AP Again

As the piles of boxes grow around me, here are some more Artist Partners delights from the archives.

Today, a second helping of the AP2 Artists Partners book.  (Is it a brochure?  a catalogue?  I’m not entirely sure how to address it).

Artists Partners cover image Patrick Tilley

I ran through a few of the obvious highlights by the big names like Hans Unger, Saul Bass and Tom Eckersley last time, but there are plenty more treasures for your entertainment.

In fact, the sheer quantity of other stuff is one of the notable things about the book.  Most of what would now be seen as the big names are in the creative design section, but there are six other categories in the book, including realistic figurehumour and whimsy (section cover by Reginald Mount)

Reginald Mount AP2 artwork

fashion and sophisticationphotography ( a wonderful graphic by Heinz Kurth)

AP divider photography Hans Kurth

scraperboard, still life and industrial,

scraper board and industrial divider ap

and finally architecture, landscape and nature.

It’s a reminder, once again, how easy it is to recreate the past in terms of what we like best now.  For every classic bit of graphics, one equal and opposite bit of kitsch was created (although this is not just any old figure illustration kitsch, it’s Artist Partners kitsch by Rix).

AP tripping with dripping image

Good to know that about the dripping, too.

But that’s not to say that there aren’t some stylish things in the other categories too, such as this Christmas card for ABC Television, by Bruce Petty.

ABC christmas card AP

Or once again, Patrick Tilley, this time with a cover for a Shell almanac, filed under Humour and Whimsy.  No one would ever admit to doing whimsy any more, would they, it’s hardly cool; I think that’s rather a shame.

PAtrick Tilley for shell almanac graphics

Almost as strange as that career change are these two window displays by George Him, for De Bejenkorf  (which seems to be a department store in Amsterdam).  The first one in particular, looks almost impossibly modern.

George HIm Shop Window AP

The second is just brilliantly odd.

George Him shop window 2

More of this kind of thing please.



The British Postal Museum and Archive have changed their website.  Now I know that this may not count as the most earth-shattering information you have ever received, but from where I am standing it’s good news indeed.  And when my old bookmark retrieves their new website, I am perhaps appropriately now greeted with this, which is by Graham Byfield and dates from 1954 but which I have never knowingly searched for in my life.  Although I’m starting to rather like it.

Grahamm Byfield 1954 vintage GPO internal poster

The BPMA have always been among the good guys in the sense that their archive is mostly digitised, online and searchable.  The only problem has been that the pictures have been, well, postage stamp sized.  Which has its uses, but is a bit taxing when you are looking at posters.  But not any more.  So now I can say, see this lovely Hans Unger from 1950, and it’s worth you taking a look.

Hans Unger vintage GPO poster correct addressing 1950

What’s even better news, though, is that a whole heap more stuff has been added to the archives too.  So should you type a (slightly less than) random word such as Eckersley into the search box, all sorts of new delights come up.  I have a vague sense that I have seen this summery 1953 poster before.

Tom Eckersley postcards need a 2d stamp vintage GPO poster

But I definitely haven’t seen this (an early effort from 1951 and reminiscent of his wartime ROSPA posters).

Tom Eckersley mis-sending vintage GPO poster 1951

Nor this more modern bauble from 1964.

Tom Eckersley Christmas post early for europe vintage GPO poster 1964

And I definitely haven’t seen this 1954 one anywhere before, not ever.

Tom Eckersley repeat numbers clearly vintage GPO poster 1954

What fun, and I’ve hardly started.  My only small gripe would be that images have a standard width, which works fine for most posters, but the van strips (for use on side of small vans: Morris minor vans) are still a bit squinty.   Which matters a bit for this lovely 1968 detector van (Eckersley again).

Tom Eckersley television detector van poster 1968 GPO

But a lot more for these Lewitt-Him dogs.  Truly I do  need a copy of this poster, and I don’t care that it will be a very long frame.

Lewitt Him post early dogs vintage GPO van poster 1941

One day, I’d like to see a picture of one of those van posters in use, on a Morris Minor for preference (adds to list of bits of aimless research which may get done one day).

But it’s not just Tom Eckersley of course, there’s also Dorrit Dekk, here from 1950.

Dorrit Dekk vintage Post Office Savings bank poster 1950

And this Henrion too, from five years later.

F H K Henrion Pack Parcels Carefully vintage GPO poster 1955

What’s also interesting is that the search function has changed slightly – by which I mean improved.  Now when I search the catalogue for Henrion, I don’t just get the posters, but also records of the time that Henrion Associates were employed in 1967 to redesign the whole GPO.  There’s some proper research that could be done one day.

There are still some things missing; my understanding is that not all of the 60s posters have yet been digitised, nor the tiny phone-boxed sized square posters, and there’s still only a small smattering of Post Office Savings Bank images in there too.

For most people though, what’s already there will be plenty enough to be going on with.  What I’ve posted here is just a first scratching of the surface, and I am sure there are still plenty more treasures to be turned up when I rummage further.  In the meantime, I will leave you with this, by someone called Gapp, and once more from 1954, for no better reason than I like it.

Gapp Suppressor car vintage GPO poster 1954

Of course all images are with thanks to the BPMA and their lovely shiney new website.

Edit: further to the conversation below, I have now raided their website once again to find pictures of a Morris Mail Van (70 cu ft, not a Minor sadly) with a poster displayed on its side.  And here it is, from 1944.

Morris Van GPO with vintage poster on side

Inexplicably, there is another picture of what looks like a different version of the van, but with exactly the same poster on.

Vintage GPO morris van with poster on side

I am also rather tickled by the poster they’re displaying, which couldn’t be more British if it tried.  I imagine it being said in very clipped and understated tones.

Less telephoning please vintage GPO poster from BT archive

There ought to be more advertising like that these days.  Incidentally, that, because it concerns telephones and only telephones comes not from the BPMA but from the BT Archive, which I wrote about ages ago but clearly need to revisit.

And finally, from a specialist GPO van website (I say no more) a Morris Minor GPO van.  Sadly I can’t see the poster though.

Morris Minor GPO van with poster display

My next question has to be, does anyone have one of those van display posters preserved, apart from the BPMA that is?  This is the closest we have, from the same year as the polite poster above, but much smaller at 6″ x 20″.

Telegraph less Austin Cooper vintage GPO poster

But some of the longer ones are twice that length – did they all disappear?  I need to know.


So the Central Office of Information is to be no more (news here in the Guardian).  This is a sad end because once upon a time they produced some rather wonderful posters.  Here’s a handy thought from them for this time of the year.

COI remember your passport when travelling abroad Reginald Mount Eileen Evans vintage poster

Coincidentally, I reccently bought a history of the COI from Abebooks.  (I don’t suggest you do the same: this would be the driest book I have come across for some time, had it not been beaten by History of The Second Word War: Food Volume 2 – Studies in Administration and Control which currently sits on my desk, waiting to bore me out of my wits.)  The real problem, at least as far as I am concerned, is that the book  doesn’t mention posters much.  Here’s pretty much the most interesting – or at least relevant – paragraph in the whole thing.

Over this entire period [i.e. since 1946] the COI has also had the part-time services of Reginald Mount and Eileen Evans as consultants and designers of a long succession of award winning posters, most notably for health education.

Posters like this.

Mount Evans hand palmistry stop smoking vintage poster central office of information

Which does at least answer the question I raised a few weeks back, which was when did Mount/Evans leave the COI and set up on their own?  Although the answer does seem to be a kind of Schroedinger-esque uncertainty principle in which they both left in 1946 when the COI was founded and at the same time never left.  I suppose that as long as we never look in the Ministry box, it will be fine.

What does seem to be true is that the vast majority of the COI posters I have come across seem to be by either Mount/Evans or Reginald Mount on his own.  My very slightly anal database tells me that we have had 28 COI posters at various times, but with very few other artists represented.  One is Thelwell, who produced a whole series of Countryside Code cartoons.

Thelwell Countryside code poster Central Office of Information

While the other is the magnificent Royston Cooper.

Brian the Lion Royston Cooper vintage poster Keep Britain Tidy Central Officec of Information

I also suspect that this Henrion may also be a COI production, but can’t prove it.

FHK Henrion vintage poster Keep Britain Tidy exhibtiion

But that’s almost it.  Which is surprising, because the COI book has a list of designers who worked for them, and it reads like a who’s who of graphic design in the 1950s and 60s.

For posters and book illustrations in the department’s lifetime these have included Rowland Hilder, Milner Grey, John Minton, Topolski, Ardizzone, Abram Games, Ashley Havinden, F H K Henrion, Hans Unger, Eckersley, Laurence Scarfe, James Fitton, Ronald Searle, Edward Bawden, Andre Amstutz, Tunnicliffe and the Crosby/Fletcher/Forbes group.

Now, I can see that our collection is a bit skewed, simply because we bought a lot of Mount/Evans posters at auction a few years ago when what I suspect was their studio archive was being sold off.  But even then, whenever we’ve seen and bought other COI posters they’ve been by them too – like this Keep Britain Tidy design by Reginald Mount.

Keep Britain Tidy vintage poster Reginald Mount for COI

A search of auction houses and archives like VADS reveals pretty much the same pattern – much Mount/Evans and Mount, very little else from the COI.

One reason for this may lie in the history of the COI itself.  The Central Office of Information was formed in 1946 as a replacement for the Ministry of Information, which had produced most of the government’s publicity and propaganda requirements during the war.  But for many people, propaganda of any time was seen as fundamentally not British and unsuited to a democratic state – i.e. this was something that the Nazis did and therefore, by definition, we shouldn’t.  It could only be justified by the needs of war, and so the Ministry had to go at the end of hostilities.

The problem with this was that the war itself didn’t finish so neatly.  Austerity and rationing continued right into the early 1950s, and indeed was stricter in the late 1940s than it had been during the war.  This in turn meant that much of the wartime instruction and exhortation to work hard and make a nutritious meal out of little more than cabbage had to carry on too.  So when the Central Office of Information was founded, it had quite a lot of work on its hands, and I suspect that many of those artists worked for the COI in those early years.

However it’s very hard to tell which these are; my suspicions are that most get lumped in under the heading of ‘World War Two’ posters.  For example, I’ve seen both of these posters, by Lewitt-Him and James Fitton respectively, dated to 1947 rather than during the war itself.

Lewitt Him Vegetabull vintage poster Ministry of Food

Turn Over A New Leaf vintage poster James Fitton Ministry of Food

Neither of these would have been produced by the COI, since the Ministry of Food ran its own posters and publicity throughout the war and I can’t imagine changed that afterwards, but they are good examples of how the wartime messages carried on past 1945.  The only COI poster I know of which is definitely from this period is by Dorrit Dekk.

Dorrit Dekk bones still needed for salvage vintage poster Central Office of Information

Dorrit Dekk only started producing posters in 1946, when she was demobbed from the WRNS and went to work for Reginald Mount at the COI, so this must be from between then and 1948 when she left.  But without knowing this biography, it would be impossible to date the poster and it too would probably be ascribed to the war years as well.  So I imagine that vast swathes of the COI’s early output has either disappeared, or been labelled as ‘wartime posters’ and, unless someone puts in a formidable piece of archival research one day, will never be known.  I also suspect that those were the posters designed by that great list of artists in the book.

As the years went on, the need for government publicity decreased – although this anonymous COI poster is reminiscent of wartime appeals.

Civil Defense COI vintage poster

Judging by her hairdo, I’d put this at quite soon after the war anyway, but I’d be interested to hear if anyone else knows more.

By the late 1950s or early 1960s though, the government just didn’t have as much to say.  Get a passport on time, don’t drop litter, smoke a bit less.  Don’t drink and drive.  And remember to tell the milkman when you go on holiday.

Mount Evans stop the milkman when you're off on holiday vintage poster

It doesn’t have quite the same heady excitement as the war years.  Although the designers were allowed out for a few digressions, such as United Nations Day.

Mount Evans United Nations Day poster 1967

Not every COI poster was aimed at the general public either; Mount/Evans also produced a number of internal campaigns for the government, most notable ‘Keep Our Secrets Secret’ which I’ve mentioned before on here but which are so excellent that I can’t resist posting one more time.

Mount Evans vintage combination  number poster COI

What Every Girl Should Know Mount Evans secrecy poster Central Office of Information

The other reason why there were fewer posters, of course, is that they were no longer the biggest game in town.  More and more, the COI’s main campaigns were conducted through short films, whether in the cinema or in public information slots on the television.  (Should you be interested, the National Archives have put tons of these online for your amusement).  Only the less important messages like UN Day or internal communications would have been put out by posters alone.

But all of this has now gone, and every government message will just be put out by advertising agencies and be indistinguishable from commercial campaigns.  Perhaps one day someone will produce an illustrated and possibly even interesting history of the COI, to show us just what design classics they did produce in their heyday.

Recent Acquisitions

In the days when I used to be in the V&A, which is quite some time ago, each department used to have cases where they displayed recently bought objects, before they found their place in the main collection, with a small paper sign in which read Recent Acquisitions.  A friend of mine got hold of one of these and stuck it on her fridge, which amused me a great deal at the time.

All of which is by way of saying that we’ve bought a few things recently (in fact, thanks to the wonder of modern phones, we managed to do most of this on holiday).  These GPO posters are small, Demy I think, but each one perfectly formed.

Tom Eckersley vintage posters 1955 GPO
Tom Eckersley, 1955

Beaumont Vintage GPO post early poster n/d
Beaumont, can’t find a date

Frank Newbould Telephone your orders vintage GPO posters
Frank Newbould, 1930s?

Although small daughter refuses to be quite persuaded that the image above is actually a telephone.

There’s also the Bloomsbury Sale, which was on Wednesday.   I didn’t get time to preview it, what with being in France, but that’s also been handy because I didn’t want to point at this too hard.

Lewitt Him vintage London transport poster 1938

It’s by Lewitt Him, and dates from 1938.  I’d never seen it before, even though it is in the London Transport Museum Collection now I look.  And I think we won it, although I haven’t definitely heard from Bloomsbury that we have yet.  We better had, that’s all I’m saying.

There were a few other nice things in there, but the online catalogue seems to have disappeared already so I can’t tell you about then.   More fun next week, though, when there will be some pictures of actual vintage posters on billboards for you, and rather good posters at that.

Modern selling

The auction season really is upon us; no sooner do I promise you the Christies highlights, than the Swann Galleries catalogue also pops into my email box.  And to my surprise, the American auction is, I think, the winner.  But let’s take a quick canter through both of them, and then you can make up your own mind, starting with Swann’s offering.

There are of course a lot of classics in there, which is all you’d expect from a catalogue calling itself Modernist Posters.

Abram Games vintage BOAC travel poster 1956 Swann Galleries
Abram Games, 1956, est. $800-1,200

Eckersley Lombers 1936 vintage London Transport posters Christmas
Eckersley Lombers, 1936, est. $1,200-1,800

In amongst those classics are a considerable quantity of Zeros, which is always nice.

Zero journalists Use Shell vintage poster 1938
Hans Schleger, 1938, est. $2,500-3,500

Hans Schleger Zero Vintage London Underground poster 1935 Swann
Hans Schleger, 1935, est. $4,000-6000

Even better, there are some that I haven’t seen before, like this quiet and understated design, also for London Transport.

Hans Schleger Vintage London transport poster service 1935
Hans Schleger, 1935, est. $1,500-2,000

There are some other interesting posters in there too, like this Willy de Majo for B.S.S.A.

William De Majo vintage BSSA travel poster South America 1948
William de Majo, 1948, est. $700-1,000

B.S.A.A. split from the British Overseas Aircraft Corporation (B.O.A.C.) to operate in the South Atlantic. Founded in 1946, it merged back with B.O.A.C. in 1949, after a series of unlucky incidents, in which two of their planes disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle.

All of which rather leaves me wanting to know more, both about B.S.A.A. and William de Majo, who has featured on these pages before.  Other questions are also raised by this rather out of the ordinary London Transport poster.

Maurice Beck vintage London Transport fuel tax poster 1931
Maurice Beck, 1931, est. $500-750.

Fortunately, the catalogue is here to answer them.

An extraordinary montage of photographed letters and numbers designed by Maurice Beck. He was both a designer and a photographer, often incorporating photography into his work. In the 1920s he was the head photographer for British Vogue, and he is credited with designing 18 posters for the Underground, all photomontages. One in a series of four posters based on the unusual premise of informing the public how much “the Underground group (U.E.R.L.) pays in petrol tax. The information highlights the success of the company, still profitable in spite of so many taxes, and the fact that U.E.R.L. contributes significantly to the Treasury and therefore to the London’s economy” (http://www.20thcenturylondon.org.uk).

I have to say, I really do like this catalogue.  While I’m not normally a fan of online catalogues,with their pretend turning pages and interminable loading times, I am prepared to make an exception for this one, which is well worth the investment of time and bandwidth.  This isn’t just because of the layout, which makes almost every poster desirable.


Swann Galleries catalogue page spread 2

Including that McKnight Kauffer at the left, which I don’t remember having seen before now.

But even better is the text, which, as the examples above demonstrate, is consistently interesting and informative.  Take this BOAC poster by Henrion, for example.

Henrion BOAC vintage travel poster 1947 Swann
FHK Henrion, 1947, $800-1,200

In post-war Britain, competition between the different airlines was fierce, and as a result, the airline companies hired the best graphic designers in the field for their advertising, such as F.K. Henrion, Ashley, and Abram Games. At the time when Games was creating a series of posters for B.O.A.C., the trend among artists was not to illustrate the actual airplanes (as had been the style in the thirties), but instead, to advertise the advantages of flying, such as saved travel time. They did this by creating beautiful, symbolic and surrealistically inspired images that captured the abstract concepts poetically. Here, Henrion incorporates the company’s Speedbird logo into the design.

All poster catalogues should be like this, why aren’t they?

You may be feeling that you saw that Henrion poster quite recently, and you did; there is a lot of overlap between the various auctions.  Like the PosterConnection sale mentioned in my last post, Swann also have a fair number of airline posters of one kind and another.

AOA LEwitt Him vintage travel poster 1948
Lewitt-Him, 1948, est. $800-1,200

Imperial airways vintage travel poster theyre lee elliott 1935
Theyre Lee Elliott, 1935, est. $700-1,000

But there’s an even more interesting overlap between the Swann Galleries and Christies sale, which is this.

McKNight Kauffer vintage London Transport Power poster 1931

It’s by McKnight Kauffer and dates from 1931, but it’s worth $12-18,000 if you’re Christies, $15-20,000 if you’re Swann Galleries – and the Christies one is purportedly in slightly better condition, too.

It will be interesting to see how that pans out.  Will the existence of two depress prices? Or does the fact that they’re on opposite sides of the Atlantic mean that this doesn’t matter.  I shall watch with interest.

Sadly, that’s about as much excitement as I can muster up for the Christies catalogue.  While there are plenty more unseen gems at Swann, where I can even get enthusiastic about German posters that I’m not supposed to be interested in.

Hymmen, 1949, $400-600

At Christies, everything feels a bit more familiar, with only a very few exceptions.  Best of all, I like this Herbert Bayer.

Herbert Bayer - Allies Need Eggs vintage propaganda Poster WW2 1940
Herbert Bayer, 1940, est £800-1,200

And I probably would like this Night Scotsman classic if only I could afford it.

Alexeieff Night Scotsman Kings Cross vintage railway posters 1931
Alexeieff, 1931, est. £15-20,000

Ditto this Paul Nash, which I suspect will go for a bit more than the estimate.  If only suburbia had ever looked like that.

Paul Nash vintage London transport poster come out to live 1936
Paul Nash, 1936, est.£800-1,200

But other than that the catalogue seems to be both rather thin, covering the same old ground, and without pithy texts to make me care about particular posters.  So there are railway posters, of course.

Frank Sherwin Somerset vintage railway poster GWR
Frank Sherwin, est. £700-900

With an honourable mention going to Frank Newbould for his impressive impersonation of McKnight Kauffer.

Frank Newbould Scarborough vintage railway poster 1924
Frank Newbould, 1924, est. £1,000-1,500

And London Transport too.  But a lot of these are similar to or even the same as items from the last sale, and so feel like they’re riding on the coat-tails of that last set of high prices.

Marty Wings of Joy vintage London Transport poster 1931
Marty, 1931, est. £1,000-1,500

Jean Dupas Richmond vintage London Transport poster, 1933
Jean Dupas, 1933, est. £3,000-5,0000

Of course no auction this year would be complete without airline posters, particularly those for BOAC.

Abram Games vintage BOAC poster 1949
Abram Games, 1949, £600-800

The only good news is that there don’t seem to be too many multiple lots this time, which is a relief. But I wonder if this is policy or accident? And where are all the nice, inexpensive London Transport posters going to be sold these days? Surely they can’t all be on eBay?

life : henrion : rabbit

I called up this book out of our library’s reserve stores the other day (you can easily enough find it on Amazon if your library isn’t so obliging).

World War Two posters book cover Imperial War Museum 1972

It’s from 1972, so I wasn’t hoping for too much from it, but actually I was surprised.  There’s a short introductory essay, but then the bulk of the book consists of short biographies of some of the designers who produced propaganda posters during World War Two – not just those from the UK but also Russians, Europeans and Americans as well.

Reading them has been a salutary lesson for me.  I tend to assume that all of the knowledge in the world is out there on the internet for me to find.  And if it isn’t there, it’s not known.  Well I’m wrong.  Because there is plenty of information in here which is new to me.  Like a proper biography of James Fitton, for example, which told me that he left school at fourteen and worked on the docks in Manchester, attending art school in the evenings.  All of which makes me admire him even more.

James Fitton vintage London Transport poster World War Two Moving Bus

So today’s post was going to be all about the these biographies.  But then I got distracted by this.

F H K Henrion vintage WW2 propaganda poster rabbits can be fed on

Which is fabulous, and by FHK Henrion.  In fact it’s so fabulous that it’s currently on display at MoMA in New York, along with some of its brethren. (Well rabbits will breed, won’t they).

F H K Henrion big rabbit vintage World War Two Home Front poster

The exhibition is Counter Space : Design and the Modern Kitchen and if I could get over to New York to see it, I would.  Every bit of it, from early functionalist design to artworks about domesticity sounds brilliant.  And it’s on until early May, so if you do get the chance to go, please do and let me know all about it.

But for the purposes of Quad Royal, the really interesting thing is that there is a whole section of British Home Front posters about food.  Hence Mr Henrion and his rabbits.  There are in fact three, as they also have the pair of the first poster, which explains why that rabbit is looking behind so nervously.

vintage World war Two poster FHK Henrion rabbit pie

Now under normal circumstances I’d just go on about these, but MoMA themselves have written an excellent blog post about these posters, which I really couldn’t improve on.

But fortunately for those of us who aren’t going to make it to New York this month, there is at least a handlist of all of the exhibits online.  Which means that I can tell you that, in addition to the Henrions, they are also exhibiting a few old friends like the Vegetabull.

Lewitt Him Vegetabull poster world war two home front

Which means that we have something hanging on our wall which is also up in MoMA.  Get us.

In addition, though, the exhibition is displaying a really intriguing set of posters which I have never seen before.  Herbert Tomlinson rat posters from MoMA Counterspace

By Herbert Tomlinson about whom I know nothing.

Herbert Tomlinson rat poster world war two home front

This pattern of absence and presence is really interesting.  On one hand, it’s easy to see why these posters have ended up in MoMA; they fit very easy into the narrative of International Modernism which the museum itself has done so much to construct.

Herbert Tomlinson mice poster MoMA more ratty micey propaganda stuff

What I understand less is why these posters seem to have disappeared over here.  This may be no more than random chance: these weren’t posters that anyone much wanted to collect or keep, by a designer that no one much remembered so they disappeared into oblivion as soon as they were torn down.  Or perhaps a rat and mouse-infested world isn’t how we want to remember the war?

Whatever the reason, it’s yet another reminder of two important facts about posters.  One is that the history which does exist is very much constructed, and that the story may differ wildly depending on who’s doing the telling.  The other is that all of these histories are made from a very partial and unrepresentative sample.  So few posters survive, and for such random reasons, that it will perhaps never be possible to tell the complete tale of posters at any point in time.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t have  a lot of fun trying in the meantime.