“This Christmas post even earlier”

Archive of Art and Design
December 10, 2018

Greeting card designs in the Archive of Art and Design

‘This Christmas post even earlier’ poster for the General Post Office, Hans Schleger, 1944. AAD/2008/11/2/47. © Estate of Hans Schleger/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Hans Schleger’s 1944 poster for The General Post Office has reminded me of my perpetual disorganisation around the holidays, particularly when it comes to sending out cards and parcels in good time. I like to compensate for the Christmas cards’ inevitable lateness by making my own. I’ve had a look through some of the archives we hold here at the Archive of Art and Design for inspiration.

German-born graphic designer Hans Schleger settled in Britain in the 1930s. During the war, he created many visually striking public information posters persuading civilians to avoid placing greater strain on limited resources by encouraging everyone to ‘Telephone less’ (AD/2008/11/2/44), and ‘post even earlier’ (above). Schleger had a hand in establishing the visual identities of a number of corporations, including Penguin, British Petroleum Ltd, London Transport and Mac Fisheries among others. Here are some Christmas cards designed by Schleger that feature Mac Fisheries’ mascot, Mac, looking rather festive.

Christmas cards for Mac Fisheries, Hans Schleger, 1954. AAD/2008/11/4/86, AAD/2008/11/4/88, AAD/2008/11/4/89. © Estate of Hans Schleger/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Artist and graphic designer Margaret Calkin James is perhaps best known for her 1920s and 1930s posters for London Transport, depicting idyllic destinations that could be reached on the underground such as Kenwood and the Chelsea Flower Show. Our holdings also include these delicately hand-painted designs for Christmas cards by James.

‘Mistletoe’, Margaret Calkin James, about 1954 AAD/2010/11/2/3/1; ‘Snowdrops’, Margaret Calkin James, about 1954 AAD/2010/11/2/3/2. © Estate of Margaret Calkin James/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Another graphic designer, as well as painter, whose archive is held at the Archive of Art and Design is Klaus Friedeberger. Having fled Germany in 1938 and reached England a year later, Friedeberger was sent to Australia as an ‘enemy alien’. He met, and was taught by, a number of influential German artists during his time in the internment camp. Settling in England in 1950, Friedeberger went on to build a career which balanced painting with work in graphic design and teaching. The playful greeting cards below seem to capture the full range of emotions over Christmas: the Santa happily splayed by a fire; a somewhat frazzled one examining a stocking (post festivities?); a phoenix rising – the hope of new beginnings in the new year!

Greeting card designs, Klaus Friedeberger, about 1950s – 1970s. AAD/2010/4/5/6. © Klaus Friedeberger/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The archive of fashion illustrator Francis Marshall consists of thousands of drawings in his characteristic hand. Active from the 1920s to the 1960s, Marshall worked as an illustrator for Vogue, the Daily Mail and Radio Times, as well as other household publications. The ‘Marshall girl’, drawings of whom he based on his wife Margaret, became a familiar figure in the pages of Vogue. We hold a selection of Christmas cards designed by Marshall to be sent to family and friends. He had a great technique for producing a large number of cards, each with a personal touch: many of the designs are multiple prints of an image drawn in black ink, then coloured in by hand. Perhaps I shall make it to the post office on time after all.

Christmas cards, Francis Marshall, about 1960-1970s. AAD/1990/2/17/36, AAD/1990/2/17/7, AAD/1990/2/17/21. © Victoria and Albert Museum

If you would like to find out more about any of the archives above or make an appointment to see items in our holdings, you will find relevant information on the Archive of Art and Design page. Access to the archives is via the Blythe House Archive & Library Study Room, which is located at Blythe House, 23 Blythe Road, London W14 0QX, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10.00 – 16.30, by appointment. The study room will be closed over the holidays from Tuesday 25 December 2018 to Tuesday 1 January 2019.

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