Posters on Display

There was more to the Beverley Pick book than could fit into one single post. Ironically, what got left out last time was posters: to be precise their display, as demonstrated in this wonderful illustration by Mr Pick.

Beverley Pick wartime  poster display stand from display presentation book

It particularly jumped out at me because we have the poster at the bottom left, which I wasn’t actually certain was by Beverley Pick.

Beverley Pick photomontage world war two propaganda poster ministry of food small girl green vegetables

To be fair, the book doesn’t actually say it is either.  But given that every other photo in the book of Pick’s own work. it’s a reasonable assumption to make – and the photomontage and deep colour is very similar to his other poster work during the war.

BEverley Pick world war two propaganda poster ATS be useful

But the illustration of how these posters were displayed is worth a second look too.  Pick describes it as follows:

The light and portable poster screen shown here was designed to take seven posters of standard size and one headline streamer circulated at monthly intervals.

It’s a much more organised mean of display than I ever tend to imagine for Second World War posters.  More importantly, the experience of seeing seven posters together is very different to seeing one alone.  The single poster is much more like propaganda, just giving the viewer the idea that sowing winter vegetables is a good thing to do.  En masse, they are much more informative and give the viewer enough basic knowledge – which vegetables and when – to allow someone to go about it.

The display panel is a useful reminder that  posters appeared in more than one context, not only as solo propaganda pinned up on hoardings, in shops and on the walls of village halls but also in the more organised and didactic context of exhibitions too. It’s not something I’d really considered or read about before but having had that thought, the Imperial War Museum’s photo collection started to come in very useful.  Here’s their image of another poster much beloved of this blog.

F H K HEnrion posters on display off the ration exhibition London Zoo

This is, of course,  F.H.K. Henrion’s paen to the joys of rabbit meat, which  is on display as part of the Off the Ration Exhibition.

Entrance to Off the Ration Exhibition London Zoo

‘Off The Ration’ was originally held at London Zoo, which I always felt must have been a bit unnerving for the other animals, wondering how long it would be before they were designated as steak too.  No wonder that Lewitt Him’s kangaroo is feeding up the more likely candidates in the poster for the exhibition.

Lewitt Him off the ration exhibition poster 1943 Ministry of Information propaganda vintage poster

But returning to our subject of  the poster displays inside, I have seen both the posters at each end before now, but never the panel in the middle.  This may or may not have existed as a single poster – I have no way of knowing and even less means of finding out.  And were the Henrion posters commissioned for the exhibition first, or were existing posters incorporated into the exhibition’s design?  Again, I can’t tell you.

But these unanswerable questions are a useful reminder that posters during the war weren’t lone objects but were seen by people at the time as part of a whole range of other kinds of of graphic design – and the rest of it can easily be forgotten when we’re telling the story of the posters.

Take Potato Pete, as one of the more obvious examples.  He exists on posters, of course.

Potato Pete vintage world war two propaganda poster ministry of food

He too had his own exhibition, this time on Oxford Street (this looks like the site of the bombed-out John Lewis store which was used for a number of exhibitions during and just after the war).

Potato Pete exhibition

But many more people would have seen his image in the daily newspaper Food Bulletins put out by the Ministry of Food and so in many respects the posters and exhibtiions were just adjuncts of that.  So the poster was an image of an already well-known character, which meant that it would have been understood in a very different way.

The continuum of graphic design and display can work the opposite way round as well.  This woman in Oxford is finding out about salvage.

Ministry of Information Salvage exhibition Oxford

The displays that she is looking at aren’t, as far as I know, related to any particular poster campaign,although the main panel could quite easily pass as a poster design.  But nonetheless, people who’d seen this exhibition or one like it would read posters in a subtly different way, seeing them as just one part of what they were being told about salvage.  So perhaps posters had to say less, because they were acting as a reminder, or they were able to use visual symbols which would have been easily understood by the viewer because they’d already been explained in a different context.  It’s impossible to prove this, of course but equally it does seem absurd to thing that this overlap would not have happened.

None of this is in the slightest bit surprising to anyone who has any idea how advertising works in the modern world, where campaigns are planned across television, press and sometimes still posters, and now with social media added on too.  But these multiple contexts are very rarely considered in terms of wartime posters, even though the Ministry of Information was clearly a very shrewd and sophisticated user of all the means available to it.  And there were very many means indeed.  You might find a food exhibition in your local furniture retailer.

A view of a display by the Ministry of Food at the 'Domestic Front' exhibition held at James Brooke and Sons Ltd., 376 Bethnal Green Road. This display focuses on wartime cookery demonstrations and includes information on vitamins, dried eggs and vegetables.

More surprisingly, you might even catch an exhibition being driven down the street.

Travelling salvage exhibition outside Ministry of Information Bruce Angrave.

This highly covetable vehicle is a travelling salvage exhibition in 1943, and I shall let the Imperial War Museum describe it to you.

…the car has the words ‘Private Scrap is in town…come and meet him’ painted on the side. The van itself has a special bin for collecting books ‘for the forces, blitzed libraries, and salvage’, and the side of the van features a series of wooden display panels by artist Bruce Angrave. The salvage exhibition continues inside the vehicle.

Bruce Angrave’s panels aren’t posters and almost certainly don’t exist any more (and if someone wants to tell me I’m wrong on that, I’d very much like it). But they are part of the visual landscape that salvage posters inhabited, and so ought, even if just a tiny bit, to be taken into account when we talk about them.

When I studied Design History, I used to hate entirely abstract phrases like ‘visual culture’ and ‘discourse’; I’m hardly fond of them even now.  But they can have their uses sometimes.  Now that posters have become objects which are both valuable and collectable, the art-historical impulse tends to take over.  They are treated as ‘art’: framed and conserved, and displayed on their own.  None of this is wrong, but it can tend to leach into our thinking about them as well and that isn’t a good thing.  Posters are the bits of graphic design which were lucky enough to survive, but they were part of a much wider world of print and explanation, and it’s worth remembering that more often.


Set fair for Hastings

After seeing the Bruce Angrave Hastings poster yesterday, Mondagogo tweeted with a link to her photos of this wonderful object.

Cartoon forecasts on Hastings Victorian Weather station

It’s a strange mechanical weather forecasting device – part of the Victorian weather station in Hastings.  Here’s the whole thing.

 Hastings Victorian Weather station

Although if you look closely, the cartoons aren’t actually Victorian.

Cartoon forecasts on Hastings Victorian Weather station detail

In fact they look suspiciously as though they might also be by Bruce Angrave.  Certainly the chins seem familiar…

Cartoon forecasts on Hastings Victorian Weather station detail

It seems Angrave did do cartoons as well as poster design (and illustration, and write books, and paper sculpture and  a lot more besides).  Here are a couple which were reproduced in Graphis in 1946

Bruce Angrave cartoons from Graphis 1946

Compare and contrast.

Cartoon forecasts on Hastings Victorian Weather station details

It certainly looks like his work, but I can’t prove it one way or another.  In a weird omission no one seems to have written anything at all about the weather station, so if you are in Hastings and know more, I’d love to hear from you.

And thanks to Anna from Mondagogo for the loan of the pictures.


It’s all Shelf Appeal‘s fault again.  Her post about Bruce Angrave led to this French blogger posting some more late last year which was then tweeted by Kickcan & Conkers.  Which led in turn to some tapping and muttering in the next door room as Mr Crownfolio searched the web.  A few days later the postman rang on the doorbell.

Inside front cover of Bruce Angrave paper Sculpture book

Ex-Hendon library, with no dust jacket and all in black in white, but still a good use of just a few pounds.  Because it’s packed with goodies.  Quite apart from Angrave’s own work, like these figures for the Festival of Britain,

Bruce Angrave paper sculpture figures from Festival of Britain

there’s also a history of paper sculpture through the ages, as well as a review of paper sculptors working at the time.  And there were quite a few of them about.  This 5′ high paper fantasia was built by Alan Farmer for the Ideal Home Show.

Alan Farmer figure for HP Sauce Ideal home show from paper sculpture book

While this fairground horse was produced by Studio Diana for the British Industries Fair.

Studio Diana horse for British Industries Fair from Paper Sculpture book

Interestingly, along with a number of other examples in the book, the horse was commissioned by Beverley Pick, who clearly liked paper sculpture a great deal.

But best of all, there are instructions on how to make your own paper sculpture.  Perhaps you would like to make your own version of the wonderful gentleman here.

BRuce Angrave paper sculpture of posh old codger

Bruce Angrave paper sculpture how to diagram

The diagram above is just the beginning, there are also another ten pages of diagrams, instructions and photos.  There’s nothing like jumping in at the deep end, is there.  But if anyone wants to have a go, I will happily scan the whole thing, and then feature the finished results on here.

Quite apart from enjoying the book for its own sake, it has also provoked me to some thinking.  For a start, it’s made me look at Angrave’s posters again. Some are conventionally produced, like this Hastings poster that I’ve mentioned before.

Angrave hastings vintage travel poster

But others, like this 1964 London Transport poster, are actually produced as paper sculptures (and then photographed?  I have no idea).

Bruce Angrave London Transport poster 1964 Christopher Wren

We’ve got a copy of that somewhere I think.

But the other thought is provoked by this, the frontispiece photo.  In it Angrave is producing a logo for Pathe News, for use in what would now be called an ident.

Bruce Angrave makes Pathe News cockerel logo in paper

I had never thought that part of the purpose of paper sculpture was to produce CGI before the computer was up to the job.  But perhaps it was.

Further training

I’m really glad we don’t collect railway posters very seriously.  Because we’d be stony broke by now.  This year has just been sale after sale of high quality railway posters (with a fair slew of London Transport stuff too).  And now, to round off the year, there’s another one.

Onslows’s December sale titles itself  Vintage Travel Posters including Fine British Railway Posters.  Which means posters like this, by the dozen.

Somerset Railway poster Frank Sherwin c1930
Frank Sherwin, 1930, est. £800-1,200

And this.  Which is quite interesting, because it’s by Brian Batsford, of book cover fame.

Brian Batsford Somerset vintage GWR railway poster
Brian Batsford, 1930, est. £800-1,200

Although there is also this too, which, as I think I have mentioned before, every right-thinking home should have a copy of.

Eric Lander English Lakes vintage British Railways poster
Eric Lander, est. £700-1,000

Plus there’s lots of pictures of trains too, but I shan’t be bothering you with those today, or indeed on any other day.  Apparently most of the collection comes from a single estate sale, although I think I can recognise a few things which did also appear at Morphets earlier this year.

Bruce Angrave Parties of 8 vintage British railways poster
Bruce Angrave, est. £250-300

Royston Cooper vintage railway Harwich poster
Royston Cooper, 1959, est. £200-300

These Holiday Haunts posters by Abram Games and Tom Eckersley also appeared there as a single lot too – the Eckersley in particular is a fine thing.

Abram Games Holiday Haunts vintage railway poster
Abram Games, 1960, est. £200-300

Tom Eckersley vintage Holiday Haunts railway poster
Tom Eckersley, 1962, est. £200-300

Elsewhere, it’s the usual Onslow’s miscellany.  This poster seems to appear in almost every single sale they do, which at the price it goes for is quite an achievement.

Fortuno Mat Southport theatre poster from Onslows vintage Cheshire Railways
Fortunino Matania, 1933, est. £6,000-8,000

This is the rarer version, apparently, because it’s overprinted with the logo of the Cheshire Lines Railway rather than the LMS.  I have to say that I can’t quite bring myself to be bothered about the difference.

There’s also the usual selection of London Transport posters.  I love this Sheila Robinson (which comes with four other posters, it’s all the rage these days).

Sheila Robinson vintage London Transport poster Royal London
Sheila Robinson, 1953, est. £200-300.

We once owned a LT poster by her and sold it.  I still don’t know what was going through our minds at that point, and now every time I see one of her designs I am filled with remorse.

These James Fittons are also rather good too.

James Fitton vintage London Transport poster
James Fitton, 1936, est. £400-600

James Fitton vintage London Transport poster
James Fitton, 1937, est £200-300.

There’s also a complete set of four of these Austin Coopers, one of which featured in the last Christies.

Austin Cooper, 1933, est. £1,000-1,500

Although at that kind of estimate, a set of four is going to be a pretty substantial investment.

I also rather like this.  And it’s a lot cheaper too.

Farleigh vintage London Transport poster 1947
John Farleigh, 1947, est. £200-300.

But then I am always a sucker for a chalk hillside figure.

There is still more to consider in there, but I’ve run out of time.  So, World War Two posters and other miscellaneous bits and bobs next week.  And an Advent calendar too.

Hastings will welcome your invasion

I have been enfeebled by gastric flu.  Normal service of some kind will be resumed tomorrow.  In the meantime, here is a very nice Tom Eckersley that I haven’t seen around very much (although I think Books and Things might have had a copy once upon the while).

Tom Eckersley Hastings poster no date

The title comes from this Bruce Angrave poster.

Bruce Angrave Hastings poster

Not quite such a good image, but a great line.

And now I am going to lie down again.

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.