STOURPAINE, UK – A set of six beach posters by Tom Purvis titled East Coat Joys is one of the many highlights in Onslows’ Summer Vintage posters auction taking place on Friday, July 12, at 2 p.m. UK time/9 a.m. Eastern. The 277-lot auction boasts a very good selection of original poster collections including World War I and II propaganda and a collection of London Electric Underground railways from the 1920. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.
Tom Purvis was known as the “King of the Hoardings” and perhaps is now regarded as one of the greatest commercial artists of Britain’s golden age of railway posters. Purvis was born in Bristol on June 12, 1888, the son of a master mariner who became a marine artist. Purvis assisted his father in his studio, seeing that his son had an early talent for drawing he financed a first term at the Camberwell School of Art, he studied there for three years by winning scholarships.
Purvis went onto to study under an elderly Degas and then Sickert. His first work was with the advertising agency Mather & Crowther spending six years learning the art of advertising and then two at the Avenue Press mastering the practical side of lithographic printing. His first independent poster was for Dewar’s Whisky in 1907 when he only 19.
In addition to designing covers for London Magazine and Passing Show and much other advertising artwork, Purvis made his name as a poster artist. His design for Edwards Soup with the slogan “They’re all in it” lead to further poster commissions from the Empire Marketing Board, Shell, Austin Reed and the Daily Herald. He gradually developed his distinctive style of flat areas of brilliant colors laid next to each other without any dividing line.
In 1926 Purvis started working for the London and North Eastern Railway. The forward-thinking company was ahead of its time and cleverly employed five of the leading poster designers of the day each with three-year contracts, they became known as the “The Big Five” the others being Fred Taylor, Frank H Mason, Frank Newbould and Austin Cooper. They agreed to confine their work to the LNER with exception of the London Underground. Purvis designed the LNER totem which was used on all the posters from 1927.
In 1988 Onslows sold the greatest collection of LNER posters to have ever appeared on the market, the quantity and quality have never been repeated at auction. The collection had come from the British Rail advertising department offices at Marylebone Station in the 1960s and had been saved from destruction by a quick-thinking railway employee, he also saved the lever arch files containing the priceless prewar artists’ contracts and correspondence between the railway and artists and vice versa. From this unique archive of which Onslows hold copies the auction house is able to tell the story of the East Coast Joys set of posters (above).
The contract for 1931 confirms that Purvis was paid £300 for the six designs, £18,000 in today’s money. The original designs for the posters were exhibited in the LNER Ninth Exhibition of Poster Art at the New Burlington Galleries London in March 1931. Onslows has a copy of the 1931 exhibition catalog showing the designs were hung in Gallery No. 1, and not the printed posters. Newspaper reviews were glowing with an appreciation for Purvis’ work. The Times reported, “In one case, East Coast Joys, the six posters, though each can be looked at separately, are ingeniously combined in a single design, with a delightful wave movement running through the whole.” The Morning Post went on to say, “None has made more use of his opportunities than Mr. Tom Purvis has done with the splendid design illustrating East Coast Joys. This is easily the best poster in the show.”
The posters were acquired by the vendor in the 1980s from the well-known poster dealer the late Leslie Sherlock, from the excellent continuity of condition of the posters it is likely the set had always been together rather than been “assembled” by the dealer. Research indicates this is the first time a complete set has appeared for sale by auction. The posters will be offered as a set with a presale estimate of £20,000-£25,000/$25,473-$31,841.
Onslows’ summer auction has a very good selection of original poster collections including World War 1 and 2 propaganda including the famous ‘Britons Lord Kitchener Wants You,’ 1914, and Abram Games’ rare poster ATS The Blonde Bombshell (below), 1941.
The sale also features a single owner collection of London Electric Underground railways from the 1920s including rare posters by McKnight Kauffer and C.R.W. Nevinson.
For details contact Onslows at 01258 488838, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.