway companies, exhibitions were a regular feature of their promotions. David Watts catalogues them in the essay I was referring to the other day.

Annual poster exhibitions were held at the LNER’s King’s Cross station in London between 1923 and 1927. Between 1928 and 1933, with the possible exception of 1931, they were held in either the New Burlington or Grieve’s galleries in the West End. In 1936 a private exhibition was held in Marylebone, presumably at the LNER station. In 1937 the exhibition reverted to the West End. LNER poster exhibitions were held annually in Edinburgh between 1924 and 1938. Their exact location is not stated, except for 1935, 1937 and 1938, when it was Waverley station. Numerous other localities hosted occasional LNER poster exhibitions, including: Aberdeen (1929–30, 1934), Barnard Castle (1934–36), Bournemouth (1934), Bradford (1934–35), Brighton (1936), Cleethorpes (1935), Dundee (1934), Gateshead (1936), Glasgow (1929–30), Grimsby (1934), Ipswich (1935), Kingston upon Hull (1932–36), Leeds (1934), Lincoln (1934, 1936), Manchester (1935–36), Newcastle upon Tyne (1930, 1934–36), Norwich (1933), Shef?eld (1933, 1936–37), Yarmouth (1934) and York (1932–36). […] It is likely that other localities also hosted exhibitions of LNER posters and that those listed above held them in more years than shown here. Exhibitions seem not to have been systematically recorded.

That’s quite a lot of exhibitions.

Now, I can’t lay my hands on any proof that posters were sold at these events.  But posters were definitely sold by railway companies.  Pre-war artists had contracts which paid them for every copy sold to the public, for a start.

And the LMS marketed posters to the public – possibly by the same system of writing in as London Transport used.  When the company produced a series of posters designed by Royal Academicians in 1924, they “sold well”, and Maurice Greiffenhagan’s image of Carlisle was top of the pops, selling to the public “in large numbers”.

Maurice Greiffenhagen Carlisle vintage Railway poster LMS

In 1931, the LMS even published a list of its six best-selling posters.  Like the railways, traditional art was what the public wanted to buy, with Paul Henry’s views of Ireland taking the top two places.

Paul Henry Connemara 1926 vintage railway poster

So railway posters were definitely for sale.  Which just leaves Shell and Guinness posters to account for.

W Steggles Tattingstone wonder shell poster
W Steggles

Shell held exhibitions of its advertising too.  The first was at New Burlington Gardens in 1931 and then later they were held at Shell-Mex House and around the country. These were reviewed in the press and attracted thousands of visitors.  And, yes, the posters were for sale.  Michael Heller has reseached Shell’s inter-war corporate branding.

Its posters rapidly became collectors items, available by subscription from Shell or through its popular published catalogue collections.

Which just leaves Guinness posters, about which I can find out nothing right now.  But  I think I might be prepared to make a guess that they also were sold given that they survive in the numbers they do.

Bromfield Foreign letter GPO poster 1951
Bromfield, 1951

By way of a contrast, let’s go back to the GPO posters.  We’ve got a fair number (in fact a rather embarrassing quantity), but what’s interesting is that I know the direct provenance of most of them.  A few came from the Malcom Guest collection, a few more (all by her) from Daphne Padden’s estate.  But the greatest number came from eBay, sold by a man whose uncle went to his local post office in the early 1950s and asked if he could have their posters when they’d finished with them.    They’re not just floating about like the railway and London Transport posters, only thanks to rare and chance collections are they kept.

Tom Eckersley vintage GPO poster 1955
Tom Eckersley, 1955

Which makes me think that we’re very lucky that Shell, London Transport and the Railway Companies wanted to improve the nations taste by selling posters.  Otherwise practically nothing would survive.


I haven’t given references in this, mainly because footnotes and blogs don’t mix well.  But most of the information came from these books:

London Transport Posters: A Century of Art and Design

Underground Art: London Transport Posters, 1908 to the Present

Art for All: British Posters for Transport (Yale Center for British Art)

Railway Posters 1923-1947

as well as from Michael Heller’s paper, Corporate Brand Building at Shell-Mex Ltd in the Interwar Period.  Do ask if you want any more detail and I will do my best.

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For Your Entertainment

I am trying to write about how posters were made available like I promised to.  But there’s lots to get through and my brain hurts, so it isn’t going to be finished until tomorrow.

Fortunately, these arrived just about an hour ago to save my bacon.  (By the skin of their teeth, as the postman tried to wedge a very large carboard envelope through our slightly smaller letterbox.  Naughty postman.  Mr Crownfolio had to give him a stern talking to).

Dorrit Dekk P&O Menu 1971 front
P&O Entertainment Brochure for the Canberra, 1971

Luckily they have survived unscathed.  They’re all by Dorrit Dekk and they are all lovely.

Canberra P&O menu reverse
Canberra Entertainment Brochure 1971 reverse

As ever, they are a window into a totally different world, and one I’d quite like to live in.  Naples, Barcelona, Tilbury, anyone?

Dorrit Dekk Entertainment Programme 1965 Himalaya P&O
P&O Entertainment Programme for the Himalaya, 1965

I so don’t even know where to begin with the delights on offer.  Perhaps P&O themselves can explain.

menu of entertainments 1965

I shall never play deck tennis, nor see Ron and Millie Stubbs dance.  Nor shall I eat Coupe Jacques at the Fancy Dress Dinner either.

Menu for Fancy Dress Dinner on the Himalaya 1967
Fancy Dress Dinner Menu for the Himalaya, 1967.

Instead I can only admire the design, while wondering just how they did lower the level in the swimming pool.

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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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