The Beggarstaff Posters

Overview

The first book on James Pryde and William Nicholson, whose partnership revolutionized modern graphics.

Signing their work "J. & W. Beggarstaff," Pryde and Nicholson collaborated on brillant advertisments whose innovative style--characterized by bold silhouettes, simplified forms, and pure, flat colors--caused a sensation when the posters first appeared in London in 1894. This definitive study contains much new material as well as a ...

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Overview

The first book on James Pryde and William Nicholson, whose partnership revolutionized modern graphics.

Signing their work "J. & W. Beggarstaff," Pryde and Nicholson collaborated on brillant advertisments whose innovative style--characterized by bold silhouettes, simplified forms, and pure, flat colors--caused a sensation when the posters first appeared in London in 1894. This definitive study contains much new material as well as a catalogue raisonne of all Beggarstaff posters and designs for posters.

Other Details: 77 illustrations, 12 in full color, 30 in duotone 128 pages 8 3/4 x 8 3/4" Published 1992

that Pryde and Nicholson produced on their own account after the dissolution of the Beggarstaff partnership are outside the scope of this study, I have briefly referred to these works in the concluding section of the introductory text. As for the subject of the Beggarstaffs' influence on other poster designers, that is best left to the authors of future studies on the individual designers in question.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558595453
  • Publisher: Abbeville Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/1993
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

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Foreword

When James Pryde and William Nicholson made their debut as poster designers at the Westminster Aquarium exhibition of 1894, they did so under their chosen pseudonym of 'J. & W. Beggarstaff.' The name confused some of the reviewers (the journals of the day are scattered with references to Messrs Biggerstaff, Baggerstaff and Bickerstaff), but there was little doubt in the critics' minds about the importance of the work of this new duo. The two young artists' contributions to the exhibition were praised for both their formal beauty and their effectiveness as advertisements, and a tremendous future was predicted for them.

The enthusiastic verdict of the nineteenth century has been endorsed by that of the twentieth. Although the Beggarstaffs did not have much commercial success during their short period of collaboration, they have undoubtedly had a significant influence on the evolution of ideas about the form and function of posters. Their use of silhouettes composed of pure, flat tints, the attention they paid to their lettering and their emphasis on economy in both image and caption were a source of inspiration when the pictorial placard finally came into its own during the 1920s; and the artists are thus rightly regarded as pioneers of the modern advertisement.

How is it that two designers with such an unchallenged reputation have not hitherto been the subject of a serious study? One of the reasons is that few of the Beggarstaffs' designs were actually reproduced and used on the hoardings. If the preliminary designs for unpublished works had survived, this would of course have mattered less. Unfortunately, however, several such designs have been lost, and it is rarelypossible to reconstruct their appearance. The few designs that do survive are often in a poor state of preservation, and many of the extant works also present problems where chronology is concerned. As if this was not discouraging enough, source material is disappointingly scarce and uninformative. The artists themselves said relatively little about their work, and the difficulties of finding a language appropriate to the new art form are all too evident in the critical writings of the Beggarstaffs' contemporaries. In later years, when attention switched from the posters of Pryde and Nicholson to the two artists' paintings, writers who knew one or other of them, such as James Laver and Marguerite Steen, missed opportunities to record details of this remarkable partnership.

The principal aims of the present volume are, firstly, to catalogue and illustrate the Beggarstaff oeuvre, and secondly, to discuss--as far as the available material allows--the various technical and formal aspects, such as materials, techniques, creative procedures, formal characteristics and stylistic development. Posters, even more than paintings, cannot be considered outside the context of their time, and so I have also paid some attention to the circumstances which led to their creation, the influence on the Beggarstaffs of other artists, and the critical reactions of contemporaries. In a more general way, I have attempted to place certain products of the partnership in the framework of the social and cultural changes that created the conditions for the poster 'boom' of the 1890s.

A book which sets out to fill this gap in the history of English art must obviously pay due regard to those designs which were put to a commercial use; but I have tried not to emphasise published works at the expense of designs which, for one reason or another, never reached the hoardings. After all, creations such as the unpublished designs for Sir Henry Irving are among the finest of the Beggarstaffs' efforts; and many people would agree with McKnight Kauffer's statement that the famous Don Quixote was the 'best poster ever.' It has also seemed appropriate to extend discussion of the oeuvre to include other work in which Pryde and Nicholson collaborated between 1894 and 1899: decorative panels, book illustration and painted signboards. Although the posters that Pryde and Nicholson produced on their own account after the dissolution of the Beggarstaff partnership are outside the scope of this study, I have briefly referred to these works in the concluding section of the introductory text. As for the subject of the Beggarstaffs' influence on other poster designers, that is best left to the authors of future studies on the individual designers in question.

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Table of Contents

Foreword 8
Note on the Text and Illustrations 10
James Pryde and William Nicholson 11
The Pictorial Poster in England 15
Hamlet 17
Becket 21
The Beggarstaffs at Work 24
The Westminister Aquarium Exhibition of 1894 29
The New Art of Advertising 32
Posters on Approval 35
Unpublished Designs from 1895 42
Don Quixote 49
Harper's Magazine 54
Cinderella 59
The Westminster Aquarium Exhibition of 1896 62
Rowntree's Elect Cocoa 66
The Quiver Competition 70
Tony Drum 73
Signboards 77
Robespierre 83
Epilogue 84
Notes 94
Catalogue of the Posters and Designs for Posters by J. & W. Beggarstaff 97
A List of Collaborative Works (Other Than Posters and Designs for Posters) by J. & W. Beggarstaff 108
App.A Extract from an Autobiographical Essay by James Pryde 110
App.B William Nicholson on the Creation of the Beggarstaff Posters 112
APP.C 'Arcades Ambo. The Beggarstaff Brothers at Home' (1986) 113
APP.D 'Private Views. No. 24 - The Beggarstaff Brothers', by Ranger Gull (1897) 116
APP.E 'The Blind Beggarstaff of Bethnal Green', by Richard Morton (1899) 118
APP.F 'On the Wall: A Poster Dialogue', by Richard Norton (1900) 119
Bibliography 121
Acknowledgments 124
General Index 125
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