Before and After Great Bardfield

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Paperback, still available, selling fast. £25

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Before and After Great Bardfield: The Autobiography of Lucie Aldridge with a postscript by Robjn Cantus. The limited edition hardback is one of 50 copies that are signed and numbered with dust-jacket. The paperback is limited to 250 copies.

“It will have to wait until I’m dead or Laura will shoot me,” Lucie Aldridge wrote of her autobiography, referring to Robert Graves’s long-term mistress and muse Laura Riding. A painter and rug weaver, Lucie Aldridge settled in the Essex village of Great Bardfield in 1933 with her husband, the painter John Aldridge. Also living there at that time were Eric Ravilious and his wife Tirzah Garwood who were cohabiting with Charlotte and Edward Bawden. When Tirzah and John had an affair it tarnished the Aldridge’s marriage forever, something Garwood didn’t acknowledge in her biography Long Live Great Bardfield.

This is Lucie’s newly discovered autobiography, with a detailed biographical postscript by Robjn Cantus. The memoirs were written at the suggestion of the editor of Time magazine, T. S. Matthews. They describe her unorthodox childhood in Cambridgeshire, the involvement of her family in Women’s Suffrage, her marriage during the First World War, and her experiences at Art School in London in the 1920s. A beautiful woman, she posed for several artists. She also observed the post-War era of the Bright Young Things and the painters she knew, including Robert Bevan, Cedric Morris and Stanley Spencer. Through John Aldridge she came to know Robert Graves when he was living in Deià with Riding, and provides a fascinating account of her visits there while Graves was in self-imposed exile after writing Goodbye to All That. During these visits she also met and wrote about poets and artists such as Norman Cameron and Len Lye.

Lucie’s memoir is illustrated by Edward Bawden

After Lucie’s death in 1974 the memoir was lost, but it recently surfaced in
an American university archive. This is its first publication with Lucie’s text illustrated with linocuts by Edward Bawden. The postscript covers the other artists of Great Bardfield and their friends.

After being postponed due to the Covid pandemic the book is released on the 16th August. It has been printed in a limited edition of 50 hardback copies and 250 paperbacks.

Lucie in the Garden by John Aldridge

If you are interested in the author giving talks on the book please email.

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