Auction fever (or not)

The next Christies poster sale is upon us; the lots are online, the printed catalogue is sitting on my desk.  But I’ve been avoiding writing about it for the last few days, mainly because I can’t work up much enthusiasm for what’s on offer.

This, if I am pushed, is probably the best of the bunch.  But it’s American, so it doesn’t really count, even if it is by Herbert Bayer.

Herbert Bayer Eggs vintage American wartime poster
Herbert Bayer, c.1940, est £700-900

The next best offerings are also American, a selection of TWA travel posters by David Klein.

David Klein travel poster Christies Auction
David Klein, c.1958, est. £1,000-1,500

David Klein vintage TWA travel poster
David Klein, c.1960, £1,500-2,000

I’ve pondered the excellence of these before, because they have a quality which no British poster of that era really manages, an intense optimism about modernity, not simply as an ideal to be aimed for (which is much more the British mindset) but as something experienced in the present moment.  They are glad to be alive in this modern world and the joy is infectious.

David Klein vintage TWA poster
David Klein, c.1960, est. £700-900

In the realms of things which I really should be contemplating, there is a Fougasse I haven’t seen before.

Fougasse vintage WW2 propaganda poster salvage
Fougasse, 1942, est. £600-800

Along with an interesting and early McKnight Kauffer.

McKnight Kauffer Cornwall vintage Great Western poster
McKnight Kauffer, 1933, est. £800-1,200

And then two Landers which are not new but now come with quite eyewatering estimates.

Lander Paignton vintage railway poster
R M Lander, 1956, est. £600-800

Another Lander Paignton railway poster
R M Lander, 1956, est. £600-800
I’m intrigued by these posters; they’re not necessarily the best of his work but they come up time and again at auction, unlike anything else he did.  It could be that there are just more of them about, or it may be a self-perpetuating phenomenon: because people have seen them fetch good prices before, that brings more out of the woodwork.  But he did do more interesting stuff, and I’ll post a few of our (rather battered) examples one of these days.

Then there is also this.

Daphne Padden vintage railway poster Hastings and St Leonards
Daphne Padden, £1,00-1,500

Now it is by Daphne Padden, because it’s signed Daphne Padden, even if at first glance it looks much like her father’s style of work.  Judging by  the style of clothing, it must be from the very start of 1950s, so is probably one of her very earliest posters.  Which makes it interesting, but I can’t say I particularly like it.  Although the estimate suggests that Christies think that a large number of people will be expensively intersted in it.

There are other mildly interesting lots; a few from London Transport, of which my favourite is this Bawden.

Edward Bawden 1936 Vintage London transport poster Kew Gardens
Edward Bawden, 1936, est. £600-800

As ever, there are also the usual slew of railway posters including lots of pretty landscapes and detailed pictures of trains.  This one does at least get a prize for being, er, different.

Flying Scotsman Greiwurth poster 1928
Greiwurth, 1928, est. £3,000-5,000

Oh to live in the simpler age before Freud thought of phallic symbolism.

Overall, though, the excitement just isn’t there.  Really I think that – with the odd exception when a great collection comes up for sale – Christies’ sales just aren’t for me any more.  The higher minimum lot value means that so much of what I’m interested in – the Royston Coopers and Tom Eckersleys – just don’t appear there any more.  But these posters also not turning up anywhere else instead.  So where have they gone?  Are you sitting on a heap of these things and don’t know what to do with them these days?  In which case, I might be able to help.

While I’m on about auctions, I should for the sake of completeness tell you that Poster Auctioneer have a new auction coming up tomorrow, but again with very little British interest in there, so you’ll have to make do with this Donald Brun instead.

Donald Brun

Most of their posters are Swiss, which isn’t unreasonable for an auction house in Switzerland.  What’s more puzzling is that Poster Connection, who are in the States, also have an auction stuffed with Swiss posters this time round.  You can choose between an ample selection of Swiss graphics.

Hans Neuburg Zurich artists poster 1966
Hans Neuburg, 1966, est. $360

Or simply posters for Switzerland.

Herbert Leupin Pontresina vintage travel poster 1949
Herbert Leupin, 1949, est. $500

There are a very few British posters in amongst all the snow and sans serif, of which the most interesting is this Norman Weaver.

Norman Weaver vintage 1948 travel poster BOAC
Norman Weaver, 1948, est. $500

With a rarely-seen Abram Games coming up a close second.

Abram Games Vintage BOAC poster 1947
Abram Games, 1947, est. $600

But all is not lost.  Swann Galleries have promised me that there are some lovely London Transport pieces in their forthcoming auction.  I’ll let you know as soon as it appears online.

Chaps like you

A bit of a miscellany today, of which the most notable items are these.

They’re a pair of 1940s government information posters, but what makes them different is that they’re not wartime posters but date, I am reasonably sure, from just after the war.

old government public information posters from eBay

The message is certainly right for the times.  World War Two itself may have been over, but the sense of emergency hadn’t gone away because the end of American Lend-Lease finance meant that the bill now had to be paid.  What was needed now was more National Savings and even more production for export earnings.  So, just as during the war, sheaves of posters were produced exhorting the nation to greater effort.  The government’s publicity budget in 1946 was nearly £3m, almost as much as it had been during the war; by contrast, in 1938, they had spent just £257,000.

It wasn’t just the quantity of posters which carried on, plenty of the wartime messages didn’t change either, and in many cases the austerity slogans are almost indistinguishable from those produced while the war was on.

Bones vintage 1946 public information poster propaganda

The ‘still’ is one clue in the poster above (which is ours and so not for sale on eBay right now),  but it is definitely post-war, because it was designed by Dorrit Dekk, who only joined the Central Office of Information in 1946.  But without that attribution it would be almost impossible to give a definite date to it.

But what’s really interesting about all of these posters, and what makes the pair for sale on eBay so unusual, is that in comparison with the wartime posters, very few of them survive.  And I think there’s probably a very good reason for this.  During the war, it was clear to everyone that this was a moment of great historical importance and so at least a few people saved the posters as souvenirs or documents or whatever you care to call them.  After the war, though, the austerity and effort had been a noble cause was now just a relentless grind in a grey, bombed-out, rather cheerless country.  It wasn’t a time that many people wanted a memento of.

There’s another reason, too.  People were sick of posters telling them what to do.  Six years of almost constant exhortation and instruction had left their mark, and no one wanted to listen any more.  All of which make these eBay survivals both rare and unusual.  Although whether they are £140 worth of rare is another question altogether.

Mind you, they’re not along as there seems to be quite a lot of expensive on eBay at the moment.  At first this London Underground poster doesn’t look unreasonable at £140, because it is lovely.

Vintage 1939 London Transport poster from Kiki Werth on eBay

But then it is only 10″ x 12″, so that’s quite a lot of money for a small bit of paper.  Mind you, if I start thinking like that, I’ll never buy anything again.

Elsewhere, this 1960s London Transport poster for the Imperial War Museum is definitely overpriced with a starting price of £125.

Andrew Hall 1965 Imperial War Museum poster London Transport

While this pair of school prints are at least starting at a reasonable £40 and £30 respectively, although I suspect they may go higher.

Michael Rothenstein school print


Leonard Tisdall School print

The first is by Michael Rothenstein, the second by Leonard Tisdall, both rather good.  I’ve written about the school prints before, but it’s probably worth pointing out that it’s yet another example of artists in the 1940s and 50s taking work for children seriously.  Good art was a very important part of the new world they were building; I wonder where that impulse has gone now.

Finally, a rare feature which is things liked by Quad Royal turning up on television.  Doesn’t happen often, so twice in one night is nothing short of a miracle.  Firstly, a set of Fougasse Careless Talk Costs Lives posters turned up on the Antiques Roadshow, where Mark Hill valued them at £1,000-1,500.  Mr Crownfolio, on our sofa, said £750.  Any thoughts as to who might be right there?  Then, straight after this on BBC Four, The Secret Life of the Airport featured Margaret Calvert talking about designing signs and typefaces for Gatwick.  That bit’s about 10 min from the end, but the rest of it is worth your attention for some cracking archive footage too.

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.

To war, again

It’s auctions a-go-go this week.  And the next on our list is yet another tranche of World War Two posters for Wallis and Wallis down in darkest Sussex, to be sold on Tuesday.

Make Do and Mend Vintage WW2 poster

I’m rather reluctant to deal with what’s on offer this time round  (61 lots, a good hundred posters at a guess) because the whole set up makes my head ache.  It’s not just the fact that they’ve listed the posters as being either A3 or A1, when they surely must be in Imperial measurements.

Even more frustratingly, only eleven of the posters are actually illustrated, and those seem to have been chosen by sticking pins in the catalogue at random.  World War I recruiting poster in Welsh, anyone?

World War I vintage recruiting poster in Welsh

Independence calls for the bravest man, apparently.

Or then this,

Lubricating Oil is imported in tankers vintage ww2 poster Wallis and Wallis sale

which has been illustrated in preference to a Dame Laura Knight poster for “War Pictures by British Artists. National Gallery Trafalgar Square”.  Apparently it’s an image of a barrage balloon, but I can’t find it anywhere and would love to have seen it.

One or two classics have been illustrated.

Keep Mum vintage WW2 poster Wallis and Wallis auction

Along with this one, which I’ve never seen before but rather like.

Hit Back By Doing War Work vintage ww2 poster Wallis and Wallis

It would have been nice to have known the artist, or whatever other information is in that small print, but of course they’re not telling.

Plenty more other gems are almost certainly lurking in the catalogue, but I simply don’t have the whole day or more that it would take me to try and track down every single poster they mention.  This one is definitely on offer.

Womens Land Army ww2 poster wallis and wallis

As are a whole heap of fuel economy Bateman posters (at least eleven, spread seemingly at random among six different lots), along with a Fougasse on the same theme.

Fougasse Don't waste fuel poster ww2 wallis and wallis

There are plenty of other fuel economy posters in there too; not all, however, are classics.

Fuel watcher vintage ww2 poster wallis and wallis

There are also two more lots of the Beverley Pick ATS recruiting posters which were pointed out to me in the last auction.

Beverley Pick ATS recruiting poster ww2

I’d like to be able to tell you what those fetched in the last sale, but, frustratingly, the Wallis and Wallis website doesn’t even have results on it so I can’t.

I’ll post about Pick again one of these days, as I’ve dug out more of his/her war posters, and they’re all good.  And if anyone has any more information about their work in the meantime, I’d love to know.

Britain Can Make Lovely Posters

A further digression here.  I’ve spent the morning assembling the first draft of the links page, and in the course of it have rediscovered this wonderful photograph:

Britain can make it poster exhibition

It’s the General Printing part of the 1947 Britain Can Make It exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum.  The aim was to showcase the consumer goods which would lead the country’s manufacturing recovery after the war.  Although the show was wildly popular, it was generally known as ‘Britain Can’t Have It’ as the country was still under heavy rationing, and almost all the goods on display were designed for export.

Britain Can Make it posters wuder

At least the posters above would have been an exception to this.  I can identify a Games, the Lewitt-Him Vegetabull (below, any excuse) and a Fougasse.  The caption also tells me that the front poster about Milk is a James Fitton.  If you can identify any others, I’d love to know.

Lewitt Him vegetabull poster

The image comes from the VADS archive, which is a collection of more images and resources than one person can reasonably use in a lifetime.  They’ve got a good (if slightly over design-historical) introduction to Britain Can Make It if you’re interested in learning more.  I’d just like to have a wander round the exhibition really.  And then take the posters home, of course.