Over-modern and over here

An interesting comment appeared a week or so ago on a older post about Beverley Pick.

He was a man.  Bless him… He was my uncle and a very clever man..He also did the original Moby Dick… Beverley was originally from Austria and lived many years in Sunningdale during the winter. Autumn he would visit his House in Cork and in his latter years he and his wife would live in France where they had a gorgeous home. He is now buried in the Churchyard at Sunningdale. There was so much to this man we will never know it all…

I’ve written to Odile Walker, who posted those intriguing memories, and I hope she’ll come back and tell us more.  But in the meantime, one thing that I never knew stands out.  Despite his British-sounding name, Beverley Pick was an emigré from Austria.

Beverley Pick pig waste vintage WW2 propaganda poster
Beverley Pick, WW2 poster

Now, I’ve been thinking for a while about the degree to which post-war British graphic design was shaped by people who were one way or another foreigners. There are so many of them that it would be hard not to really.  But finding that this is also true for Beverley Pick has pushed me into action.

So here is a roll call of as many emigré designers as I can think of who worked in the UK in the decade or so after the war.  It’s an impressive selection. With, for no particular reason other than that’s the way it turned out, lots of GPO posters as examples.

Andre Amstutz

Whitley bay poster Andre Amstutz vintage british railway poster
British Railways, 1954

Dorrit Dekk

Dorrit Dekk vintage GPO wireless licence poster 1949
GPO, 1949

Arpad Elfer

Arpad Elfer design for DH Evans poster 1954
D H Evans, 1954

Abram Games

Abram Games vintage London Transport poster at your service 1947

F H K Henrion

Henrion Artists and Russia Exhibition 1942

H A Rothholz

H A Rothholz stamps in books poster vintage GPO 1955
GPO, 1955

Pieter Huveneers

Pieter Huveneers fleetwood poster 1950 vintage railway poster
British Railways, 1950


Karo vintage GPO soft fruits by post poster 1952

Heinz Kurth

Heinz Kurth design for Artist Partners brochure divider
Artist Partners


Lewitt Him Pan American vintage travel Poster

Manfred Reiss

Manfred Reiss vintage GPO poster 1950
GPO, 1950

Hans Schleger

Hans Schleger vintage GPO ww2 poster posting before lunch
GPO, 1941

Hans Unger

Hans Unger 1951 vintage GPO poster
GPO, 1951

Together they make up pretty much half the content of this blog most months.  And I am sure that there are plenty more I have left out – please feel free to remind me who they are.

That’s all I am going to say for now, partly because this is quite long enough as it is, but also because I am in the process of working out what the story might be.  So if you have any thoughts on why British design became such an emigré profession, I’d love to hear those too.

Christmas bay

For once, eBay has come up with something seasonal.  Even better, it’s a classic GPO post early poster.

Huveneers post early poster GPO 1957

This 1957 design by Huveneers has already come up on the Advent Calendar here, and now you can have your own if you like.  Bidding starts at a moderately steep £22 (well I think it’s steep given that it’s 22cm x 15cm, which isn’t a great deal of poster) but they don’t come up that often, so the seller may be right this time.

Elsewhere on the bay, the delightfully named i.m.weasel has some London Transport posters to sell.  Only a few, but some rather good ones.  Shall we start with this Henrion?

Henrion hampton court maze vintage London Transport poster from eBay

Then there’s this Sheila Robinson too.

Vintage Royal London Sheila Robinson London Transport poster

And a rather good William Johnstone that I haven’t come across before (the colours remind me of James Fitton’s post-war posters, for what it’s worth).

William Johnstone Vintage London Transport poster from eBay

But the star of the show is this David Gentleman pair poster.

David Gentleman vintage London Transport pair poster from eBay

Now, I do have a few caveats about these auctions.  One is that – in the case of the Johnstone and the Henrion – he  illustrated them with the London Transport Museum catalogue image as his main pictures.  Which is a bit cheeky.

The other is that all of these items have a reserve on.  And I’d suspect that these are fairly steep ones too, given that the David Gentleman poster has a Buy It Now price of £1,000 attached.  Which is, yes, what it has fetched at Christies earlier this year.  But firstly that was with two Sheila Robinson posters (proof once again that these multiple lots make it almost impossible to value anything properly). Secondly, if you want a good price for a poster, putting it in an auction which ends on December 22nd probably isn’t the way to get it.  And finally, I think  that there is a more general point, which is that if you want a Christies price, you probably do still have to sell at Christies, and pay their premiums.  But I shall watch and see what happens with interest. Although probably without bidding.

It’s also worth noting that this John Bainbridge is still floating about for sale on a Buy It Now too.

John Bainbridge vintage London Transport poster eBay

Currently on for £90, which is down from its original starting bid of £120, but still a bit tatty round the edges.

While, in the endless re-settling and rearrangement of the posters from the last Morphets sale, these two are also available on Buy It Nows.

Bigg vintage coach poster bridge from Morphets eBay

Atkins vintage coach poster from Morphets via eBay

Curiously, the Bigg (above) is at £100, while the Atkins, which I infinitely prefer (always the sucker for a chalk horse though) is only £75.  But in both cases that’s significantly more than their auction price.

Tomorrow, more GPO admonishments but this time seen on their natural habitat of a wall.

Door 10

As promised, a chicken.  It’s not often you come across a Christmas Chicken, but that’s definitely what we’ve got here.

Pieter Huveneers, Christmas Chicken post early from 1956 vintage GPO poster

Every time I look at it, my brain says Easter, but the words very definitely say Christmas.   Most peculiar.

Anyway, it’s another design by Pieter Huveneers, it’s from 1956 and it’s inexplicable.  Unless you know different.

Door 3

Another miniature today, but this time it’s singing postboxes.  Obviously.

Pieter Huveneers vintage singing post boxes GPO Christmas poster 1957

They’re the work of Pieter Huveneers in 1957.  They also exist in portrait format (below) but I think I prefer these ones.  Does anyone know where these small format posters were displayed?

Pieter Huveneers vintage singing post boxes GPO Christmas poster 1957

Maybe four is a jollier number for carol singers.

(Apologies for the quality of some of the photographs  by the way – they were only ever meant as reference shots for us, well before Quad Royal was ever thought of, never mind an advent calendar.  I am going to go and reshoot some of the worst offenders when I get a moment.)

The return of Mr Huveneers

Mike Ashworth, whose Flickr stream brought us the wonderful lost posters of Notting Hill Gate, is clearly a man with much design ephemera to his name.  He very kindly sent me a link to this – a wonderful brochure cover by Pieter Huveneers from 1956.

PIeter Huveneers LM party brochure cover 1956

Now I blogged about Pieter Huveneers a while back, trying to find out discover whether the British designer of the 1950s then became the Australian corporate design guru of the 60s and 70s.  I had one enigmatic reply which said that this was the same person, but no more information than that.  Still, it’s good to know that he didn’t just disappear.  And it does give me an excuse to post this, which I love.

Pieter Huveneers vintage poster June Dairy Week

It’s a 10″ x 15″, and while Google has taught me that the June Dairy Festival was a big and regular do in the 50s, I still don’t really know what it was, or what the postie had to do with it.  So, once again, any information would be gratefully received.

Operator, I can’t find anything

I’ve been meaning for a while to do a series of posts looking at the different archives that sit out there on the web, just waiting for you to rummage through their files of wonderful vintage posters.  These resources have exploded in the last few years, and it’s now easy to find out incredible amounts about the history of posters without ever leaving your chair – the kind of research that would have taken years and many many train journeys in the past, even had it been possible at all.  So, while the archives may not be making me fitter, I am certainly now both better off, and considerably more informed than I would otherwise have been.  Hurrah for the internet.

My thoughts were that I’d start with one of the straightforwardly brilliant ones, like the London Transport Museum catalogue – a complete itemisation of every poster and artwork they own, image-led, designed for users rather than museum curators.  But in fact, I find myself wanting to begin with two really quirky ones.  So today’s is the BT archive, which until a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t even know existed.

Pieter Huveneers Telephone poster
Pieter Huveneers, c1950.

The archivist at the BPMA very kindly pointed me in their direction, because the two collections are separated siblings.  When British Telecom was split off from the GPO in 1980, they got the posters about telephones and telegraphs, and the Post Office got the ones about letters.  But the artists, the poster sizes and even the cataloguing systems are very much the same.

Hans Schleger vintage GPO poster
Zero, 1944, TCB 319/PRD 375

That, sadly, is where the resemblance ends.  The BPMA catalogue interface is lovely; it’s reasonably intuitive, I can find what I am looking for with some confidence, and all of the pictorial material is illustrated.  The BT catalogue is, if I am entirely honest, a pig.  The search logic follows its own rules, there is a wierd link called “ContextRef” which throws up an apparently random list of related material (which then defaults to the search page if you click on anything), and, worst of all, only about 10% of the material is illustrated.  What’s particularly annoying about that is that, in researching this, I’ve found a company who claim to have had the contract to digitise the entire BT archives.  So where have all these pictures gone then?  Although, on the plus side, I did find this 1948 Eckersley on their blog, and I swear I’ve never seen it before (if you have, please do say in the contact box below).

Tom Eckersley GPO vintage poster export drive

But, as you can see, I have spent rather longer than I intended sifting through page after page of slightly dry records (I don’t, I have to say, like reading catalogue numbers) in search of the few illustrations that do exist.  Because the few that are there are wonderful. This wartime Henrion is particularly wierd  – I’d like to find out more about him, some of the images are really quite disconcerting.

Henrion WW2 vintage poster GPO telephonist

Although this one, from 1951, is quite benign.

Henrion vintage poster GPO cable 1951

Then, after the best part of an evening reading ContextRef numbers and swearing, I found out how to buck the system.  Some, and quite possibly all the images are available through the BT image sales website.  Which is organised by picture, and theme, making finding images less of a needle in a haystack hunt.

Reiss telephone less vintage gpo poster
Reiss, 1945

There are disadvantages, like the fact that there are rather more pictures of trimphones and Busby than there are posters, and the images are watermarked..  But it does at least, in the advertising and wartime sections, give you a rough overview of what kind of posters the GPO was producing and whether or not you might want to look at some more.

This isn’t the first time I’ve used the image sales get round; for a long time, the only way to find out what posters the National Railway Museum held was to go via the Science and Society website.  The NRM now do have a searchable online catalogue (of a railway buff kind) which is better than the slightly random selection that Science and Society used to dole out.  But if you’re searching an archive through image sales (do you hear me V&A as well?) it’s a sign that they could, possibly, do more towards making them available on the web.

Moan over.  So here’s one last nice poster to cheer ourselves up, a faultless Unger from 1951.  Pip pip.