In another place

I keep trying to contemplate posters, but my brain isn’t complying and wants to think about archaeology instead.  So, for one day only, the stone circles of Wiltshire as represented in graphic design.  Only on Quad Royal.

Although our first offering isn’t all that.

mcKnight Kauffer Stonehenge vintage Shell poster 1932

Despite the fact that it’s in the collections of both the V&A and MoMA and therefore has to be a Modern Classic, I don’t really like it.  There’s too much artistic licence in the hilliness and the surrounding stones for my taste, although I will give it points for being a very interesting collision between high modernism and an almost 18thC romantic view of wild landscape at night

But I have another grievance against the poster which is that I don’t really like Stonehenge either; it’s a freak and an abberation rather than a proper stone circle.  That is a serious point, not just prejudice.  The shaped and stacked lintels of Stonehenge may have become our default idea of what a stone circle looks like (I would say ‘icon’ except that I’d hate myself afterwards; a shame because the word used to represent a useful concept before it became debased).  But no other stone circle in the country looks anything like this.  And you only have to go twenty five miles along the road  – still staying in Wiltshire – to find the real thing.

Shell Shilling Guide to Wiltshire Keith Grant

…it does as much exceed in greatness the so renowned Stonehenge as a Cathedral doeth a parish church.

That’s what John Aubrey said about Avebury in the seventeenth century, and it’s still true today.  Which is why Keith Grant was wise to choose its stones for the cover of the Shell Shilling Guide to Wiltshire.

That’s not the only time Shell got it right, either.  The Ridgeway is the prehistoric track which leads across the high downs to Avebury (now walkable as a tidy National Footpath all the way from Tring), and David Gentleman included it in his ‘Roads’ series of posters.

David Gentleman Ridgeway shell poster llustration

This is not the poster but the original artwork.  David Revill posted a comment on the blog the other day to say that he had bought this very picture at the auction of Shell’s original artworks in 2002.  I am envious.

My favourite picture of all though (and yes, I have said this before) is John Piper’s Archeological Wiltshire.

John Piper Archaeological Wiltshire - genius

I would quite happily mortgage the cats for a copy of that, and probably throw in a few posters too, but it seems there is only one and it lives in a museum in Scotland.  But if anyone knows differently, please do say.

I think that’s actually better than the picture below, even though Nash’s re-imagining of Avebury is far more known.

Paul Nash equivalents for the megaliths

Nash’s colours are just a bit too weedy for me to really love this – and the hill fort in the background is about to topple forwards any minute now.  But seen from the present day, it is a remarkably prescient painting.  The hills all over the Wiltshire downs are now covered in geometric bales, cubes and cylinders, which turn his surrealist imaginings into reality every year.

With a bit of luck I have now got that out of my system and a normal service, in which we talk about posters, will resume tomorrow.

March Mad Hatters

Real life has rather got in the way of blogging for the last week, so apologies for that.  It’s also meant disorder here at Crownfolio Towers.  Yesterday, an unopened envelope turned up underneath a pile of newspapers.  It turned out to contain this.

Dorrit Dekk Mad Hatters Menu card SS Arcadia design

We bought it on eBay for no better reason than it looked rather fun, but it turned out to be by Dorrit Dekk; her signature’s on the reverse.

Dorrit Dekk menu SS Arcadia Mad Hatters Ball reverse

It’s another P&O menu, this time for the Mad Hatter’s Ball Dinner on the SS Arcadia in 1962.  The chef recommends Jellied Turtle Soup.

I, meanwhile, recommend the P&O archive.  This is something that I’ve been meaning to mention for a bit, after it suddenly appeared in amongst a Google search a few weeks ago.  There are posters, brochures, luggage labels and much more.

SS Oronsay travel brochure 1951 P&O Collection

The online selection is by no means comprehensive – there are, for example, only about 6 menu cards on show, which is about as many as we’ve got ourselves.  But it’s still much better than nothing at all.

P&O Koala luggage label from collection

And there are some truly wonderful posters in there as well.  But I’ll come back to those in the next couple of weeks, because they really do deserve their own post.

The website also has a rather useful guide to where you can see pieces from the P&O collection in museums.  I can heartily recommend a trip to the River and Rowing Museum in Henley, which houses John Piper’s Landscape of the Two Seasons, designed for the Oriana in 1960.

Mural designed by John Piper for Oriana 1960 in River and Rowing Museum

The painting is much more spectacular in real life, not least because it’s monumentally large.  But it’s a very rare reminder of the almost industrial quantities of design and and art which were produced for P&O’s liners in the late 1950s and 1960s – other than that, it really is just the menus which remind us of the style in which it was once possible to sail.

One of the many, many things I have to do this week is book a trip on Brittany Ferries; I don’t think the experience will bear much comparison with the golden days of P&O.