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Poster design and The Beggarstaffs
June 16, 2009 11:57 AM   Subscribe

"Pryde and I came across it one day in an old stable, on a sack of fodder. It is a good, hearty, old English name, and it appealed to us, so we adopted it immediately." That's how The Beggarstaffs, a short lived but influential paring of graphic designers, got their name.

The Beggarstaffs were William Nicholson and James Pryde, brothers-in-law who wanted to use their artist talents to get rich at commerical art to fund their private art. While their grand plans for making money didn't work out, they did create some groundbreaking images as J & W Beggarstaff, such The Beefeater, Don Quixote, Kassam Corn Flour, Rowntree's Elect Cocoa, Pantomime Poster and A Trip to Chinatown

After the duo professionally went their ways, both continued working in the arts. Nichlson returned to printmaking, creating the Nicholson Alphabet, An Almanac of 12 sports, a poster of Sarah Bernhardt and various other prints.

Pryde returned to painting and did a series of paintings known as the Human Comedy. He sometimes was an actor and set designer, including the designs for Paul Robeson's Othello run at the Savoy Theatre.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (9 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Love that stilted language in The Beefeater: HARPER'S is the largest and most popular MAGAZINE yet owing to its enormous sale and in spite of the great expense of production, the price is STILL ONE SHILLING. Compare the wordiness with the succinct directive of Louis Rhead's Read the Sun.

These are wonderful, Brandon, thanks. In the same general style and period is the poster work of Edward Penfield.

Great post.
posted by andromache at 12:27 PM on June 16, 2009


HARPER'S is the largest and most popular MAGAZINE yet owing to its enormous sale and in spite of the great expense of production, the price is STILL ONE SHILLING.

I think we're meant to feel that there's something deliberately artless and stilted in that phrasing. I think it's a kind of Victorian "All your base are belong to us."

As for the posters themselves--holy crap, they're so startlingly modern. Beautiful.
posted by yoink at 12:35 PM on June 16, 2009


Beautiful indeed. Thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 12:46 PM on June 16, 2009


Nice post! Last semester, I had a research project on artists influenced by Japanese art (and more specifically, Japanese woodblock prints.) These guys were in the right time frame, I wouldn't be surprised if Japan was a big influence. That, or other japonism artists like Toulouse-Lautrec.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:08 PM on June 16, 2009


Very cool stuff; I had never heard about this.
posted by everichon at 3:19 PM on June 16, 2009


Delicious.

There is indeed something about this paring that I find apeeling.
posted by Kinbote at 3:30 PM on June 16, 2009


Nice post; thank you!

Also related: the woodcuts of Joseph Crawhall, done in the late nineteenth century in a deliberately 'retro', faux-naive style.
posted by verstegan at 3:48 PM on June 16, 2009


I'm not an expert on the Beggarstaff brothers by any means, but that oft quoted line always seemed fishy to me: "Pryde and I came across it one day in an old stable, on a sack of fodder. It is a good, hearty, old English name, and it appealed to us, so we adopted it immediately."

Both men were noted as being highly fashionable, wearing large pointed collars on their jackets, and loving shoes. I find it hard to picture these men stomping around in a stable. They were also often accused of being "French", or too european/progressive in their designs. The name Beggarstaffs was likely their way to rebuff these accusations, and mock prevailing sensibilities simultaneously. Also, both wanted to protect their reputations as fine artists, and kept their identities hidden until they were met with some critical acclaim.

A great comparison between the Beggarstaff's and prevailing styles at the time is summarized in this period satire, which I have been unable to find online, so I'll copy it below.

Rowntree’s Elect Cocoa Man 
vs.
 A Dudley Hardy Girl

Man: Good morning, sweethart!
Girl: Morning, old sobersides.
Man: There you are, gay, frivolous, and irresponsible as usual
Girl: You talk as grimly as you look.

Girl: Papa (Hardy) always dresses us too tightly for anything; a lot of flounce and fleece of lace, but such tightness round the limbs.
Man: I can’t make any such complaint.
Girl: No, you are all collar.
Man: And cocoa, dear; put that in
Girl: And Hat.
Man: And white. There’s plenty of white about me.
Girl: Too much blank altogether
Man: Pray allow me to correct you. That is one of my greatest recommendations. The blank space is my special beauty.
posted by fontophilic at 3:54 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I find it hard to picture these men stomping around in a stable.

I considered that actually, but didn't find it hard to believe they might be in stable simply because horses were the mode of transportation.

ooh, lighting storm.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:23 PM on June 16, 2009


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