The art in advertising

Edwards' Harlene hair dressing advert 1902

Edwards’ Harlene hair dressing advert from 1902

Engraved advertising in Victorian and Edwardian magazines looks so dramatic with its hard back and white lines, particularly as the big brands employed some of the best illustrators.

This engraving is from a page advert in Alfred Harmsworth’s London, a monthly magazine, dated June 1902. The face in the unsigned illustration for Edwards’ Harlene hair dressing has the look of a painting or leaded window by the Pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne Jones. Overall, the image is influenced by the works of Alphonse Mucha and Art Nouveau, with detailed patterning for the clothes and background; everything, except, ironically, for the snaking hair itself.

The Wellcome Library has a chromolitho print of the Harlene artwork without the text from the lower part of the advert.

It was clearly a brand that took advertising very seriously with celebrity recommendations by music hall artiste Lillie Langtry and, it seems, half the royal houses in Europe. But then, Harlene was a miracle potion, promising that it:

Restores the hair,
promotes the growth,
arrests the fall,
strengthens the roots,
removes dandruff,
beautifies the hair.

London-1902-harlene-head-of-hair

Pre-Raphaelite face in the engraving

The Art of Advertising exhibition was to open at Oxford’s Bodleian library this month, but has been postponed. It tells the story of British advertising from the mid 18th century to the 1930s based on the John Johnson collection of printed ephemera.

Other places to research advertising imagery include the History of Advertising Trust, the Maurice Rickards collection and the Advertising Archives.

>>More about magazines at Magforum.com

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