The Lady – out of racy Vie Parisienne

May 7, 2015
Retro artwork for The Lady magazine from 27 March 2015

Retro artwork for The Lady magazine from 27 March 2015

The Lady promotes itself as ‘England’s longest running weekly magazine for women’, having been in continuous publication since 1885 (DC Thomson’s People’s Friend out of Dundee holds the British record, dating from 1869 – in fact, it lays claim to being oldest women’s weekly magazine in the world). Furthermore, The Lady tells me, the magazine is ‘celebrated both for the quality of its editorial pages and its classified advertisements’ (it has long had the reputation as being the place to go to find a nanny). The Lady is ‘for elegant women with elegant minds’.

I was reading the issue above as I sat in the dentist this morning (no more Punch or Reader’s Digest). I was struck by the cover. Clearly, an illustration that has been lifted from a magazine dating from a century ago, when women had the time to line the walls of their houses with bowers of flowers, or at least inspired by one.

Then, blow me down, this afternoon I come across the original manifestation, for the racy French weekly Vie Parisienne. It’s been flipped, put through Photoshop with the colours hardened up and the artist’s monogram (GL – Georges Léonnec) removed, but it’s the same cover nevertheless. The cover line has also gone, Renouveau – renewal, in keeping with the Spring theme.

Racy French weekly Vie Parisienne from 1926

Racy French weekly Vie Parisienne from April 1926

The issue dates from 1926, the days of Art Deco and Jazz. This was very much the heyday of Vie Parisienne, which was famed for its artistic pin-ups. It was founded in 1863, before even People’s Friend, but closed in about 1970. Although there is still a French title of that name, it’s now pornographic and bears no relation to the original. And, just as Le Charivari had inspired Punch, so Vie Parisienne inspired London Life.

There’s a long history of magazines using each others’ cover ideas, though what the stately readers of The Lady in 1926 would have thought of these men’s magazines does not bear thinking about.





A typeface for the Magna Carta

May 7, 2015
Detail from the Magna Carta embroidery at the British Library by Cornelia Parker

Detail from the Magna Carta embroidery at the British Library by Cornelia Parker

The British Library is running events to celebrate 800 years of is one of the most famous documents in the world, the Magna Carta. These include commissioned articles by experts, videos and animations, teaching resources for schools – and this embroidery by Cornelia Parker at the library’s main site between London’s Euston and King’s Cross stations.

Front page from Votes for Women, the newspaper of the Women’s Social and Political Union, in 1911

Front page from Votes for Women, the newspaper of the Women’s Social and Political Union, in 1911

One of the exhibits is this front page from Votes for Women, the newspaper of the Women’s Social and Political Union, which wasted by Emmeline Pankhurst, in 1911. The WSPU was one of the main campaign groups for women’s suffrage. The BL website explains:

By claiming Magna Carta to be the product of aggression, both the artist Alfred Pearse (1855-1933; under the pseudonym ‘A Patriot’) and essayist Joseph Clayton legitimised the suffragettes’ use of direct action. The front page image of King John was pasted into this scrapbook owned by the suffragette, Maud Arncliffe Sennett (1862-1936). 11 months later, Sennett herself was prosecuted for breaking the windows of the offices of the Daily Mail, because the newspaper had failed to report the holding of a WSPU rally.

The suffrage movement pulled in its horns for the most part four years later and women played a vital role in the Great War, both on the Western Front – in some cases deceiving the authorities so they could tend the wounded close to the font lines – and at home, whether in munitions factories, on the land or as bus conductors. Pankhurst’s determination was noted in a 1915 postcard. It showed an officer telling Lord Kitchener, the secretary for war:

‘My Lord, it is reported that the Germans are going to disembark at Dover!’
Kitchener replies:
‘Very Well! Phone Mrs Pankhurst to go there with some suffragettes, and that will do!’

Afterwards, some women were granted the vote. It took another 10 years for all women to get the vote, however.

Women at War – as portrayed in magazines of the day

Wartime trench essentials reach into women’s fashions

May 1, 2015
Advert for ladies' wear in the form of a rubber, trench-style Mackintosh and 'reducing' underwear at John Noble in Manchester from New Illustrated magazine

Advert for ladies’ wear in the form of a rubber, trench-style Mackintosh and ‘reducing’ corset at John Noble in Manchester from New Illustrated magazine

This semi-display advert from New Illustrated magazine in 1919 shows two fashions for women from John Noble, garment manufacturers, in Manchester. At the top is the ‘Penarth’, a black rubber Mackintosh coat in the ‘popular Trench style’, showing how military influence reached from the trenches of the First World War even into women’s fashions.

In contrast to this practical wartime rubber coat – or perhaps not once you read the details – is the lacey-looking woman’s corset. The lower image of the ‘JN Reducing’ shows a corset made of coutille, a close-woven canvas that was used for mattresses and pillows, and for making stays. Added to the garment is a low-slung belt to give ‘ample support’. In addition, the corset boasts a ’13-inch, wedge-shaped double busk’, this being a strip of rigid material, such as wood, whalebone or steel, passed down the front of the corset to stiffen and support it. All that – and four suspenders – for 12/6 (12 shillings and 6 pence – 62.5p in modern coinage).

Cleopatra’s Needle – and a landmark in magazines

May 1, 2015
New Illustrated magazine cover from 1919 showing Cleopatra's Needle by Francisco Sancha

New Illustrated magazine cover from 1919 showing Cleopatra’s Needle by Francisco Sancha

Although New Illustrated magazine makes little mention of the subject of this cover painting, describing it simply as a ‘vivid impression of the Thames Embankment at nightfall’ it was about to become a topical choice. At the focus of the cover is Cleopatra’s Needle, the ancient Egyptian monument that had been brought to England and erected in 1878. This had been damaged in the first German night-time bombing raid of the First World War. On 5 September 1917, the raiders had also wrecked a passing tramcar, killing three passengers. The painting looks to be a direct reference to that incident.

In 1919, the London County Council was debating whether to repair the damage from the air raid. Three weeks after this issue of New Illustrated appeared, the council announced in The Times in an article titled ‘Lest We Forget’, that it would leave the damage in place and instead mount a plaque on the plinth (May 12, 1919).

The obelisk had been presented to the British by the viceroy of Egypt in 1819 to commemorate the victories of Lord Nelson and Sir Ralph Abercromby over Napoleon’s fleets. However, the government balked at the cost of bringing the 68-feet-high (20.9m) obelisk to Britain. The Imperial War Museum describes the £15,000 transportation costs in a specially-built ship from Alexandria to London, as being paid for by Sir WJ Erasmus Wilson.

This is a fine illustration in a distinctive modern style, and though it is not signed by the artist, he is identified inside as F. Sancha, a Spaniard who had been living in London for about six years and had recently joined the art staff of the New Illustrated. The cover design is a clear split from the art nouveau style that would have been familiar to readers of the many other Amalgamated Press magazines over the previous three decades. Francisco Sancha was a new name to me, but he drew for French magazines such as Le Rire and L’Assiette au Beurre and was the subject of an article by Herbert Furst, author of The Modern Woodcut (1921), in The Studio in 1922. ‘A Spanish Painter in London’ was illustrated by six of Sancha’s paintings and the full text is given at the end of this post. During the first world war, he drew a series of propaganda postcards, “Aesop’s Fables Up To Date”, with German leaders replacing fable characters. He also worked on other propaganda works.

One of the Malaga-born artist’s commissions in 1920 was to decorate the reception rooms at the Centro Español in London’s Cavendish Square. This must have been a grand building, and hosted a banquet for the Prince of Wales in 1930. The Spanish Centre fell on hard times, however, having to be ‘rescued from financial difficulties’ in 1986 by the Spanish Chamber of Commerce.

The cover tells another story. For it was the first published using the photogravure printing process, which produces a much finer image than letterpress halftones. In an editorial item ‘How do you like our new cover?’, editor John Alexander Hammerton, one of the most prolific journalists of the era, writes:

I hope my old readers will like the new appearance of their favourite pictorial … That it costs vastly more must be obvious. But all good things are expensive, and in printing there is nothing quite so costly as the photogravure process which the New Illustrated is introducing for the first time to popular British journalism. Readers cannot complain, however, as no part of the extra expense is being passed on to them. But do not, good friends, ask me whether you ought to bind these wrappers in your volume!

The final sentence is a reference to the fact that the magazine was designed in two sections, so the middle 20 pages (numbered in this issue 153-172) could be lifted out and bound into book-like volumes. In the process, the surrounding editorial and advertising pages – and the covers – would be discarded.

Photogravure would be developed in the 1920s and become the foundation for Britain’s photograph-driven weeklies such as Picture Post and Illustrated in the 1930s.

‘A Spanish Painter in London’ by Herbert Furst, The Studio, vol 84, July-December, pp146-151. The six illustrations were: ‘The Wood’, ‘The Boat-House’ (watercolour), Decorations for the Centro Español, ‘Rag and Bone Merchants’ Shanty, Madrid’. The text was taken from the Internet Archive.

To anyone anxious to make his first excursion into what is commonly called modern art, I should strongly recommend the “Sancha” route ; it will lead him comfortably into the regions he desires to explore without the jars, jolts, knocks and buffetings he must surely experience via the famous Cezanne — and the nerve-racking, or wrecking, Vorticist — Lines.

It is not quite easy to say where exactly “ancient ” art ceases and ” modern ” art begins : since the Great War there has been a good deal of frontier-shifting in the political, the scientific and the meta-physical world. One may, however, fairly safely contend that modern art begins where the artist has ceased to pretend that he is a purveyor of nature-substitutes.

At heart, of course, all artists, even the old-fashionedest, have known that they are nothing of the kind and that only the fulsome adulation of the lay mind lent colour to such pretension. The real difference between old and new in this respect is one of ethics rather than aesthetics : the modern artist is more candid. The only mistake he makes is to rub it in too fiercely

Sancha is certainly “modern,” but he does not rub it in. There is in his art no pretence of nature-substitution, but he is engagingly and insinuatingly polite in his candour. You look, for example, at his water-colour, The Boathouse, and think how natural it all is. You have experienced the oily ripple of quiet waters and the weeping of willows ; you have been struck many a time with the pleasant contrast of a red creeper-hung roof with just such a green setting, and just such a sky of autumnal pallor. You know it all. But it is not really like nature : it is like a picture, because it is one : i.e., a carefully thought-out arrangement of scrupulously selected lines and colours. So also with the landscape called The Wood. It is nothing like nature in looks, it is very like her in feeling. You know nature in just such a one of her sunny evening moods. Sancha has made a “record” which upon contact with the mind ” listening in” at the nerve end of your eyes evokes within you a familiar emotion.

Again, the ‘Rag and Bone Merchant’s Shanty’, Madrid, strikes you at a first glance as being photographically prosaic in its impartiality. It seems to record the brilliant sunlight and the sordid backyard aspect of modern civilisation with equal indifference. Suddenly you become aware that no camera could cope with the facts or deal with the message the picture conveys. It is a little gem of humour in a setting of naked realism, done in a penman’s rather than a brush-painter’s manner.

A visit to the Centro Español, the Spanish Club in Cavendish Square, which has been extensively decorated by Sancha, further confirms him as a draughtsman of sensibility and skill, of imagination and satire.

The dining room here is covered with a mural decoration drawn in sepia outline only, but with oil colour. It has for its subject-matter views of typical Spanish towns and scenery, Toledo, Burgos, Murcia and many others, all very skilfully done and with clever regard for essentials. I confess, however, that to me monochrome outline in mural decoration is like a drum and triangle “solo”. In the billiard and other rooms Sancha has painted decorative panels with added touches of colour which make real music of his rhythms. Here, he allows us to see him at his best. The canvases are all essentially drawings, and nearly always distinguished by a suggestion of satire or simple fun. Of these pictures, that of the Castilian donkey rider, here illustrated, gives a good idea.

Sancha was born in Malaga about forty-eight years ago. He began to earn his living, after his father’s death, at the early age of fifteen. Trained in Madrid and Paris, he drew for Paris papers such as Le Rire and L’Assiette au Beurre.

He came to London in 1901. England made him a painter; it was here that his eyes were opened to colour. “The Spanish painters,” he says, “know only tone, but nothing of colour.” One might feel inclined to dispute this perhaps, so much depends on the meaning of words.

I know not a few artists who would put Velasquez above Titian as a colourist. Sancha has become well known in this country as a caricaturist. He complains, nevertheless, that drawing for the press has handicapped him as a painter; affirms that he would have preferred architecture as a career, and rounds off this open confession with: “An artist with nothing to do would suit me wonderfully.”

Interpreted, this means that he regards all that part of his occupation which he must give to money-making as an injury to the freedom of his soul, as a despoiler of his art.

Nevertheless, he is, I think, mistaken. It is precisely the draughtsman-like quality of his painting which gives to his art a distinct and attractive individuality, and the philosophic humour of his temperament invests his pictures with a focal interest only too often lacking in modern art.

Self-referential covers at Christmas

April 20, 2015
A 1929 Tit-Bits Christmas extra issue with Santa delivering the issue on which he is depicted

A 1929 Tit-Bits Christmas extra issue with Santa delivering the very issue on which he is depicted

Two cheery Christmas covers from the 1920s and 1930s with the magazine in question being part of Santa’s Christmas Day delivery. Tit-Bits from George Newnes favours the cover referencing itself while the Amalgamated Press magazine Popular Wireless uses a different recent issue.

Christmas special issues in the form of colour supplements, issues covering two weeks or extra issues were popularised by titles such as the Illustrated London News in the Victorian era. The strategy is still followed today by magazines as varied as New Scientist, The Economist, Private Eye and Radio Times.

Popular Wireless has Santa dropping off a standard issue of the magazine from his sack while an expectant-looking boy watches from behind the door in 1933

Popular Wireless has Santa dropping off a standard issue of the magazine from his sack while an expectant-looking boy watches from the door in 1933

In computer coding circles, the act of a routine calling itself is known as ‘recursion’ and was popularised in home computing by BBC Basic in 1980. A similar ‘recursive’ illustration approach as Tit-Bits on a different title can be seen on a 1946 issue from John Bull.

The Science Museum has digitised the first issue of Popular Wireless.






What was the first teen magazine?

April 18, 2015
A colour cover for Crusoe magazine of January 1925

A colour cover for Crusoe magazine of January 1925

Received wisdom has it that teen magazines are an invention of the 1940s in the US with Seventeen (1944) or Honey in 1960 in the UK.

Of course, launching a new magazine – and, in this case, setting out to create a new sector in response to an expanding section of the population – is all about strategic thinking, editorial leadership, great presentation and marketing. You know the sort of thing:

1924 Crusoe advert

1924 Crusoe advert

A magazine for the rising generationIf you are still in your teens you will like this great new magazines, for it is published especially for you. It is unique of its kind and everything from the thrilling stories of adventure, sport and mystery to the illustrations and special section devoted to all hobbies and recreations, strikes a new note.

Yet this is not the language of 1944 or 1960. Instead, it is the copy for an advert on the inside back cover of a supplement to Tit-Bits from 1924. And the magazine being promoted is Crusoe. No doubt you’ve never heard of it. Possibly because it came out 90 years ago and did not last very long, just 12 monthly issues from June 1924 to May 1926.

At 7d (seven pennies in the days when 12 made a shilling and 20 shillings a pound) it wasn’t cheap – the weekly Tit-Bits itself cost 2d and the monthly Strand a shilling.

The publisher was the great George Newnes Ltd, which had built its fortune on creating genres, with the likes of the mass market weekly Tit-Bits (1881), the Sherlock-Holmes-led monthly Strand (1891) and country house weekly Country Life (1897).

A spread from Crusoe with an illustration by Glossop

A spread from Crusoe with an illustration by Glossop

Where was Black Bag when I needed saving from a Tesco bag?

April 14, 2015
The best of Viz - Black Bag

The best of Viz – Black Bag (from

I was attacked by a Tesco bag last week. It was a blustery day and the wind picked up the plastic shopping bag, spun it round like a plate on a stick in a Greek restaurant and it shot towards me. I had to duck or, I tell you, it would have taken the top of my head off!

It must have beeen the evil cousin of Black Bag – the Faithful Border Bin Liner that was a staple of Viz and took its inspiration from the Dandy‘s Black Bob. Viz has produced many great strips –  Fat Slags, Sid the Sexist, Roger Mellie the foul-mouthed Man on the Telly – but Black Bag trumps Billy the Fish as the best character. It’s the sheer surreal nature of the idea that does it for me. No wonder James Brown credits it as an inspiration for Loaded – and he later bought it.

I can even forgive Black Bag for not trying to save me – no Faithful Border Bin Liner can be everywhere.

2 Temple Place – last chance to see

April 13, 2015
Looking down into the 2 Temple Place entrance hall at an exhibit of beetles. Note the carving of one of the Three Musketeers at the foot of the staircase

Looking down at an exhibit of beetles in the marbled entrance hall at 2 Temple Place. Note the carving of one of the Three Musketeers at the foot of the staircase

‘Cotton to Gold’ at 2 Temple Place in London ends this week. It is an eclectic exhibition based on the collections of Victorian Lancashire magnates who made their money in industries such as rope, brewing and cotton machinery. The exhibits include medieval manuscripts, Turner watercolours, Tiffany glass, Japanese prints, Byzantine icons, ivory sculptures – and preserved beetles and a Peruvian mummy.

Of particular interest to me were the displays of paintings and drawings by some the leading magazine and book illustrators of the day, including Millais, Tom Browne, Harry Furniss and Garth Jones. Most of these are from the collection of 500 works made by James Hardcastle that is held at Towneley Hall. Several of these illustrators are known as black and white illustrators, but Harry Rowntree’s smoking rabbit on a bicycle is in colour and there is a superb portrait of a monocled cat by Louis Wain.
And while you’re there, take a good luck at the building itself, designed by John Loughborough Pearson and completed in 1895. It was a mansion on London’s Embankment for one of the world’s richest men, William Waldorf Astor. He owned the Pall Mall Gazette, Pall Mall Magazine and the Observer newspaper. Such is the grandure of 2 Temple Place that it was used for a Downton wedding. When you go, note the high-tech cherubs on the steps at the entrance – one is using a telephone and the other a telegraph machine, both of which Astor had installed in the house!
Nearby on the Embankment is the monument to the pioneering journalist and Pall Mall Gazette editor WT Stead, who died on the Titanic. There is an identical monument in New York’s Central Park.
On Sunday (19th), the works return to their homes: Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, Haworth Art Gallery (Accrington) and Towneley Hall (Burnley).

Downton in search of the ultimate romantic kiss

April 11, 2015
Portraying the romantic kiss: a Laurence Olivier

Portraying the romantic kiss: a Laurence Olivier lookalike on the cover of Woman’s Own magazine in 1938

Mills & Boon has long been a book publishing brand synonymous with romantic fiction. While the men turned to war and adventure, it was in the hospital or among the country’s squiredom that many women readers sought their romantic escapes. And the same writers who produced the books also provided staple fare for the women’s magazines.

As an earlier post noted, though, illustrating the bliss of the kiss is tricky. Here is one attempt by Woman’s Own in 1938. The woman is all expectation as the man – a near likeness for Laurence Olivier, the great prewar heartthrob – approaches.

Downton's star-crossed lovebirds: Lady Mary in the arms of her cousin Matthew Crawley on the cover of ES Magazine in 2011

Downton’s star-crossed lovebirds: Lady Mary in the arms of her cousin Matthew Crawley on the cover of ES Magazine in 2011

After the war, photography took over, culminating in this ES Magazine cover promoting  ITV’s great Sunday evening attraction, Downton, in 2011. It’s a near copy of the Woman’s Own posing, though more artificial in the positioning of the characters for the camera.

The on-off love affair of the series was between Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and her cousin, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) and takes place after the Titanic goes down and into the 1920s. At first, she resents being passed over as inheritor of the family estate simply because she is a woman in favour of Matthew, a mere doctor. But she is soon smitten. Ultimately, they marry, have a child, but, of course, their love is doomed. Dramatic stuff, which this cover sets out to portray.

She is portrayed for the London Evening Standard‘s weekly supplement here as a cold, alabaster statue, more vampire than hot-blooded woman. The photograph is by Nicole Nodland, who has the sequence of Downton images for the magazine on her website.




Wwome’s magazines – and tthe book publishers such as

Arnold Bennett’s Savoy omlette and Paltrow’s goop

April 11, 2015
Gwyneth Paltrow is digitally gooped for the Sunday Times Magazine (22 February 2015)

Gwyneth Paltrow is digitally gooped for the Sunday Times Magazine (22 February 2015)

I mentioned the Woman magazine editor and West Midlands writer Arnold Bennett a while back with links to recipe’s for the Savoy hotel omlette named after him in the 1920s. The dish has cropped up again recently in the Sunday Times Magazine, which reproduces the recipe with some tips from today’s head cook at the hotel, Andy Cook. On the cover is actress Gwyneth Paltrow being ‘gooped’ in green goo, a cover that was a digital merging of the goop and a Paltrow file photograph. The cover reminds me of a Stylist from 2011.

TV chef Nigella Lawson has salted caramel poured over her head for a December 2011 Stylist cover

TV chef Nigella Lawson has salted caramel poured over her head for a December 2011 Stylist cover

Gwyneth Paltrow being 'gooped' for a photo shoot in today's Sunday Times Magazine

Gwyneth Paltrow being ‘gooped’ for a photo shoot inside the Sunday Times Magazine


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