Be prepared

Hurrah, an auction.  It’s about time we had a nice chunky set of British posters for sale, and it’s Bloomsbury Auctions who are obliging this time, on the 16th February.

Once again, there are incalculable quantities of airline posters.  Where do they all come from? I don’t remember them being in auctions a few years ago, and suddenly they are omnipresent.

Lewitt Him vintage airline poster AOA stratocruiser 1948
Lewitt Him, 1948, est £300-500

Lewitt Him AOA vintage airline poster 1950
Lewitt Him, 1950, est. £400-600

Well, there are at least six.  Some of them are indeed the usual Lewitt-Him AOA designs, but there are also other designers working for other airlines for a change.  This one is by Willy de Majo, who deserves a post all of his own one day.

Willy de Major vintage BOAC airline poster 1948 South America
Willy de Majo, 1948, est. £600-800

My favourite of them all is probably this Schleger design for BEA, which I don’t remember ever having seen before now.

Hans Schleger BEA poster hand
Hans Schleger, est. £700-900

It’s also reminded me that when I wrote about these wide blue skies in the airline posters the other day, I left something out, something I only realised last week when I was thinking about the afterlife of surrealism in graphic design.

vintage BOAC poster 1948 airline flags
Anon, 1948, est. £350-450

Because as well as being a remaking of wartime skies and vapour trails, these clear skies with their spotting of clouds are also the heavens across which surrealist visions drift.

BEverley Pick vintage airline poster BOAC
Beverley Pick, est £500-700

Certainly Schleger’s airline skies aren’t much different to his pre-war dreams; it’s just different kinds of flying I suppose.  Maybe it did seem unreal to get to places so quickly, I don’t know.

Laurence Fish, life is gay at whitley bay, vintage travel poster
Laurence Fish, est. £200-400

Apart from the airlines, I can also offer you the undervalued dose of kitsch above, along with a neat Lander and a John Burningham that every household should own.

RM Lander Isle of Man vintage travel poster
R M Lander, est, £ 150-250

John Burningham vintage London Transport poster boat 1964
John Burningham, 1964, est £100-150

Beyond that the posters that most appeal to me are, strangely enough, mostly pre-war.  Mind you, who could resist this.

Blackpool vintage LMS travel railway poster
Anon, est. £200-400

While the idea of ‘J B Priestley’s England’ is one which hasn’t really lasted, making this poster an interesting curio.

Austin Cooper vintage railway poster J B Priestley Good Companions
Austin Cooper, est. £150-250

These two, meanwhile, are just quaintly likeable.

D M Earnshaw vintage London transport poster 1938 party
D M Earnshaw, 1938, est. £100-150

Freda Lingstrom school picnics vintage poster 1930
Freda Lingstrom, 1930, est. £200-300

None of which, though, really adds up to much other than some posters which I enjoy but probably won’t buy, along with a couple of interestingly low valuations on one or two lots.  I shall be particularly interested to see what happens to the Burningham and Whitley Bay posters when they come up.

There are also a very few posters on offer at Dominic Winter’s auction tomorrow, but they do include one or two interesting wartime and pre-war ones.  This Abram Games falls, like so many of his wartime posters, into the category of admirable but I wouldn’t want to have it on my wall.

Abram Games vintage army ordnance poster c1943
Abram Games, 1943, est. £300-500

Then there is this  McKnight Kauffer ARP poster.

McKNight Kauffer vintage propaganda poster ARP 1938
Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1938, est. £200-300

We have a smaller version of this and I was considering it the other day, because it is an odd one.

Although I quite like it as a piece of graphic design (enough to have the air pellet holes removed and get it framed, so a fair bit of like), I’m not sure it’s successful as a poster.  But then it does have an almost impossible task to fulfill.  The design dates from 1938, so just before the war; it needs to make people aware that there is a need for them to do something, but at the same time it can’t spell out the detail of what might happen and frighten people (“you will all be bombed in your beds and die without ARP, so there”).  So it ends up being a bit vague and ineffectual; perhaps they thought that people would have read the papers and would be able to fill in the details themselves, or maybe they just wanted to be woolly at this stage, I don’t know.

Dominic Winter are also selling an ARP poster by Pat Keely in the same sale, and I’m not sure his design is much more convincing.

Pat Keely vintage arp world war two propaganda poster 1938
Pat Keely, 1938, est. £200-300

What do you reckon?

Stuff Stuff Stuffety Stuff

It’s time for a round-up of what’s for sale at the moment.  I’ve been swerving this for a few days, mainly because there are bits on offer all over the place in a rather scattergun fashion.  But bear with me and we will take a tour, starting with the Swann Galleries.

Unfortunately their new catalogue doesn’t have the stellar offerings of their last Modernist posters sale, and the British posters are spotted all the way through.  In a way, this is a good thing, as it shows that they’re being taken seriously rather than tucked in a corner like some elderly aunt to be patronised.  But it does make flicking through the catalogue much harder work than it might have been.

It also makes for some interesting juxtapositions.  This English bathing beauty from 1955 is valued at a rather startling $700-1,000 (by someone who has clearly never experienced the reality of Ramsgate).

Vintage British Railways ramsgate poster 1955 From Swann auctions

But just a few pages before is her American counterpart from 1960.  Which does rather make me think that the Americans did some parts of ‘midcentury’ better than we did.

Santa Fe California anonymous American poster 1960

She’s also a bit less high-maintenance at $500-750.

For the same price as the Ramsgate bathing beauty you could instead have this rather fine Shell poster by Colin Statham, about whom I can find out nothing at all (except that someone of that name is very active in amateur dramatics in Berkshire).

Colin Statham 1937 vintage Shell poster Wolsey's Tower You can be sure of shell

I did learn that this design is apparently the only poster in this series with a background colour that isn’t neutral, so there you go.

But for me one of the most interesting posters on offer in the sale is also one of the least visually interesting.

Come Here For Water

My mind is on the subject of World War Two posters quite a bit at the moment, so you may not be as excited as I am.  But it is worth thinking about, for two reasons.  One is that it’s a reminder of the fact that design often wasn’t the main driver when these posters were produced.  This comes as part of a lot of nine posters, which also include: Only Use Boiled Water; How to get Help After Air-Raid Damage; This Shelter is Not Gas Proof; You Can Get Water At; If You Have Lost Your Home; For Help and Information Go To; This is a Rest Centre.  All of these must have been designed for immediate use in the aftermath of a raid, so their concern is being visible and legible, not being pretty.  Each and every wartime poster had a purpose, and ‘good design’ was only used when it might help that purpose, it wasn’t their main reason for being.

It’s also a reminder of just how many posters were produced during the war, and that not only were the numbers vast, they are also pretty uncountable today.  The Imperial War Museum Archive on VADS doesn’t seem to have a record of any of these nine, and I’ve never seen them reproduced anywhere else before.  Which means that there are probably plenty of others which have disappeared entirely, and so a full record of every poster of the war will never be possible.  So keep your eyes peeled, and you could perhaps hit the marketing jackpot with the next ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’.  Although perhaps not with these posters.

Back on this side of  the Atlantic, there are also a couple of railwayana auctions, at Talisman and Gteat Central Railwayana.  While both have a reasonable selection of perfectly fine railway posters (although, as ever neither estimates nor dates), nothing is leaping out screaming ‘buy me!’.  Although Great Central Railwayana do have this Studio Seven gem, which would probably do quite well in the Swann Auctions.

Minehead vintage British Railways poster studio seven

And this, which I am just amused by.

Berkhampstead school vintage LMS poster by Norman Wilkinson

The catalogue tells me that it is ‘from the series Famous Public Schools on the LMS’ so there are more to collect should you feel the urge.

I can only ever bring myself to admire this Pat Keely London Transport poster from afar, rather than actually wanting to own it and have it on the wall.

Pat Keely London Tours vintage London Transport poster

At Talisman, as well as no estimates or dates, there aren’t even proper pictures, so you will just have to look to the bottom right here to see what I am going on about.

I rather like that, partly for the typography, but mainly because I cannot imagine the circumstances under which Weston Super Mare would be better still.  Than borstal, perhaps, but that’s about it.  It’s got a muddy estuary instead of sea, a tide that goes out half way to Wales and a prevailing wind that gets sand into each and every sandwich.  I used to wonder why there were so many railway posters advertising it, until I realised that no one would go there otherwise.

And finally eBay, which has been a bit quiet recently, which might be down to the summer holiday lull beginning to kick in.  Although MrSpencer007 would like you to pay the best part of ninety quid for this.

vintage GPO schools poster GPO at docks on eBay

I, for one, am not biting.

A similar aura of optimism applies to the pricing of this Lowestoft poster too.

Lowestoft vintage travel poster British Railways eBay

Cheerful, yes, but not £450 worth of cheerful I don’t think.

But there are more reasonable prices to be found, most notably with a seller called 2mkantiques, who has clearly found a whole treasure trove of posters somewhere, 93 to be precise.  It’s a real mixed bag, with everything from Dutch bus posters to 1970s Sealink advertising, but there are some good ones in there, and mostly at reasonable prices.

I like both of these 1950s travel posters, for example, and they’re at £150 and £100 respectively.

Great Yarmouth vintage 1950s travel poster anonymous

British Railways Continental Excursions poster John Cort ebay

Plus the seller will take offers, so you may even get them for less than that.  There are also some National Savings posters, at slightly higher prices – this Norman Wilkinson is on offer for £250, for example.

Norman Wilkinson vintage National Savings poster ebay

But the real star exhibit, for me at least, is this, yours for £199 or thereabouts.

B & I lines belfast to Dublin poss Henrion?

Now, what does that signature say?  I could almost swear it reads Henrion. Anyone else got a thought on that?  It has a pair, too, which is on for £225 even though it’s not quite as  nice.

Belfast vintage travel poster poss Henrion

There have been a couple of other finds on the Bay too, but they haven’t made this post because we’ve bought them.  Sorry about that.  More on a few of those later in the week.

Calling You

While I am sure that you are all now saving up every last penny for the Christies sale, there are a couple of good odds and ends on eBay right now.  And, not surprisingly, they are a bit cheaper.

Pick of the pops are these two ARP posters, being sold by one MrsLovely.

McKNight Kauffer vintage WW2 ARP precautions poster

Pat Keely vintage WW2 ARP poster from eBay

The McKnight Kauffer I have seen before (not least because we have a smaller version on our sitting-room wall) but I don’t think I’ve ever come across the Keely until now.

What’s interesting is that if you take a flick through MrsLovely’s feedback and past sales, you will discover that she’s already sold one copy of the Keely (for the £120 asking price) and two copies of the McKnight Kauffer.  So someone, somewhere must have come across a stash of pre-war ARP posters which were never used.  Which does give me hope that there are still plenty more old posters out there waiting to be discovered.  By me, preferably.

Also in her past sales, I found this Paul Nash.

Paul Nash print from eBay

It’s a collotype proof for Urne Buriall (enough to recommend it on its own) and a rather wonderful thing to get should you have had £180.

If you’re feeling rather more lighthearted, though, you could always plump for this wide-eyed giraffe.

BOAC giraffe vintage poster from eBay

A little eaten, but still currently quite covetable at £39.99.

And finally, proof that aesthetic value isn’t everything in posters, particularly when there’s railways involved.

This 1960s Christmas poster went for just £14.49 a few days ago.

British Railways 1961 Christmas poster from eBay

While this one from the late 40s made £72.

British Railways 1940s Christmas poster

Now, in a fight on looks alone, I think I’d probably just pick the 1961 poster, although I probably wouldn’t put either of them on the wall.

So why did the second one make so much more?  Yes, it’s older.  And yes, it does also have a certain historical value as a record a period when British Railways had only just been formed but the identities of the pre-war railway companies hadn’t entirely disappeared yet (although you could read them on this poster as going up in flames).  But even that, surely, can’t make almost £60 worth of difference.  It has to be just the sheer fact of those names being there which has given this poster the extra value.   Strange, but true.

Both of these posters, incidentally, came from the Malcolm Guest collection, which means that I can tell you that the seller spent £65 on them and so is just about in profit, with four more posters to go.

Too many auctions

Today, for a bit of light relief, I’m going to write about some auctions that aren’t Morphets (although, fear not, a normal service will return later this week).

To start with, Wallis and Wallis down in Lewes are selling yet more of their seemingly inexhaustible supply of World War Two propaganda posters.

Pat Keely World War Two poster full production

I’m not going to go into much detail, partly because it’s much the same as the last three times, but mainly because the Wallis and Wallis website is so infuriating.  Most of the posters aren’t illustrated at all, and I can’t find out what anything made at the previous sales because it simply won’t tell me.

Navy Thanks You Pat Keely World War two propaganda poster

They have at least photographed these three rather fine posters that I think are by Pat Keely.  Mind you, I’ve had to conclude that from squinting at the signatures, because the descriptions are rather vague.  But I like them, and haven’t seen them illustrated elsewhere.

Pat Keely royal navy world war two recruitment poster

I’m also minded to try and advance to Air Artificer as well.  Any suggestions as to how?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Swann Galleries are also having a poster sale.

A quick flick through the catalogue reinforces the point that Paul Rennie makes about his own collection in Modern British Posters,

British items were generally of little interest to international collectors and were, accordingly, less expensive to purchase

Fight your way through the swathes of American war posters and French Art Nouveau, but you still won’t find much from Britain here.

There are railway posters.

Skegness Railway poster from Swann Galleries

Of course there are railway posters.  Although this set (lot 230), by Pat Keely for the Southern Region just before the outbreak of war, are more interesting than the average.

Pat Keely Southern Region London railway poster

There are four in total, and they look even better en mass – a stylistic bridge between Art Deco and the simplifications of the post-war style.  Worth a look.

There are also London Underground posters too.  This is by Charles Burton, from 1930.

Charles Burton Chestnut Sunday LT bus poster

While this bus poster, by Fred Taylor, seems impossibly sleek and minimalist for 1923.  It’s wonderful.

Fred Taylor Harewood bus poster 1923

There’s some Hans Unger too, if all that’s a bit too pre-war for you.

Hans Unger Christopher Wren London Transport poster

It’s one half of a pair poster from 1957 and quite expensive at $400-600.  We paid £130 for both halves not that long ago so let’s see what the Americans think it is worth.

Aside from the expected, there are also a few interesting odds and ends, like these BOAC posters for Earls Court Motor Shows.  The first one is particularly good, and I’d love to know if anyone has any information on it.

BOAC earls court motor show poster

BOAC commercial motor show Earls Court poster

There are also, not for the first time, dozens of American motivational posters.  I’m rather intrigued by these, in a slightly horrified way.  Were they the from the war or the depression?  Were they produced by the government, or like educational posters, sold into workplaces?  Does anyone know and can tell me?

But I rather like this one, although for all the wrong reasons.

Spanish motivational poster

It’s not just the libel against the Spanish, although that’s quite funny on its own; it’s also the fact that I think I’d have the siesta and the work-life balance of the Spaniard over the American motivational poster any day.

Finally, there’s this, which is here for no other reason than I like it very much indeed.

Air India poster from Swann Auctions

It’s like an Indian Daphne Padden.  More of her stuff later this week, by the way.