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Collecting Antiques – The Peoples Art Part 2

In part one of this series of articles we discussed the growth in the marketability of antique brand images and how the apparent extinction of the brand itself can lead to the rapid rise of the marketability of the antique value of the packaging itself.

Posters were very much in the vanguard of this market and it is quote ironic that when you look back from the experience of hindsight to see such names that have been involved in this type of commercial enterprise it would appear to be quite amusing.

The genre of Posters was effectively born and can be traced back to the late 1880’s when Pears Soap took the portrait “Bubbles” by Sir John Everett Millais, a portrait of his grandson and added a bar of soap to the image. This act of commerciality caused havoc within artistic circles of the day but in effect lead the way for art to be used in all future forms of advertising and posters especially.

Since the early days of advertising, artists have been involved in a number of different ways producing all kinds of commercial materials. The artist John Hassal is perhaps (within these circles) best recognised for his powerful images used for Colman’s Mustard, Capstan Tobacco and Lux Soap. In 1919, the artist Will Owen was retained to create the legendary Bisto Kids for the Gravy Salt Company. Esteemed artists of their day have always been commissioned to provide examples of their work for commercial endeavour, a practice that has not always been looked upon favourable though with the Publics fondness for this type of work, the practice has at last been recognised for what it actually is and that is a living embodiment of art itself.

It effectively took the endorsement and patronage of major institutions of the day to promote this as a credible form of acceptable art. Institutions such as London Underground led the way with this when they commissioned Edward McKnight Kauffer for their various campaigns and the Oil Company Shell too commissioned work by many famous contemporary British Artists on a wide variety of subjects ranging from the surreal imagery of Hans Shleger to the cartoon style of John Reynolds.

From a collectors point of view it is well worth remembering that big names tend to attract big name prices as far as their value of these as antiques and collectables are concerned.

The other and more oft hidden aspect of this as a form of art is concerned is the fact that packaging mirrors the major events of the day. Wars have often been a major source of inspiration for commercial art and patriotic branding. Starting with the depiction of many of the British Generals in the Boer Wars as heroes and their imagery being used in the packaging of the day and leading to how women have been depicted over the years has been an intriguing subject.

What will be the collectable items of the future? Perhaps from now on we will all look slightly differently on the material that we are prepared to consign to the rubbish bin and start to evaluate this as a potential investment in our future?

Who knows?

About the Author: Stephen Morgan writes regularly on antiques and is editor of , and also writes at

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