Friday, 14 December 2018

Graphis 66 – Fortnum & Mason

This is an extract from the celebrated Swiss graphic arts magazine Graphis – issue 66, published in 1956. Charles Rosner tells the story of how the Piccadilly shop, Fortnum & Mason publicised its activities with a well chosen selection of distinguished graphic artists and illustrators. Rosner writes about how the store was adapting to the decline in its traditional markets brought about by the fading fortunes of the landed gentry and the loss of Britain’s Imperial possessions, using direct mail and elegantly designed publicity to broaden its appeal. After almost a decade of food rationing had recently come to an end, conspicuous consumption had to be made socially acceptable again. The era of post-war egalitarianism was coming to an end, disposable incomes were rising and there was no shame in lavish spending on luxury goods. It’s interesting that Edward Bawden became the first choice of illustrator. His inventive, humorous and gentle fantasies effortlessly create a sense of goodwill, relaxing the reader and making them feel good about treating themselves to the best that money can buy. Bawden was without equal in his ability to bring renewed vitality to the most mundane of objects and delight the eye with spritely forms, wonderfully defined in pattern and line. Today’s store still exists to serve a rich and exclusive clientele with food, drink and homeware at astronomic prices. In the present economic climate the shop should be busier than ever. As wealth continues to be siphoned upwards into the hands of the super-rich at an ever increasing rate, the ever expanding supply of high net worth individuals should be enough to keep the store busy for the foreseeable future. Follow this link to see a superb example of Bawden’s Fortnum & Mason work at the Alphabet of Illustrators.

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