Saturday, 24 October 2020

Custard on the Wall

Two paintings commissioned by custard manufacturers, Alfred Bird & Sons hang on the walls of Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery.  Wrapped in gilded frames they offer ecstatic visions of cakes, jellies and custard based delights, piled high on groaning tables. Peering out from under the table cloths, wayward small boys with impish grins have succumbed to temptation and helped themselves.  Unusually for a gallery display, their existence is a purely commercial expedient, having been produced as source material for advertising and promotional purposes. The larger of the pair can be seen in a primitive reproduction in this recipe brochure and no doubt its partner found a use elsewhere.  The product quickly secured its place in the affections of the British consumer - its sugary viscosity offering comfort to some of the worst teeth in Europe. But competition was fierce and Bird’s would defend their position as market leaders with prolific advertising campaigns on posters and in print. I like to think of these paintings proudly hung on the walls of the boardroom, witnesses to earnest discussion of sales targets, corporate projections, income tax liability and depreciation of fixed assets. A later example of Bird’s advertising from 1941 can be seen here, further examples will follow in future posts.


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