Is it really efficient?

On we must go with the endless stream of auctions.  Today it is Onslows, which takes place on Friday.  What can I tell you about it?

Well the first thing that will strike you as you browse through the catalogue is precisely what a tonnage of Shell posters they have – and there are more too, tucked away at the end.

Keith Grant Somerset Shell Educational poster Wiltshire
Keith Grant, est. £100-150

I really must take a look at what these actually sell for, because the higher estimates of £100-150 do always strike me as slightly fanciful, but then a few always manage to reach that.  Certainly,  I don’t see them going as high at other auctions or on eBay.  Watch this space and I will report back.

That would, however, be an utterly reasonable price to pay for these Tristram Hillier items, which have the same estimate.  I’ve written about them before but, frankly, any excuse.

Tristram HIllier Shell guide to fossils educational poster

Tristram Hiller shell guide to minerals educational poster

What I haven’t ever written about properly, however, are the Shell educational posters themselves.  Must do that one of these days.

Meanwhile back at Onslows, the other thing that will strike you about the auction is a job lot of GPO posters, some being sold singly, some as individual lots.

1950 Harry stevens air mail GPO poster
Harry Stevens, 1950, est. £70-100

Sams 1954 minimum 4d letter rate GPO poster
Sams, 1954, est. £60-80

Now I happen to know the story behind these posters, and it’s one to make any archivist’s hair curl.  Back in the early 1980s, the Royal Mail in their Mount Pleasant HQ were having a sort out.  Sensibly, they decided that two copies of each of the posters they had produced should go to an archive – these are the ones which the BPMA have now.  Rather more bogglingly, they put the rest in a skip.  The seller rescued a selection that he liked.  Some were sold at Bloomsbury in March, this is another batch.

1950 Martin Aitchison Your Letterbox is it really efficient ?, GPO poster
Martin Aitcheson, 1950, est. £40-50

Other than that, the other two interesting items are two rather lovely sets of proofs, one by Barnett Friedman and the other by Edward Ardizzone.

Barnett Freedman (1901-1958) Wuthering Heights (16 plates) , Jane Eyre (16 plates) and Anna Karenina (16 plates), proof uncut lithograph sheets for illustrations from Heritage Press NY 1952,
Barnett Friedman, 1952, est. £200-300

Edward Ardizonne (1900-1979) lithograph proof sheets for Sinbad, Fairground Freak Show and WW2 sentry
Edward Ardizzone, est. £30-50.

I like them a lot, but what you’d actually do with them I’m not entirely sure.

Meanwhile the rest of what is on offer is the usual mix of foreign stuff that I am going to ignore, railway and travel posters, and, as ever, a fair selection of World War Two Home Front posters.

This is probably the stand-out railway poster for me.

Frank Newbould (1887-1951) Scarborough, original poster printed for LNER poster by Waterlow c. 1930
Frank Newbould, 1930, est. £700-1,000

Although, as even a cursory flick through this blog would reveal, I am always a sucker for this series.

L A Wilcox (Lesley Arthur 1904-1982) Cornwall Travel by Train, original poster printed for BR(WR) by Jordison 1960 BR poster
L A Wilcox, 1960, est. £600-700

The main event in the travel poster section, at least if you are me, is a stream of these black and white British travel posters.  A couple are quite interestingly early.

Brighton travel poster 1938
Anonymous, 1938, est. £50-70

The vast majority are not.

Walter Scott's Britain Warwick - The Castle, original sepia photographic poster printed for The Travel Association circa 1948 poster
Anonymous, c. 1948, est. £50-70.

While this in no way constitutes a recommendation to buy one, these posters are quite interesting as historical artefacts.  Take a look at the date: it’s just after the war has ended, and Britain is desperate to pay back the war loans.  And one of the ways to do that, is of course American tourist dollars; so these posters wing their way over to the States to try and persuade our American cousins to come over here.  But I often wonder just how well they worked.  Because America is sleek, glossy and most of all technicolour, but Britain is broke.  So our posters come in black and white and are printed on the cheapest, thinnest paper imaginable.

Of course none of this explains why the 1938 poster is equally as shoddy.  Perhaps the British Travel and Tourist Association were just cheapskates, all the time.

The reason I’ve thought about these posters so much is that Mr Crownfolio and I, some years ago, bought a whole roll of these posters from America for about £30.  We tried to sell a couple on eBay but basically got laughed at.  But then, a couple of years later we tried again, and the prices started rising – so much so that one of the last ones went for over £100.  And now they are at Onslows, well I never.

In the war section, meanwhile, this is probably the most classic poster.

Norman Wilson (dates unknown) Dig for Victory, original WW2 poster printed for HMSO by Chromoworks c.1940 propaganda poster
Norman Wilkinson, 1940, est. £300-400.

While this is my favourite.

Coughs & Sneezes Spread Diseases, original WW2 Home Front poster printed for HMSO by Chromoworks circa 1940
Anonymous, 1940, est. £40-50

Just look at the difference in prices, I am clearly in a minority of one on this.

For a change, there aren’t that many London Transport posters in there, but it’s worth persevering through the whole catalogue, because a pair of gems, both by Abram Games, are tucked away at the end.

Abram Games london zoo lovely poster
Abram Games, 1976, est. £100-150

Abram Games (1914-1996) London Transport Conducted Tours, original poster printed by Waterlow 1950 London Transport poster
Abram Games, 1950, est. £400-500.

In fact that poster above is the very last one in the sale.  And probably one of the best.   But it’s an exception, and I am slightly worried by the general lack of good posters like that from the Onslows sale.  Because with Christies having got so expensive, there’s a real need for an auction house selling the stuff that, well, Christies used to – the Games, the Eckersleys and the Royston Coopers to start with, never mind the Daphne Paddens.  But they aren’t appearing here – so where have they gone?  They haven’t entirely migrated to the railwayana auctions, so where have they all gone?  Do any of you know, because I certainly don’t. And I’d like to.

Is Your Letterbox Efficient?

I was just thinking that it had all gone very quiet on the auction front, when what should come along but a whole auction full of posters at Bloomsbury.

It’s an interesting hotch-potch with almost every form of poster you can think of represented in the mix.  So there’s foreign posters and railway posters.

PIPER, Raymond NORFOLK BROADS railway poster
Raymond Piper, est. £200-400

Alongside ski posters and London Transport posters.

FITTON, James (1899-1982) CIRCUS, London Underground lithograph in colours, 1937 London Transport poster
James Fitton, 1937, est. £200-300

UNGER, Hans (1915 - 1975) PIMLICO, London Underground offset lithograph in colours, 1972 poster
Hans Unger, 1972, est. £200-300

I’ve never seen that Unger before, although it’s not, in my book, one of his best.  The pricing is a bit, well, interesting as I can’t see that the Unger and the Fitton are in any way comparable in quality, but according to the estimates, they are.

In addtion, there are plenty of poster types that have been mentioned on here before, such as David Klein posters and aeroplane posters with lots of blue skies in them.

Note the increasing prices for David Klein; had I had the foresight and money to buy some a few years ago, I would be thoroughly quids in.  But I didn’t, and anyway, I would only have wanted to keep them.

KLEIN David (1918-2005) SAN FRANCISCO, Fly TWA offset lithograph in colours, c.1958, poster
David Klein, 1958, est. £1,400-1,800

LEWITT-HIM LEWITT (1907-1991)HIM (1900 - ) AOA USA lithograph in colours, 1948 poster
Lewitt-Hi, 1948, est. £150-250.

Another poster that I keep mentioning on here is this McKnight Kauffer from 1938.

KAUFFER, Edward McKnight ARP lithograph in colours, 1938,
McKnight Kauffer, 1938, est. £140-180

As ever, it turns up with the matching Pat Keely.

KEELY, Pat Cokayne (?-1970) ARP lithograph in colours, 1938 poster
Pat Keely, 1938, est. £140-180

My theory about this – and I have said this before but I think it’s worth repeating – is that these posters come up so often because they were deliberately saved.  They were, I believe,  the first propaganda posters issued by the government in advance of World War Two.  So they were a novelty, and also a harbinger of a great event that I am sure quite a lot of people could see coming.  So, if the chance arose, they saved them for posterity, or the grandchildren, or for all the other reasons that make people keep otherwise insignificant pieces of paper.

Move forward two years and the whole British population is drowning in slogans and propaganda, coming at them from newspapers, leaflets and the radio, as well as from posters.  So the last thing they want to do is keep one as a reminder.  In any case, there are so many, which one to choose?  So the latter posters survive in dribs and drabs, mostly saved by accident.  But these first ones, people knew they were important and they kept them.

Fortunately, not everything in the auction is something seen before.  This, for example, has to be one of the least obvious posters ever.

ANONYMOUS BETTER BROWN THAN LILY WHITE offsetlithograph in colours, c.1960ANONYMOUS BETTER BROWN THAN LILY WHITE offsetlithograph in colours, c.1960 poster
Anonymous, c. 1960, est. £200-400

Artist not known, but more than that I have no idea what it is on about either.  Nor, it appears, does Bloomsbury.  Any ideas anyone?

Most exciting, for me at least, are these.

ECKERSLEY, Tom (1914-1997) POST EARLY. GPO lithograph in colours,  poster
Tom Eckersley, est. £150-200

This is just one of five, yes count ’em, five sets of GPO posters, each with ten posters in them.  Including, in this lot, a reminder of what a good designer Harry Stevens is at his best.

STEVENS, Harry (1919-2008) BY AIR MAIL. GPO lithograph in colours, 1951,  poster
Harry Stevens, 1951, est. £150-200

I would bid on them, but judging from our last experience with the Dorrit Dekk lots, these will go for a lot more than the estimates.

AITCHISON YOUR LETTERBOX…GPO lithograph in colours poster
Aitchison, est. £150-200 

And I’m not surprised.  This values them at £15-20 a poster; I reckon they’d go for more than that on eBay.  Although I don’t, to be fair, know what the other posters are, they may all be dogs of the first order.

BROMFIELD FOREIGN LETTER. GPO lithograph in colours, 1951 poster
Bromfield, 1951, est. £150-200

We’ve emailed Bloomsbury to ask what they are, and when we get an answer, I’ll let you know.

Something fishy going on

I had a theory when I started on this post, but after some research I have now authoritatively blown it out of the water (the pun in that will become apparent later on).  However it’s still an interesting journey to travel, so this post will mostly be me showing my workings in order to prove myself wrong.  Never mind.

The starting point is this rather wonderful object that arrived in my inbox over the weekend.

Daphne Padden Glass Panel Royal Blue Coaches fisherman image

Oh that the object itself had turned up.

It’s a version of Daphne Padden’s Royal Blue fisherman, painted onto glass for some coach office somewhere.  Having been kept by an employee of Royal Blue, it’s been bought by a transport collector. I am very envious.

But it got me back to thinking about Daphne Padden and fishermen.  As I’ve posted relatively recently, she liked them quite a lot, and kept going back to them as a motif.

Daphne Padden Royal Blue poster ours from morphets

I’ve tended to think of them as being Cornish fishermen, but as it turns out, they’re not.  Here’s another one of hers, for example, advertising the delights of East Anglia.

Daphne Padden coaches to east anglia fish vintage poster

I don’t own this poster and have had to borrow it from The Lark’s Flickr stream, so thanks to them.

But these fishermen weren’t just a quirk of Daphne Padden’s.  At about the same period, Harry Stevens was also mining a very similar vein of imagery.

Harry Stevens Atlantic Coast express british railways poster artwork 1955

Both to advertise Cornwall (the artwork above) and East Anglia as well.

harry stevens vintage coach poster london east anglia fisherman

Mr Crownfolio has always reckoned that this poster is Harry Stevens’ affectionate pastiche of Daphne Padden’s Royal Blue poster.  But I’m intrigued that they’re both starting to use the same imagery at about the same time.

Because either side of the war, the attraction of fishing ports was always the red-sailed boats themselves.  Here’s Ronald Lampitt in 1936 and Frank Sherwin, possibly from 1946.

Poster, Great Western Railway, Cornwall by Ronald Lampitt, 1936.

SHERWIN, FRANK (1896-1985)  CORNWALL Great Western railway poster 1946

The red sails are, it will not surprise you to learn, also used to advertise East Anglian destinations, in this case by Frank Mason.

Frank Mason East coast havens poster 1946

Now this is where I was all prepared to work out a neat little theory about the evolution of nostalgia.  There must have come a time when the red sails had so completely disappeared that they could no longer be used as a sign for the fishing port, not even in a past tense kind of way.  But the fishermen were still there on the quay, so they came to be the new signifier for this kind of place.

Except there is one great big fly in this ointment, which is that one particular fisherman had been extolling the joys of the seaside a long time before any of these posters were designed.  It is of course this one, John Hassell’s jolly fisherman for Skegness.

Poster, London & North Eastern Railway, Skegness is So Bracing by John Hassall, 1926.

That version is from 1926, but he goes back as far as 1908, and also persists for a very long time.  Here’s Frank Newbould reworking him in 1935.

'Skegness is so Bracing', LNER poster, 1933.

While here’s another one from 1962.

'Old and young find Skegness is so bracing British Railways poster, c 1961.

So my theory is, well, not exactly watertight.  Please feel free to prove it wrong in any other ways you choose.

Give that penguin a fish!

A recent acquisition on eBay was a few copies of Modern Publicity from the late 1950s and early 1960s.  I was going to share their delights with you anyway, but when I looked into the archives I realised that I’ve never actually blogged about this properly at all. Then when I looked a bit harder I discovered that Designers in Britain has only ever been mentioned in passing as well.  As both are rather fabulous resources, I will endeavour to put at least some of this to rights over the next few weeks. But first, a brief introduction.

Modern Publicity is an international annual, published by The Studio group, which covers what would now be called graphic design – posters, printed material, packaging and trade marks – from around the world.  In contrast, Designers in Britain does what it says on the tin and only deals with UK design and designers, but includes everything from letterheads to large pieces of industrial machinery.  While both of them suffer from being predominantly printed in black and white, they are nonetheless well worth your attention.  Not only do you get to look at lots of wonderful pieces all in one place, but they’re also fascinating insights into what critics and designers thought was good at the time it was produced.  Which isn’t always the same as the things we like now.

So, what did people admire in the late 1950s and early 1960s?  Or to be more precise, which pieces of graphic design were considered good enough to stand next to the cream of international design?  One answer is not the designers that you might expect.  Tom Eckersley gets just one poster included in the two Modern Publicity annuals from the 1950s.

Eckersley Aer Lingus vintage European route poster

You’ll be relieved to hear that he does rather better in 1962, with three designs included, amongst them this Omo poster which I’ve never seen before.

Tom Eckersley Omo poster 1962 Modern Publicity

Abram Games also receives a rave review in 1958 for this Guinness poster, which is chosen to open the entire book.

Abram Games Guinness poster 1957 big G

Only where both name and product are already household words is such a method possible.  To adopt the plan for an unknown advertiser would be to court disaster.

After that, it all gets a bit more unexpected.  I’ve mentioned before that Harry Stevens is very popular in these kinds of publications, and that’s as true in these annuals as it ever was.

harry Stevens tilling group luggage poster 1958

harry Stevens victoria coach station poster 1957 from Modern Publicity

Printed in lemon, vermilion, cobalt, orange, pink and black, the caption says.  I don’t think black and white is really fair on it, do you?  And should you have a copy in colour, please do let me know, I’d love to see it.

An even more surprising regular is Ken Bromfield.  Now he comes up every now and then on here, mostly as a designer of quite nice railway posters.  But the editors of Modern Publicity love his work – he gets four pieces of work in the 1959 edition alone, including this poster.

ken bromfield artwork for windsor poster 1960 it says on NMSI

This is the artwork from the NMSI collection, because I can’t find the actual poster anywhere.  But he’s clearly an artist I should take a proper look at one of these days.

There are also a few unexpected gems to be discovered, like this poster by Lander.

R M Lander Folkstone poster 1958 in black and white sadly

I can’t find a decent picture of this anywhere, which is really frustrating as it looks great, and must look even better in colour, (and I am getting quite close to having another rant about the inadequacies of the National Railway Museum catalogue as a result of my looking too).  Again, any pointers gratefully received.  Or indeed copies of the poster.

There are others of this ilk as well – it’s always worth being reminded of this London Transport poster by Edwin Tatum.

Vintage London Transport Poster natural history museum Tatum 1956

I’m also happy to see anything at all by Arpad Elfer, although these penguins are particularly splendid.

Arpad Elfer penguins DH evans poster 1958

There’s plenty more where that came from.  Here, just as an example, are Karo and Zero together on one page (did you see what they did there?).

Karo WH Smith ad and Zero Macfisheries ad from Modern Publicity

What a world it must have been with those advertisements in it.

Then there are the people I’ve just never heard of before.  Who, for example was Petronella Hodges?  She did this.

Petronella Hodges G Plan booklet 1958

And this too.

Petronella Hodges cutlery leaflet J Walter Thompson 1958

But she appears precisely nowhere in Google.  A mystery, it seems.  But the clue lies in the small print.  Both of these designs were produced by J Walter Thompson, so my guess would be that Petronella Hodges was an art director there at the end of the 1950s.  Quite apart from conjuring up images of a British version of Mad Men, it’s also a pointer to a very specific change that was going on.  The jobbing freelance designer would become an increasingly rare species, with only the very best surviving.  More and more, this kind of design would be done in house at the agencies, by this new breed of Art Director.

In amongst all of this, I realise that I’ve hardly even mentioned the 1962 edition, and there’s lots going on in there, as even the British make the move from whimsy to modernism.  So that will have to get a post to itself another day.  In the meantime, have a couple more rare gems from the late 50s, by Abram Games and E Tatum, again.  There’s someone else I’m going to need to find out more about, isn’t it…

Abram Games green rover ticket poster 1958

E Tatum train to the continent poster 1958

Without linen on backside

At last.  I’ve been banging on about PosterConnection’s shop on eBay for quite a while now – its selection is enough to persuade me to be interested in foreign posters every so often.  Now, finally, they are also selling some British designs.  And good ones too.  Pick of the pops has to be this Daphne Padden.

Daphne Padden Royal Blue vintage coach poster sailor 1957

They are asking about £250 for it, and I can’t work out whether that’s a reasonable price or not.  This is mainly because the last time I saw one of these going past an auction was at the final Morphets sale, where the prices were definitely depressed by the sheer quantity of what was on offer.  What is this worth? Do any of you lot know?

A few other British posters are on offer, of which my favourite is this poster by Harry Stevens from 1960.

Southern Coach vintage poster boy at seaside Harry Stevens 1960

Once again, there is also the chance to see Britain from the foreign point of view.  Which can be quite different, because I definitely don’t remember Manchester ever looking like this.  With the possible exception of the air colour, that is.

Swissair Manchester poster Harry Ott 1951

But I do rather like this cricketing lion.

Cricketing Lion Host Buzas 1960 vintage travel poster

He could almost be by Royston Cooper, but in fact he’s the work of one Host Buzas in 1960.  Good show.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the title, that’s how all of these posters are described.

There’s good stuff elsewhere on eBay too at the moment.  Perhaps most urgently, I need to point you at this Abram Games poster, which is a lovely joyful one without bullets or dead people or blood in it.  I know that’s not his fault, he was working for the Army so it was part of the job description, but I do find the results quite hard work sometimes.

Vintage Abram Games army civvy street poster world war two

The bloke who is selling this had the experience which I can only dream of; they bought a new house and found a whole roll of these posters up in the attic.  They’re in very good condition too.  I know this for certain because we’ve already bought one, and very lovely it is too.

While we’re on the subject of attic finds, you might want to watch the Antiques Roadshow on Sunday, because a Scottish woman brought in fifteen Keep Calm and Carry On posters – story here, and indeed everywhere else.  This brings the total known to exist to somewhere round about twenty and they are apparently worth £1,000 each; although how they’ve worked that out when no one has ever auctioned one before and the rip-offs are plastering the internet like bad grafitti I don’t know.  And if they say on the show – as I am pretty sure they will judging by the news story – that they were produced for use in the event of invasion when this is not true I will shout at the television.  So there.

Rant over, back to eBay.  A couple of posters we are probably not going to buy are these two Festival of Britain designs. They are wonderful, but their prices are already soaring into the stratosphere with a couple of days to go.

Festival of Britain vintage poster Abram Games

Festival of Britain vintage poster Abram Games

Festival of Britain is such a lovely searchable term, isn’t it.

For those of us without a bottomless wallet there is both this Amstutz, from 1967 (the sellers has a number of other GPO posters but I can’t quite get excited about them).

Vintage GPO guide poster Amstutz 1967

And then this psychedelic oddity.

boots poster, mad, black and white

They’re both being sold abroad, so might not go for that much.

Finally, this is not a poster, but might be of interest to one or two of you.

how to draw like Ashley havinden

I’d like to be able to draw just like that.  Now off you go, I’ve got a television to shout at.

The forgotten man

I’ve said it before, and I will no doubt get around to saying it again, but Harry Stevens is a very underestimated poster artist.  That thought is mostly provoked by this 1954 poster, which we bought a copy of recently, (although one which I have to admit is slightly more battered than this picture).

harry Stevens address mail clearly vintage GPO poster 1954

It’s good, isn’t it?  And so’s this.

harry Stevens vintage southport coach poster 1950s

And indeed this.

Harry Stevens vintage east anglia coach poster 1950s

Mr Crownfolio wonders every so often whether that poster is Harry Stevens gently taking the mickey out of Daphne Padden’s sailor types.

2 x Daphne Padden Royal Blue vintage coach posters

Or perhaps fishermen were just picturesque visitor attractions all over the 1950s.  Who can say.

But back to Mr Stevens.  There are two things to say about him really.  One is that he is so thoroughly overlooked that there is very little out there on the web about him at all.  In fact pretty much the only biography I can find is that on the London Transport Museum website, and even that is pretty short.

The other is that he wasn’t overlooked at the time.  He regularly turns up in annuals of good taste like ‘Designers in Britain’ and, as the LTM biography says, won the Council of Industrial Design Poster Award in 1963.  So why is he so little known now?

It can’t be because his work has disappeared, beacause he has to be one of the most prolific poster artists of his generation, working right through into the 1970s.  This somewhat perplexing poster dates from 1971 for example.

Harry stevens male staff quite perplexing vintage ish gpo poster

He did quite a bit of this cartoon-style work for the GPO.  Some of it is as good as anything he ever did, like this owl from 1960.

Harry Stevens vintage GPO poster owl 1960

By the end of the decade, it goes get a bit repetitive and less appealing, probably just because he produced so many of the things.

Harry Stevens correct addressing cartoon poster GPO 1969

But don’t let that put you off his work, because he did do some really good posters too.  Perhaps some of his most adventurous designs were for London Transport.  Here are two he did in 1961 and 1963 respectively.

harry Stevens vintage London Transport poster 1961 Winter

Harry Stevens vintage London Transport poster Country walks 1963

But he could also do a much more graphic treatment for them too – I keep mistaking this particular poster for an Eckersley, although it does in fact date from 1976..

Harry Stevens vintage London Transport poster 1976

In terms of sale prices, even his later work is now starting to fetch higher prices and be sold by posh dealers, as I’ve mentioned before.

HArry Stevens litter vintage 1974 London Transport poster

But he’s still not really a name, and I do think this is an unfair omission.  Possibly he is just a bit too jovial for modern tastes. Then Tom Eckersley can tend that way too, particularly in the 1950s.

Stevens’ work definitely deserves better.  He was capable of producing a good poster right into the 197os.

harry Stevens vintage LT coach tour poster 1970

But for me, the posters he did in the 1950s and early 1960s are still some of my favourite things.  Interestingly, he seems to have done relatively few for British Railways – this Porthcawl is one of the very few  I can find.

Harry Stevens porthcawl poster vintage British Railways

Along with this artwork of yet another salty sea dog.

harry stevens vintage British Railways poster artwork 1955

In contrast, the coach companies kept him very busy indeed.

harry Stevens 1957 coach poster

Harry Stevens vintage coach poster

On the basis of those alone, he deserves to be better appreciated.

A final addendum, the London Transport Museum lists him as a designer and fine artist, but the only trace I have been able to find of the latter is this, ‘Spirit of Southern’.

Harry Stevens BR painting

The painting was commissioned by BR Southern Region in 1969 (not something that would ever happen now) but wasn’t very popular apparently and rarely got displayed.  But if anyone knows of any more artworks of his around and about, please do let me know as I would love to see them.