5/09/07

Zeebrugge-Harwich Railway poster to go under hammer

Three vintage travel posters by a Northampton-born artist who produced the world's most valuable railway poster are expected to sell for a total of £2,000 at an auction next week. The posters are by Henry George Gawthorn who was born in Northampton in 1879. They will be sold at Christie's South Kensington in London next Thursday. Two of the posters – advertising India and the Harwich-Zeebrugge ferry – are valued at up to £700 each, while the other, promoting Middlesbrough, and produced for the London and North Eastern Railway, could sell for up to £600. The posters are not dated, but Gawthorn died in September 1941. His most famous poster – titled: St Andrews, The Home Of Royal and Ancient Golf – was also produced for the LNER in 1925, and caused a minor sensation at Christie's in London five years ago when it sold for a staggering £21,150 and set a new world record for a railway poster. Before the auction, it had been expected to sell for between £5,000 and £7,000. After leaving Northampton, Gawthorn became an architect before switching to commercial art, which may have been more lucrative. He modestly liked to include himself in some of his posters and he can sometimes be spotted wearing distinctive pince-nez and panama hat. Since they launched their annual travel poster sales eight years ago Christie's have sold five LNER posters by Gawthorn and they have never fetched less than £700 each. In 2001, his Hull poster sold for £881; in 2002, his St Andrews poster set a new world record; in 2004, his Saltburn poster fetched £717; in 2005, his poster, Over The Forth To The North, sold for £1,320; then last year his Mablethorpe poster fetched £720. In the early and middle parts of the twentieth century – when comparatively few people owned cars and when cut-price overseas holidays had not yet been introduced – railway companies commissioned artists like Gawthorn to produce eye-catching posters of seaside resorts and beauty spots in Britain.These now sought-after posters – which adorned railway station platforms and waiting rooms – usually feature clear, unpolluted azure seas; golden, litter-free beaches; cloudless, blue skies; and, sometimes, slim, elegant women with their well-behaved children.