Travelling Art Gallery BLOG

BLOG 1st June 2010

New Blog
The first of a regular ‘blog’ for the new website by the author, Greg Norden, featuring news on the carriage print and commercial art scene and other very random ramblings that may interest readers. This will include the interesting things that happen in my attempts to photograph the carriage print locations as they are today, and other news and findings on artists and artwork. Thinking that these snippets may also interest readers of Railway Antiques Gazette (RAG), too, I hope to regularly contribute to this magazine – hopefully a sort of Riches to RAG venture, ahem.

Richard Furness’s Poster Books
It was very refreshing to see Richard Furness’s articles in magazines recently. His definitive and, superbly produced, series of books on railway posters will fill a huge gap in the fascinating and largely untold area of railway art and will generate outside interest in the genre outside the limited railway collector’s fraternity, see Attempting to inspire interest in commercial art and bring this into the public arena and art world is something I have been involved in for a while in the promoting of carriage prints (and the artists involved). I am therefore very grateful for this welcome addition, Richard’s research and enthusiasm for the subject and for Val Kilvington’s excellent work on the poster database.

Travelling Art Gallery & Photograph Carriage Panels
As many will be aware, I have spent the last few years archiving and scanning the Photographic Panels the railway companies have displayed in their carriages and which now form a large part of my collection. This huge task, which involved digitally repairing many poor and damaged examples, has taken far more time and expense than envisaged and is one which will never be completed, given the numbers produced and the complete lack of previous records and information! However, at least I have made a start, am really pleased with the results, and am now able to display online on the hugely improved and expanded website, over 1,000 new images, all digitally repaired and enhanced to view. This will be a huge resource to both railway enthusiasts and preservation groups and a fascinating photographic library of images of Britain from 1895 until the advent of British Rail in 1948. Many of these photographic images were peculiar to the railways themselves and are therefore unpublished elsewhere. They are all easily sorted into company, county or maps on the database driven website. I shall endeavour to focus on certain aspects of these panels over the coming months. Also added to the website are the 2 series containing the 72 ‘Historical’ prints issued by the London Midland Region of BR in the 1950s. Leaflets with full listings of almost all the carriage panels are available from myself either at our Sheffield Railwayana Auctions or Great Central Railwayana stalls or, alternatively, please send a large s.a.e. and I will post to you by return.

Morphets Auction & Original Artwork
Another addition to the TAG website is a growing number of original artwork items by railway-related artists for sale, including original paintings for LMS and BR posters by Norman Wilkinson, Kerry Lee, Kenneth Steel and many others. These have been in private collections for many years. The Morphet’s sale of Malcom Guest’s collection of posters and artwork at Harrogate recently caused a national stir, appearing in daily newspapers and on the main BBC website page! Commercial art is, belatedly, starting to get the respect it deserves from the art world, after many years of, frankly, a snobbish attitude, from those who viewed it as an occupation artists had to sink low to be involved in, if they didn’t make enough money through selling their own work. I confess I spent far more than originally intended on artwork at the Morphet’s sale. I knew Malcolm and he had contacted me just before passing away and I was aware of certain aspects of his collection, particularly posters and carriage print artwork, but not of the quantity of Western publicity artwork he had amassed! Shortly afterwards, I was invited to BADA (British Antique Dealers Association) at Sloane Square and noticed the embryonic but growing trend of interest in commercial art. One particular painting caught my eye on a stand, which I recognised from the Morphet’s sale – A Donald Blake gouache for WR poster of Malvern, which I had bid on and failed at around the £400 mark (if I remember rightly). It had been framed and was on sale at £3,500! Also on the stand were several Michael Reilly GWR menu artworks purchased for £33 each +BP, framed and on sale on the stand at £450 each! Mind you, these were probably the cheapest items on display – the art world is certainly a different world to the railwayana one.

Morphets Auction & GWR Panels

One saving grace about the Morphet’s sale for me, after having almost emptied my bank account, was one lot, advertised as an album of photos “Views on the Great Western Railway” in three books. I recognised them as early GWR black & white photo carriage panels. It was the Swindon file copy of all the photos – issued between 1898 and 1913 – over 550, all dated and catalogued with titles. I was willing to pay a goodly sum for this one-off chance and couldn’t believe it when the hammer went down to me at £75. Who says God doesn’t exist.

Carriage Print Rarity
Several collectors have asked me over the years “why is the LMR Historical series (produced in 1955) so scarce?” Considering their relatively recent issue, they rarely come up in auction. Several years ago, someone came up to me at Quorn and told me he had heard that there had been a fire in a store, which had destroyed many of this series, but I only had it confirmed recently. The Euston stores at Euston House caught fire not long after the prints were issued, when John Edgington was the PR&PO boss [does any reader know more?]. Only several sets in the H.Q. and a small number that had just been installed in carriage survived. All the original artwork for the prints survives and is owned by private collectors.

With regards to other series: the railwayana auction market is being flooded with Post-war LNER series and Scottish Region series prints at present. Many seem to be coming out of the woodwork, causing prices to fall. A good opportunity at the moment to buy therefore, especially scarcer prints from other series.

Scottish Maritime Museum

I had an invite in May to the SMM to attend a presentation of original artwork by Alasdair Macfarlane depicting the Kyles of Bute. By sheer chance I happened to be in Northumberland that day visiting Robert Forsythe (of BR publicity fame). He kindly offered to drive us to Irvine and told us he had been the curator there years beforehand! The museum is going to open a new gallery in June. The painting had been donated by the Railway Heritage Committee, an important body trusted with the disposal of redundant assets on the railways (apart from infrastructure). It was fascinating hearing from their Secretary, Neil Butters, about their endeavours to place relics with the right people (rarely private collectors, not surprisingly!). Many thanks to John Yellowlees, the External Relations Manager at Scotrail, in helping arrange things. He is a great supporter of railway art north of the border.

Carriage Print Scenes – Then & Now

As chances permit, I continue slowly to photograph the carriage print scenes today. A recent visit to Claude Buckle’s relatives saw us come back through the Yorkshire Dales. I had already photographed ” Low Force ” near Middleton-in Teesdale a few years back with Alan Bowman. This is incorrectly shown as “High Force” on the title of the carriage print (for those of you who are fortunate enough to have this very rare print!) so we skipped this site. Incidentally, during the last visit there, I walked back to the road, high above the riverbank, and was struck how similar it appeared to the large watercolour of an unidentified location hanging in my office, by Ernest Haslehust – famous for his illustrations in the Blackies “Beautiful Britain” series of books. I had purchased it from a local provincial auction sale in Dorking for a bargain sum years before. I took a photo of the view and compared it to the painting when I got home. Sure enough, the landscape view was undoubtedly the same! I then remembered that Haslehust had been commissioned for several artworks of Teesdale by the LNER, and began to go through my poster images on the computer. After a while I came across the same view for the poster and, examining it more closely, realised that the original LNER artwork had been hanging behind me in recent years without me knowing!

Next stop was Appleby – a most pleasant town and easy to photograph. The local tourist information centre appears in the carriage print on the left hand side and the staff there were genuinely interested in the image. After that came Ribblehead Viaduct which involved a long drive down a potholed track (which didn’t do the underneath of the car much good!). Leaving the car under the viaduct, the next obstacle was a trek towards the farm and the climbing of a barbed wire stone wall. The infamous ‘bog’ now became apparent and some time was spent leaping over waterlogged ground and working my way round the mire. The weather was great and I finally got to Kenneth Steel’s vantage point in time for a 158 DMU to traverse the viaduct. Ingleton was the final stop – to photo the village and it was obvious Frank Sherwin must have been on the middle of the railway viaduct to get his view. Metal gates barred my way, so this photograph was definitely a no-go. If any readers know how I can get permission to go on to the disused viaduct at Ingleton, then do let me know. Frank Sherwin managed to access it to paint the scene, but that was when it was open!

Greg Norden

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