Tag Archives: John Nash

Post Office: Publicity artwork and designs

by Vanessa Bell, Archivist (Cataloguing)

POST 109 is now available for browsing on our online catalogue. It contains original artwork produced for posters and leaflets, as well as designs produced for a variety of purposes, including greetings telegram forms, logos and logotypes, vehicle livery and postal equipment. Material includes paintings and pencil and ink drawings, as well as photographs, transparencies and annotated final proofs.

Much of the artwork in the series was commissioned by the Public Relations Department, which was first created in 1934, under the first Post Office Public Relations Officer, Stephen Tallents. Right from the conception of the department, it assumed responsibility for commissioning designs for posters, which it considered to be a vital part of Post Office publicity; it did this initially in consultation with a ‘Poster Advisory Group’, but from 1937 it operated in its own right.

A postman wheels his bike down a country lane

Sketch for rural postman: artwork for a poster, by John Nash, 1935

The department approached leading artists for the production of posters of two kinds, known respectively as ‘Prestige’ and ‘Selling’. ‘Prestige’ posters fell into two categories: those specially prepared for distribution to schools and those for display in Crown Post Offices and non-public offices in Post Office buildings, they were intended to be more formal in style, eye catching rather than persuasive. ‘Selling’ posters had a direct ‘selling’ appeal and were intended to persuade the beholder to use a particular service or buy a particular product.

POST 109 includes a number of adopted poster designs, but it also contains examples of commissioned artwork that was rejected. Artworks include an Edward Bawden poster about the Post Office Underground Railway (later known as Mail Rail)  (below), John Nash’s watercolour depicting a rural postman (above left), an oil painting by Edgar Ainsworth showing a night scene at a sorting office (POST 109/507), and George Charlton’s Interior of Travelling Post Office (POST 109/375).

A drawing of the Post Office underground railway, a driverless train system which carried mail under the streets of London

Post Office Tube Railway: artwork for a poster, by Edward Bawden, circa 1935

The collection also includes rejected designs by artists more usually ‘favourites’ of the Public Relations Department, such as Tom Eckersley (POST 109/15) and Jan Lewitt and George Him (POST 109/602-605 and below).

A poster design depicting a postman dragging a giant envelope

Post much earlier this X-mas: Artwork for a poster, by Jan Lewitt and George Him, 1950

The Public Relations Department was also instrumental in commissioning artists to design forms for the Greetings Telegram Service, which was introduced in 1935 as a means of revitalising the telegraph service.

Greetings telegrams were to be associated with special occasions and as such, designs had to be particularly attractive, with an element of luxury, this was encapsulated in the golden envelope designed to accompany the form.

POST 109 includes many examples of adopted designs; for example, the design produced by Margaret Calkin James for the first ever greetings telegram form, issued in July 1935 (below).

Bordered with a red and black design, the telegram form has a clean centre for typing the message

Margaret Calkin James' design for the first ever greetings telegram form, issued in July 1935

It also includes a number of unsuccessful designs, including one produced by Clifford and Rosemary Ellis (below), two by Alan Reynolds Stone (POST 109/649 and POST 109/659) and one by Rex Whistler (POST 109/692); Whistler also produced two other designs for greetings telegram forms that made it into print.

Featuring a decorative border with bows and stars.

Greetings Telegram artwork by Cliff & Rosemary Ellis, 1937

Other items in POST 109 include artwork for the familiar GPO monogram, produced by Macdonald Gill in 1934, pillar box designs by Tony Gibbs from 1977 and artwork produced by Ben Maile for inclusion in the book: First Post: From penny black to the present day (Quiller Press, 1990).

David Gentleman’s Kew Gardens stamps

On Tuesday Royal Mail released a third set of stamps in the Action for Species series, on Endangered Plants, as well as a miniature sheet commemorating the 250th Anniversary of Kew Gardens (both of which can be seen here). However, this is not the first time Kew Gardens has appeared on stamps.

A commemorative set released in 1990 marked the 150th anniversary of Kew Gardens being adopted as a national botanical garden. The stamps were designed by Paul Leith and showed four pairs of notable trees and buildings in the gardens.

Paul Leiths Kew Gardens stamps (1990)

Paul Leith’s Kew Gardens stamps (1990)

The BPMA holds Leith’s original artwork for these stamps as well as a number of unadopted designs by Leith and the other artists who were invited to submit ideas for the set: Jane Human, Siobhan Russell, graphic designer company Silk Pearce and David Gentleman. A retrospective exhibition of stamp design work by David Gentleman is currently on display at the BPMA and includes a number of unadopted designs, but none are from the 1990 Kew Gardens set.

David Gentleman submitted 5 sets of designs and four alternative designs for the Kew Gardens set. Below is a list of these designs accompanied by the artist’s descriptions, and some (low quality) scans of selected artworks.

Set A
4 watercolour paintings, dated 01/11/88
A1 – Spring: Sophora japonica (Pagoda tree) planted 1760.
A2 – Summer: Robinia pseud acacia (false acacia), planted 1762.
A3 – Autumn: Platanus orientalis (Oriental plane), planted c.1762.
A4 – Winter: Quercus hispanica lucombeaua (Lucombe’s oak), planted 1760.

A2 - David Gentlemans unadopted False Acacia design

A2 – David Gentleman’s unadopted False Acacia design

Set B
4 watercolour paintings, dated 01/11/88
B1 – Encephelartos longifolia; the oldest glasshouse plant in Kew; with the Palm House to which it will shortly return.
B2 – The Pagoda Tree (sophora japonica), part of the original planting of c.1760 with the Orangery, designed by Sir William Chambers and built in 1761.
B3 – Platanus orientalis (Oriental plane) – original planting of c.1762; with Kew Palace.
B4 – Robina pseudacacia or false acacia, (original planting, c.1762) with the Aroid House, by John Nash; moved to Kew from Buckingham Palace, 1836.

B1 - David Gentlemans unadopted Encephelartos longifolia design

B1 – David Gentleman’s unadopted Encephelartos longifolia design

Set C
4 watercolour paintings, dated 01/11/88
C1 – Encephelartos longifolia; the oldest glasshouse plant in Kew; with the Palm House to which it will shortly return.
C2 – Platanus orientalis (Oriental plane) – original planting of c.1762; with Kew Palace.
C3 – Quercus Lucombeaua (Lucombe’s oak), original planting of the 1760s; with the Avoid House.
C4 – Robina pseudacacia; original planting of c1762; with Orangery, designed by Sir William Chambers and built in 1761.

C2 - David Gentlemans unadopted Oriental Plane design

C2 – David Gentleman’s unadopted Oriental Plane design

Alternates:
C1 (ii) – Encephelartos longifolia; the oldest glasshouse plant in Kew; with the Palm House to which it will shortly return.
C1 (iii) – Encephelartos longifolia; the oldest glasshouse plant in Kew; with the Palm House to which it will shortly return.

C1 (ii) - David Gentlemans unadopted Encephelartos longifolia design (alternate)

C1 (ii) – David Gentleman’s unadopted Encephelartos longifolia design (alternate)

Set D
3 watercolour paintings (D1-3) and 1 illustration (D4), dated 15/03/89
D1 – Spring: Robinia pseudacacia (false acacia). Planted in 1762 as part of the original planting.
D2 – Summer: Quercus hisparica lucombeaua (Oriental Plane). Part of the original 1760s planting. (sic)
D3: Autumn: Plantanus orientalis (Oriental Plane). Part of the original 1760s planting.
D4: Winter: Sophora japonica (Pagoda Tree). Planted c1760 as part of the original planting.

D4 - David Gentlemans unadopted Pagoda Tree design

D4 – David Gentleman’s unadopted Pagoda Tree design

Set E
4 illustrations, dated 15/03/89
E1 – Spring: Robina pseudacacia (false acacia). Planted in 1762, as part of the original planting. In the background, the Orangery, designed by Sir William Chambers and built in 1761.
E2 – Summer: Quercus hispanica lucombeaua (Lucombe’s oak). Part of the original planting of in 1760s. In the distance, the Pagoda. (sic)
E3 – Autumn: Plantanus orientalis (Oriental plane). Part of the original 1760s planting. In the background, the Temperate House.
E4 – Winter: Sophora japonica (Pagoda Tree). Planted c1760 as part of the original planting. The Palm House.

E4 - David Gentlemans unadopted Pagoda Tree design (winter)

E4 – David Gentleman’s unadopted Pagoda Tree design (winter)

Additional designs
There is no artist’s description for these designs; they are described on the reverse as presentation visuals.
1 – Oak Tree (green illustration).
2 – Oak Tree (computer image).

Additional design 2 - David Gentlemans unadopted Oak Tree design

Additional design 2 – David Gentleman’s unadopted Oak Tree design

For more previously unseen stamp artwork by David Gentleman, please see our online exhibition Gentleman on Stamps. Some of the heritage trees which appeared in Gentleman’s designs can be seen on the Kew Gardens website; False Acacia, Lucombe Oak, Oriental Pane, Pagoda Tree.