Sunday, 30 December 2018

Bridge Postcards of 2018

It turned out to be a very good year for acquiring bridge postcards with 89 examples added to the collection. This is a selection of the best of them. It includes the pioneering Iron Bridge from Shropshire and the now lost splendour of the Spiral Bridge in Hastings, Minnesota. There’s the ramshackle Cane Bridge near Darjeeling, roped together from locally sourced materials – not for the faint-hearted. Some locals pose for the camera by another timber built footbridge, across the River Wey at Guildford. Another lost bridge is the Shoreham Suspension Bridge opened in 1833 (as the Norfolk Bridge) across the River Adur and replaced in 1922. There are lifting bridges from Cleveland and Amsterdam and a view of Brunel’s 1859 Great Western Railway bowstring bridge across the River Tamar that includes the departure of the Torpoint Ferry.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Bridges of 2018

This is the regular end-of-year review of bridges seen through the camera lens in the last 12 months. The most spectacular bridge of 2018 was the Rendsburg Höchbrücke, described and illustrated here but visits to two other cities in Schleswig-Holstein were well supplied with bridges – Hamburg and Lübeck, from which examples are displayed below. Above is the single bridge from the British Isles – a swing-bridge seen in Ramsey on the Isle of Man. Follow this link to see the 2017 selection.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Christmas thoughts of a man ....

After last week’s news that the advertising watchdog is to crack down on sexist stereotypes here’s two examples of how it used to be done in the days when not an eyebrow was raised. There’s a seasonal flavour here as well as a strange symmetry in that both adverts feature three generations of females whose existence is entirely subordinate to the unchallenged patriarch. What could be more generous than the purchase of a labour-saving device to ease the burden of toil on the housekeeper? Sentimental, heartfelt tribute is paid to each individual – wife, mother and daughter – who gaze back at us from their respectful and dignified portraits. Each will be blessed with a new vacuum cleaner plus a little more free time to devote to the welfare of the bountiful head of household. Win, win. In the service of Max Factor, we have a trio of submissive females, lips puckered, awaiting the approval and osculatory advances of the unseen father figure, his customary odour of alcohol and tobacco wondrously masked by a generous application of Deodorant Cologne by Max Factor. Any woman knows what to expect when she gives him the best. In the interests of creating consumer demand, invoking sexist stereotypes was an easy fix in a time when gender hierarchies were carved in unassailable granite. Two generations of change may have passed since then but it’s not difficult to find tribunes of the people, desperate to preserve what remains of these hierarchies and find a way back to the ancient certainties.


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.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Gwen White - Antique Toys and Their Background

Gwen White (1903-86) is an often overlooked book illustrator from the last century and she doesn’t even have the distinction of a Wikipedia page. Online references are few and far between with the honourable exception of the Alphabet of Illustrators where my old school pal, Chris Mullen has posted a comprehensive selection of her published work. Biographical information is hard to find – she was born Gwendolen Beatrice White in Exeter in 1902 or 1903 (sources vary), studied at Bournemouth School of Art and the Royal College of Art. Between 1933 and 1946 she was a regular illustrator of Enid Blyton books – not the highest accolade but a steady source of employment. In 1940 she contributed A Book of Toys to the prestigious King Penguin series. Later in the 50s she published two instruction manuals on the use of perspective and the development of pattern and several volumes on the subject of children’s toys of which this, dating from 1971, was the last.

For this book, Antique Toys and Their Background, she produced 8 colour plates and a double-sided illustrated dust wrapper. The illustrations have charm and humour but never an excess of sentiment and she proves to be an expert in the subtle art of arranging objects on a page. At first sight they appear anachronistic for the early 1970s – stylistically she absorbed next to nothing from the fashions of the 50s and 60s, yet her approach would be echoed by a new generation of illustrators later in the 70s (Ian Beck, Glynn Boyd Harte, George Hardie) who looked back to pre-war idioms as the mid-century style ran out of steam.