Tag Archives: Jan Le Witt

Vintage GPO Posters go up for online Auction

As regular readers will have seen here at the BPMA we have a stunning poster collection. The General Post Office (GPO) was a trendsetting organisation, particularly when it came to marketing, and in the 1930s it broke the mould with its innovative poster designs.

James Mawtus-Judd

Poster on careful packing by James Mawtus-Judd

This Thursday (9 July) we’ll be offering the public a rare opportunity to own a piece of iconic design when we put a significant selection of vintage GPO posters (duplicate to our collections) up for online auction via Onslows Auction House.

John Vickery (2)

Poster from the Outposts of Empire series by John Vickery

These stunning images come from this golden age of public relations at the GPO, between the 1930s and 1960s. Some of the most prominent artists and designers of the time vied for commissions, creating striking posters on a range on subjects from airmail through to pleas for the careful packing of parcels.

Harry Stevens

Poster calling for careful packaging by Harry Stevens

The posters to go on sale include works by Edward McKnight Kauffer, Tom Eckersley, John Armstrong, Jan Le Witt and George Him. Many of these artists went on to take commissions at places such as London Transport and the Ministry of Information where they created iconic designs to support the war effort during the Second World War.

Edward McKnight Kauffer

Poster from the Outposts of Britain series by Edward McKnight Kauffer

The money raised at auction will go towards delivering The Postal Museum and Mail Rail, where posters, and design more generally, will play a vital role in telling the remarkable stories of how the British postal service helped to shape our social and communications history.

Please visit Onslows website to view the full auction catalogue.

A Postal View of London – GPO Poster Design

GPO Posters have played a significant role in establishing a dynamic relationship between the public service and its customers. For instance, they reminded people to use the postal service more efficiently and ‘Post Early’. Thanks to open-minded PR Officers like Stephen Tallents, GPO Posters also became a mirror of British graphic design particularly from the 1930s onwards. The GPO’s public relations department – the first government ministry PR department ever – saw the educational potential of poster design and combined it with a high standard of modern art. The Post Office offered employment to many artists and graphic designers; many of them helped shape the world of design and art during their careers. These included Tom Eckersley, Frank Newbould. and George Him and Jan Le Witt, better known as the Lewitt-Him partnership.

A Postal Guide to the Maze of London, 1951, Lewitt-Him (PRD0639)

A Postal Guide to the Maze of London, 1951, Lewitt-Him (PRD0639)

One example of how those campaigns were linked to creative design and the distribution of business information can be illustrated in the numerous posters advertising Post Office directories. This ranged from directories of the businesses and services available in cities throughout Britain to publications such as the ‘Post Office Guide’, ‘Post Offices in the United Kingdom’, ‘London Post Offices and Streets’, and ‘Postal Addresses’. They provided valuable resources for marketing and sales departments and were updated every year. The works of artists like Lewitt-Him, Alick Knight or M H Armengol illustrate how these campaigns succeeded in presenting a functional product with iconic images and ingenious designs.

London Post Offices and Streets, 1958, M H Armengol (PRD0758)

London Post Offices and Streets, 1958, M H Armengol (PRD0758)

Probably one of the most prominent posters is Lewitt-Him’s ‘A Postal Guide of the Maze of London’ (1951) which depicts a postman about to enter a stylistic maze of houses. The publication provides details of Post Offices, their streets and district numbers, hours of business and a listing of street names – a perfect aid for the postman’s journey into the intricate maze of streets. The partnership of the two Polish-born artists Jan Le Witt (1907-1991) and George Him (1900-1981) was a very successful collaboration in graphic design and they created several posters for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War and murals for the Festival of Britain (1951).

London Post Offices and Streets, 1958, Alick Knight (PRD0939)

London Post Offices and Streets, 1958, Alick Knight (PRD0939)

Other poster artists may have remained relatively obscure but their creativity had resulted in some fine GPO poster art. Alick Knight, for example, contributed to several Post Office campaigns, including for the Post Office Guide during the 1950s. Several of his posters feature drawings of iconic buildings like the one for the ‘London Post Offices and Streets’ (1958). Although these posters advertising the London Post Office Guides were designed to have an immediate impact and relate to a particular product, their designs give them a surprising agelessness and relevance to anyone living in or coming to London.

A Postal View of London: London Post Offices and Streets, 1953, H W Browning (PRD0698)

A Postal View of London: London Post Offices and Streets, 1953, H W Browning (PRD0698)

The BPMA have produced a new set of postcards featuring the London-themed posters in this blog. It is now available in the BPMA Shop and further Post Office Guide posters can also be found on our print-on-demand website.

London Post Offices and Streets, 1960, Carol Barker (PRD1072)

London Post Offices and Streets, 1960, Carol Barker (PRD1072)

– Jana Harnett, Marketing & Development Assistant