Print Master

The ACC's excellent Design Series continues with its small but perfectly formed book on printmaker extraordinaire, Edward Bawden. Here co-author Brian Webb picks out some of his favourite previously unseen pieces.

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Edward Bawden (1903 – 1989) is one of the best known printmakers of the 20th century. Throughout his working life he also designed editorial and advertising illustrations, wallpapers, book covers, textiles and ceramics with the idiosyncratic eye and wit of a birdwatcher of the human race.

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Tree and Cow, wallpaper, 1927

One evening on the way back to his lodging from the Royal College of Art, Bawden bought a piece of ordinary household lino and with a penknife cut a cow and printed it. By the end of the evening he had a herd. Transferred to litho the cuts became Tree and Cow, 1927, the first of a series of wallpapers printed at Curwen Press.

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Posters for Shell

Commissioned by Jack Beddington, Shell’s advertising Manager ‘You can be sure of Shell’ was from 1932 one of the longest running advertising headlines. John Betjeman wrote the words to the series of posters including ‘Ashby-de-la-Zouch, but Shell our la route’ for bi-lingual readers whilst Bawden drew the pictures.

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Poster for Fortnum & Mason, 1957

Bawden’s clients throughout the 1930s included London transport, Imperial Airways, Twinnings Tea and Fortnum & Mason.

Before the Second World War his designs for Fortnum & Mason were commissioned through the innovative Stuarts advertising agency and in the 1950s by CPV (Colman, Prentice and Valley). The 1957 Delectable History’ was produced to celebrate Fortnum & Mason’s 250 years business.

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Poster for Hue & Cry, 1947

Bawden designed and illustrated several film posters for Ealing Studios including the classic Titfield Thunderbolt advertising. This unusual poster for Hue & Cry, 1947, starred Alastair Sim (left) and Jack Warner (right) and ‘The Blood and Thunder Boys’. Bowden said that he was given a completely free hand. “I worked completely in the dark – never saw the film being shot, never saw the finished film”.

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Cover of Shelf Appeal magazine

The cover for the monthly packaging and display magazine Shelf Appeal, January 1936 includes illustrations of pub games – dominoes, dice and playing cards, cosmetics, ‘toothpaste with a smile’ and eye makeup – cut lino and transferred to litho. The magazine commissioned adventurous covers including what the editorial described as the first ever printed aluminium cover, designed by Edward McKnight-Kauffer for an issue on metal packaging.

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Cover of Good Drinks, 1939

Bawden designed for Ambrose Heath’s Good Food cookery books, published by Fabers throughout the 1930s, have become classics as much for their illustrations as their recipes. Good Drinks was published in 1939. Bawden’s post-war book designs include covers for Saul Bellow’s The Victim, 1948, and Iris Murdoch’s The Flight from the Enchanter, 1950.

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Cover of The Victim, 1948

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Cover of The Flight from the Enchanter, 1950

Edward Bawden Design
by Brian Webb and Peyton Skipworth
Published by ACC, £14.95