Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Down and Up

A postponed walk along the South Downs is now in the offing, and the thought put into my mind this skilful London Underground poster. Executed by Clifford and Rosemary Ellis in 1933, for me it perfectly evokes the atmosphere of downland, even though its form is very graphic. Literally a bird's eye view, I continually return to it. The Ellis's produced companion posters for 'Heath' with an owl, 'River' with a heron and 'Wood' with, yes, a green woodpecker. Part of London Transport's brief to get passengers out into the countryside, this poster is not only brilliant in its execution, but a testament to the far-sightedness of publicity manager Frank Pick in choosing such celebrated artists to give the Underground the feel of a very accessible art gallery.

25 comments:

Sue said...

I wonder if the shepherd pointing the way is the same chap from Frank Newbould's Britain - Fight for it Now Downs poster?

Peter Ashley said...

He is one and the same Sue. He lived in a corrugated mobile shepherd's hut by Firling Beacon with his dog Jess. Long were the nights that...(contnd.page 94)

Jon Dudley said...

A clever and beautiful piece of graphic art. Shame the current crop of transport companies don't or can't be bothered to commission illustrative work ... in fact virtually any advertiser come to think of it. Now when I were a lad, illustrators would come knocking with their portfolios tucked under, etc........

The South Downs...now there's a subject close to home.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Lovely. Reminds me of that line of Auden's: 'As the hawk sees it or the helmeted airman'.

Peter Ashley said...

Jon: You're lucky to be so near the Downs.

Phil: Love that Auden line. What's it from?

Philip Wilkinson said...

Peter: The Auden line is from a poem called 'Consider', which begins, 'Consider this and in our time As the hawk sees it or the helmeted airman'. Auden also said (in an essay not in this poem) that what he liked about Thomas Hardy was 'his hawk's vision, his way of looking at life from a very great height'.

Wartime Housewife said...

Wilko: Wonderful and I shall track down the Auden at once.

Peter: What a stunning poster. I, too, love the South Downs; I am quite sure that my dream house is down there waiting for me to get rich enough to buy it. I have a very happy memory of a hot summer's day around 1990, having had a picnic and a bottle of wine, lying on my back with a chum listening to the skylarks while a warm breeze ruffled the grass.

Peter Ashley said...

Philip, thankyou. I shall seek out the Auden immediately.

WH: What a lovely memory. It brings to mind one of the very memorable scenes in Powell & Pressburger's 1944 (I think) film A Canterbury Tale.

Wartime Housewife said...

It all comes back to 'A Canterbury Tale' in the end.

Vinogirl said...

I love the muted colours, except on the raptor's head.

Bucks Retronaut said...

Shades of Hilaire Belloc's The South Country :- "I will hold my house in a high wood Within a walk of the sea And the men that were boys when I was a boy Shall sit and drink with me ". One of my favourite poems celebrating the value of long term good mates and English countryside which becomes more and more important to me as I get older.
Thanks for reminding me,Peter and WTH .
Back on track.

Jon Dudley said...

Well done Bucks..."and there shall the Sussex songs be sung, and the story of Sussex told..."

Bucks Retronaut said...

Thank you Jon.
And I reckon we know who would make the best job of the singing then,eh?!

potterboy said...

I found repro's of the 4 posters on the e-bay but they were most disappointing when I got them. But the Ellis' produced the New Naturalist covers which I love. Especially the darker ones like folklore of birds - stunning.

Peter Ashley said...

Potterboy: I love those New Naturalist books too. I'd have collected them, but now they're prohibitively expensive.

potterboy said...

Well I'm lucky to have collected 81 of the 116 or so, including a fair few C&RE covers. There's a very nice book about the Art of the New Naturalists which has large format pictures of many C&RE covers and many of the Robert Gillmor covers that followed, with explanations of them all. The bit about the last C&RE cover, when Clifford died in 1985, always gets me slightly - they seemed such lovely people (I don't know that, but from their work, they must have been, surely.) Ho hum.

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