Railway Safety Posters • Frank Newbould • British Rail • 1947

Here is the text of my NDB entry about Framk Newbould…The posters, above, are about railway platform safety.

Frank Newbould was a commercial artist and poster designer who made substantial contributions to the development of British advertising art during the 1920s and 1930s.

Newbould worked extensively for the London and North Eastern Railway and for other clients. During WW2 he was appointed a colleague of Abram Games and designed a series of evocatively nostalgic posters for the Army Bureau of Current Affairs.

Newbould died on 25th December 1951.

Early Life and Influences

Newbould was born in Bradford on the 24th September 1887. He was the only child of John Matthew West and Sarah Ellen (Robinson) Newbould. His father was a successful chemist and pharmacist in the town. Frank was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps. The direction of Frank’s career changed course with his discovery of the original, bold and exciting poster designs of the Beggarstaff Brothers at the end of the 1890s.

The Beggarstaff Brothers were the artists William Nicholson and James Pryde working in commercial partnership. They were also family, as James was the brother of William’s wife Mabel.

At the end of the 1890s, they proposed a form of radical simplification in poster design based on paper cut-outs and the stencil shapes of provincial jobbing sign-writers.

The visual simplifications evident in their poster designs provided for a dramatic and exciting contrast to the over-elaboration of the prevailing styles. The Beggarstaff designs were, however, too radical for the tastes of most commercial advertising agents and their proposals remained, for the most, unrealised. However, their designs were especially influential in Germany and Britain.

In Germany, the dramatic simplification of the Beggarstaff designs was closely followed by the emergence of the sachplakat or “object” poster during the first decade of the 20C. This provided for a simple over-sized and hand-drawn image of the product with brand name, all rendered in few colours. This type of advertising was applied to a wide variety of consumer products from shoes, to lamp bulbs, spark plugs and typewriters. The most significant artist associated with this style of poster design was Lucien Bernhard.

In Britain, the influence of the Beggarstaff Brother designs took longer to manifest itself and did so in a more complex way. The flat-colour work of poster designers at the end of the 19C (Dudley Hardy for example) was mostly influenced by the legacy of Japanese woodcut prints and a taste for sophisticated aestheticism. In relation to the pictorial poster in Britain, these influences were, peculiarly, most clearly seen in the large-format railway poster.

Frank Newbould attended Bradford School of Art before gaining employment in the offices of a local printer. In 1919 he moved to London to establish himself as a poster designer. He married (Marion) Jane, daughter of the Rev G W Thomson, on the 24th March, 1919.

London and North Eastern Railway

The Railways (Grouping) Act, 1921, provided for the consolidation of over 120 railway companies into four large geographical groups. By far the largest of these was the London Midland and Scottish Railway. The railway provided services between London and Liverpool, and up to Glasgow and beyond.

Railway grouping provided for competition between east-coast and west-coast mainlines to Scotland. The London and North Eastern Railway, serving Edinburgh, was quick to recruit a number of exceptional poster designers to promote its services.

William Teasdale was the advertising manager of the LNER. Acting on behalf of the railway company, Teasdale was an important patron during the 1920s and 1930s. Teasdale was conscious of the full the scale and scope of the railway organisation and was adept at identifying themes and images that could become identified with the service provided. The patronage of Teasdale, and his successor Cecil Dandridge was, from the start, recognised as progressive, enlightened and effective.

In 1926, Teasdale invited his five most prominent poster designers to work exclusively for the railway. In addition, Teasdale guaranteed an annual level of fee income for each of the artists. The five artists were Tom Purvis, Austin Cooper, Fred Taylor, Frank Mason and Frank Newbould. Newbould was initially contracted to produce 5 posters per year for a fee of 500GBP. This was less than the contracts given to Purvis and Taylor.

Newbould was able to work in the tradition of flat-colour simplification and to position himself somewhere between Tom Purvis and Fred Taylor. Taylor’s themes were mostly architectural, whilst Purvis produced designs that were equally decorative and dramatic.

Teasdale and Dandridge were careful to allow each of these artists to develop their own distinctive style. In general Newbould produced designs for the Yorkshire coat and its resorts. His designs were distinguished by the bold use of flat colour and for a surrealistic sense of humour.

In addition to his work for the LNER, Newbould also designed posters for London Underground and for the Ideal Home Exhibition.

Army Bureau of Current Affairs

During WW2, Newbould worked as a colleague of Abram Games. Games was the official poster designer to the war office and was responsible for the graphic communications aimed at army servicemen and women. As the war progressed, there was an ever-increasing need for effective graphic communication. Newbould was appointed to assist Games in 1942.

During 1942, Games and Newbould each produced posters for the Army Bureau of Current Affairs (ABCA) under the title of “You Britain, Fight for it Now.” ABCA had been established to provide a forum in which officers and men could discuss the political, practical and philosophical meanings of the war with a view to providing a sophisticated form of motivational focus.

Accordingly, Games chose the progressive themes of housing, health and education. Newbould worked around the themes of landscape and people as understood through place and tradition. His posters showed the South Downs, Salisbury Cathedral, village life and the fun fair.

Frank Newbould died on 25th December, 1951. His wife, Jane, pre-deceased him in 1947.


Cole B & Durack R (1992) Railway Posters 1923-1947 London, Laurence King

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