Great Bardfield and the Beeb

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Before television, the radio was the main media for the nation. The British Broadcasting Corporation was free from advertising and their early aims were to ‘educate, inform and entertain’. It was the education element that lead to leaflets being produced as a visual aid to the radio. The public could send a stamped-addressed envelope off and receive guide to the content in the radio show, from photographs of master paintings as part of a series of lectures on art to song sheets.

All of the artists from the Great Bardfield group would at one time or another work as commercial artists, many illustrating books. Here is a selection of works made for the BBC.

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 Eric Ravilious – BBC Talks Pamphlet, 1934

Published in 1934 this booklet was to follow six lectures on art, there are seven pages of text and 30 pages of black and white illustrations. The cover design is a wood engraving by Eric Ravilious showing a Bewick style wood-engraving, an artists pallet and oil paints and some beautiful graphic devices hand carved around the vignette. This booklet could be bought as a softback at seven pence or a hardback at one shilling. 

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 Edward Bawden – Dust Jacket for the BBC Year Book 1947

This cover by Edward Bawden shows Broadcasting House and All Souls Church with musical faeries flying around. The BBC Year book started as an annual review beginning 1928. In the mid 50′s it became the BBC Handbook and in the 80s merged into an Annual Report. The focus of the publication would range from statistics of people with Radio Licences, to essays on Opera, Art and even Foley House, the building that Broadcasting House replaced. But this gives me a wonderful excuse to share a picture of this magnificent building so you can compare it to Bawden’s drawing.

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 BBC Broadcasting House, London, 1932.

Many of the other works in the rest of this article are simple two colour illustrations made for various children’s educational radio programs. The way each of the artists went about solving this problem is interesting but mostly it is based on technique and time. Inside the covers is usually sheet music, lyrics and an illustration for most of the songs.

Many of Shelia Robinson’s illustrations are black and white pen drawings or her cardboard-prints, but rarely is there much colour and when there is it looks to be the printer flooding the image around her illustration with it. It’s a shame because her art prints are extraordinarily competent. 

Bernard Cheese’s works have a more interesting use of colour and layering for those interested in printmaking and use of one colour with black, as is the work of Walter Hoyle.

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 Shelia Robinson – Sing Together – Rhythm & Melody, 1955

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  Walter Hoyle – Rhythm and Melody, 1961

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  Walter Hoyle – Illustration from Rhythm and Melody, 1961

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 Shelia Robinson – Singing Together, 1961

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 Shelia Robinson – Rhythm and Melody – Summer, 1963

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 Bernard Cheese – Time and Tune, 1963

In a break from BBC radio pamphlets comes the BBC Book of the Countryside. A hardback book with a compilation of the BBC Countryside programs set out in a month by month calendar. For fans of Great Bardfield and East Anglian art,  one gets work by both Walter Hoyle and Shelia Robinson, but also six illustrations by John Nash. The drawings from the book by Walter Hoyle I am delighted to own as part of my collection.

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 Cover to the BBC Book of the Countryside, 1963

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 Walter Hoyle – Page from the Book of the Countryside to the left and the drawing to the right, 1963.

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 Shelia Robinson – January, 1963, illustration from BBC Book of the Countryside

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 Walter Hoyle – April, 1963, illustration from BBC Book of the Countryside

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 Bernard Cheese – Singing Together, 1964

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 Bernard Cheese – Singing Together, 1968

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 Bernard Cheese – Illustration from Singing Together, 1968

To see more illustrations from the Bernard Cheese Singing Together 1968 book, click here as I dedicated a full post to them

Great Bardfield at the GPO

This post covers a range of designs for the General Post Office by the artists of Great Bardfield, I think the post also shows the troubles of being a designer and how often artists were asked to submit designs and have them rejected.

We start with Shelia Robinson, who was the wife of Bernard Cheese and mother of artist Chloe Cheese. Like many of the Great Bardfield artists, Robinson was a print-maker but unlike  most print-makers she used cardboard as a medium giving her prints a unique subtle quality. Her first commission for the Post Office would be to design one of two stamps for the 900th Anniversary of Westminster Abbey in 1966.

Miss Sheila Robinson, an art teacher at the Royal College of Art, designed the 3p stamp (No. 452). This was her first attempt at stamp designing and her full name appears as imprint on the stamps. The 3p stamps, printed by Harrison and Sons.

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 Sheila Robinson – 900th Anniversary of Westminster Abbey Stamp, 1966.

Her next commission would be four years later as part of the British Rural Architecture set of four stamps, Robinson designed two stamps, the other two being designed by David Gentleman. Released on 11th February 1970, they were in circulation for one year. The final designs were Welsh Stucco and Ulster Thatch.

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 Sheila Robinson – Welsh Stucco Stamp, 1970

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 Sheila Robinson – Ulster Thatch, 1970

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Above: Part of the information packet to the stamps
Below: are two other stamp designs and one prototype design.

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 Sheila Robinson – Stamp Design Study – Welsh Stucco Stamp, 1970

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 Sheila Robinson – Unused Stamp Design Study, 1970

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 Sheila Robinson – Unused Stamp Design Study, 1970

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Sheila Robinson – Abingdon (Linocut published by The Post Office), 1965 

George Chapman had designed posters for Shell and the GPO. After he moved from Great Bardfield he moved to Wales, painting pictures in limited palates of colour, this is a grim looking image with the setting sun.

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 George Chapman – GPO Poster: This is Aberayron Cardiganshire, 1962

Denise Hoyle is the wife of Walter Hoyle and designed some simple posters for the Post Office savings bank, with the artwork being made from collages.

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 Denise Hoyle – Post Office Savings Bank, 

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 Denise Hoyle – Post Office Savings Bank

Walter Hoyle’s poster designs for the Savings Bank are also curiously off, depicting daily life but in an unfashionable way. Harlow looks wretched with a Golly in the corner and Morris Dancing is hardly popular. The Pennan, Aberdeenshire poster has a beautiful painting with it but feels very lonely.

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 Walter Hoyle – Harlow, New Town, Post Office Savings Bank, 

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 Walter Hoyle – Morris Dancers, Dunmow, Thaxted.

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 Walter Hoyle – Post Office Savings Bank – Four Nations.

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 Walter Hoyle – Post Office Pennan, Aberdeenshire, GPO Poster, 1954

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 Walter Hoyle – Artwork for Post Office Pennan, Aberdeenshire, 1954 

Eric Ravilious only work for the Post Office was a invitation to design a stamp to commemorate 100 years since the introduction of the Penny Black, the first adhesive stamp. Sadly this was not commissioned.

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 Eric Ravilious – Design for Stamp, 1940

Edward Bawden’s work for the GPO included work that was and wasn’t commissioned. The Post Office Tube Railway was used as a poster with Printed text blow on another sheet.

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 Edward Bawden – Post Office Tube Railway, 1935

The poster Bawden designed for London Transport to advertise Kew Gardens would be turned into stamps later along with other artists. The full image is on the poster but on the stamp they have cropped it.

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 Edward Bawden – Kew Gardens Poster for London Underground, 1936

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 Edward Bawden – Kew Gardens Stamp, 1993 

Below is a telegram design by Bawden that was not used by the GPO.

In the archives are lists showing that many well-known artists had not only been considered but had actually been invited to proffer designs. That so many of these invitees did not result in published telegrams may have been a combination of reluctance on the side of the artist and under-confidence or economy on the side of the Post Office.

A list, … included McKnight Kauffer, Graham Sutherland, Edward Bawden, Gwen Raverat and Fougasse. And a further list some two years later, in 1937, apparently emanating from Beddington, included Robin Darwin, Claude Flight, Blair Hughes-Stanton, Cedric Morris, John Nash and Clare Leighton. Many of these were subsequently formally invited to submit roughs. †

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 Edward Bawden – Telegram Design, 1935

Ruth Artmonsky – Bringer of Good Tidings. Greetings Telegrams, 2009 – p22