Tag Archives: George VI stamps

Miniature Posters: the stamp designs of Abram Games

This Thursday (17 September) Naomi Games, daughter of designer Abram Games (1914-1996), will be joining us to talk about her father’s stamp designs, his working process and show progressive sketches from his archive. Here she gives us some background on her father and a taste of what to expect.

Abram Games with his controversial ATS poster, which was later withdrawn.

Abram Games is best known for his posters. He was the official war poster artist during WW2, and during his sixty year career he designed three hundred posters, notably for London Transport, Guinness, the Financial Times and BOAC. He also designed the first animated ident for BBC television, the covers of Penguin Books, and the emblems for the Festival of Britain and the Queen’s Award to Industry. Less is known of his numerous award-winning stamp designs for Britain, Jersey and Israel. In 2014, his centenary year, he was included in the ‘Remarkable Lives’ issue. Royal Mail also issued a special Abram Games postmark to celebrate his 100th birthday. Always an obsessive letter writer, he would have been delighted!

Poster advising on the best time to post mail. Poster artist: Games, Abram

Poster advising on the best time to post mail. Poster artist: Games, Abram

His first published stamp was for the 1948 Olympic Games and he was nicknamed ‘Olympic Games’ thereafter. He boasted that he was the only artist to have his name on a British stamp, as designers were not allowed to sign their work.  After winning the competition to design the Festival of Britain symbol, he  also won the stamp competition and his ubiquitous Britannia appeared alongside side the head of King George V1. His involvement in the Festival of Britain was a great boost to his career and he continued to secure many prestigious commissions throughout his life.

KGVI, 1949 Universal Postal Union: Submitted design by Abram Games

KGVI, 1949 Universal Postal Union: Submitted design by Abram Games

Games was a self-taught designer. His only formal training was two terms at St Martin’s College of Art but he continued to study life drawing and anatomy. He believed drawing would be the key to becoming a successful designer. He faithfully followed his axiom ‘maximum meaning, minimum means’, always keeping all his designs as simple as possible. When creating a poster or stamp, he filled a layout pad with several ideas. He wasted no time covering large areas and avoided detail. Once he had selected his thumbnail design, he circled it with red pencil. He said, ‘I never work large because posters, seen from a distance are small. If ideas don’t work an inch high, they will never work.’ Thus the design of stamps – his ‘miniature posters’ – was second nature to him.

The event will take place on Thursday 17 September 18.30-19.30 at The Phoenix Centre, Phoenix Place, London, WC1X 0DL.

To book tickets please visit abramgames.eventbrite.co.uk or telephone 020 7239 2570.

Cataloguing Stamp Artwork – Phase II – 1975-1980

We have successfully applied for funding from the Aurelius Charitable Trust, the Leche Trust and the Charles Hayward Foundation to continue collection care, cataloguing and digitisation work of our collection of stamp artwork. Previous phases of the work have taken the management of the artwork from the reigns of George V to the early years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The second phase of work will see that cataloguing taken to 1980.

Before cataloguing and digitisation work is work carried a careful appraisal of the artwork is required to ascertain its condition, the accuracy of its caption and the security of its mount. This work is being undertaken by Richard West MBE, a respected philatelist and former editor of Stamp Magazine, in consultation with Douglas Muir, BPMA’s Curator of Philately, and Krystyna Koscia, our Conservator. This is a key process as the aim of the project is to preserve the artwork for future generations and it is reassuring to have Richard’s careful attention to detail deployed in this task.

Richard West MBE.

Richard West MBE.

Richard checks each sheet, writes and attaches the caption, before inserting it into a melinex sleeve (an inert, acid-free polyester) and placing it into an album. Richard has now completed albums up to 1979. This has been a pain-staking process and Richard has also been working backwards through the reign of Queen Elizabeth, making sure that captions written in the past are also accurate and re-writing them where necessary.

Stamp issues between 1975 and 1980 include Birth Bicentenary of JMW Turner (1975), Sailing (1975), 150th Anniversary of Public Railways (1975), Social Reformers (1976), Telephone Centenary (1976), British Cultural Traditions (1976), British Wildlife (1977), Horses (1978), Death Centenary of Sir Rowland Hill (1979) and London Landmarks (1980).

Here Richard West captions and sleeves artwork relating to the 1979 stamp issue Dogs.

Here Richard West captions and sleeves artwork relating to the 1979 stamp issue Dogs.

Anna Flood, one of our archivists, has been editing stamp artwork catalogue descriptions for the reigns of King George V and King George VI and is now preparing the artwork for Queen Elizabeth II for release in the near future.

Now that Richard has prepared a substantial number of artwork albums from 1975, Anna will create catalogue descriptions for these. Anna will use the captions written by Richard as the basis for each artwork description, noting particular features and the name of the contributing artist. This is time consuming work, requiring Anna to liaise between Richard and Douglas to ensure that the appropriate detail is captured.

Digitisation of the artwork will begin towards the end of the year as the cataloguing descriptions are formed. Again, digitisation is laborious work – artwork needs careful handling at this stage too, and the scanning equipment has to be calibrated to ensure that the resulting digital images match as closely the colour and detail of the original piece of artwork.

Finally, once the digital images have been processed, the masters carefully stored away and the digital surrogates attached to the relevant record, the descriptions will be proof-read first by Anna and Douglas, and then a second archivist will carry out a final read. This quality control minimises the risk of errors but, inevitably, they do occasionally slip through. The catalogue records, along with digital images of each piece of artwork, will be available for consultation in the first quarter of 2013.

Reaching milestones in our documentation and cataloguing work

At the end of February, we reached some significant milestones in the documentation work carried out on our museum and archive collections.

Submitted design (No. 15) by G. Knipe of Harrison & Sons.

Stamp Artwork design for the Olympic Games 1948, submitted by G. Knipe of Harrison & Sons Oct. 1947. (POST 150/GVI/11/018) It was one of the five designs selected by the Council of Industrial Design and was held as a reserve for the 2 1/2d stamp. In preparing essays Harrisons were to be told "to make sure that the features of the jumper ... cannot be recognised."

The first milestone reached was the completion of an audit of material contained within the museum collection. What this means is that we have entry and location data for every object inherited by BPMA when it was formed in 2004 and for every object subsequently deposited with us. This includes objects held in our Freeling House repository and in our stores in Debden and at Christie’s.

Documentation of collections is a core part of any museum’s activity. Without details such as provenance, custodial history, physical condition and the terms and conditions relating to deposit, a museum cannot be assured of its responsibility and rights to preserve, display, digitise or even dispose (should the item not meet the museum’s collecting policy) of objects in its custody. Furthermore, precise information about an object’s location in our repository and stores means that we can carry out collections review work more efficiently and better prepare for our forthcoming move from our site here at Freeling House to the new postal museum.

This has been a significant amount of work and has taken seven years to complete. Very few museums have achieved a full audit of their holdings and it means that we can now concentrate our efforts in reviewing object collections, creating descriptive catalogues for the online catalogue and also plan our digitisation programmes accordingly. The completion of this work is due to the hard work and discipline of our museum cataloguers past and present, and we congratulate them all for doing such a great job!

Stamp Artwork, Olympic Games 1948, submitted on 29 July 1948 (POST 150/GVI/11/037)

The second milestone is that we’ve passed the 100,000 mark of records available to view on our online catalogue. We now have 100,703 records published. Our most recently published records include:
King George VI London Olympic Games 1948 stamp artwork
• Uniforms
• Handstamps
• Posters
Photographic stills from Post Office films, c.1969-1986
Finally, at the beginning of each year, we also open files that have been closed for 30 years. You can read in the blog by my colleague Gavin McGuffie how we process these. This year, we’ve opened approximately 100 files and the descriptions of these can be viewed via our online catalogue here.

Martin Devereux – Acting Catalogue Manager