John Burn­ing­ham’s favourite paint­ing

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Lin­colnshire LNER–IT’S Quicker by Rail by Tom Purvis

The artist chooses an over­looked poster com­mis­sioned by the LNER that once graced sta­tions all over the coun­try

Tom Purvis said: ‘i loathe the word artist. Per­son­ally i am proud of be­ing called a Mas­ter Crafts­man.’ one can un­der­stand his in­dig­na­tion. The work of ‘fine artists’ com­mis­sioned for ad­ver­tise­ments is art-his­tor­i­cally revered, but how many art students know the graphic work of Purvis and his fel­low ‘com­mer­cial artists’? Academia and the market dis­dained com­mer­cial art, so their lives have gone largely un­recorded, their work mostly junked.

Purvis was born in Bris­tol, the son of the marine artist T. G. Purvis. Af­ter Cam­ber­well school of Art, he en­tered the advertising agency Mather and Crowther. His first poster was for De­war’s Whisky, when he was 19. He served with the Artists’ ri­fles in the First World War and also made red Cross posters. Af­ter the war, he went free­lance and, in 1923, be­gan a long as­so­ci­a­tion with the LNER (London & North East­ern rail­way), paid a re­tainer of £450 per an­num.

Be­tween 1923 and 1934, he pro­duced more than 100 LNER posters. His other ma­jor client was the gen­tle­man’s out­fit­ter Austin reed (opened in 1926). in the se­cond World War, he was an of­fi­cial war artist at­tached to the Min­istry of sup­ply. Af­ter the war, his ro­man­tic style went out of fash­ion. He turned to por­trai­ture and, be­ing a de­vout Catholic, re­li­gious pic­tures.

The in­clu­sion of wild geese, win­ter mi­grants, makes this an in­dian sum­mer day. His con­tem­po­rary Bert Thomas wrote: ‘His posters were the finest that ever ap­peared on the hoard­ings… one could take them in at a glance while pass­ing on a bus, which is the test of a good poster.’ A se­lec­tion of his LNER posters is pre­served at the rail­way Mu­seum, York.

John Burn­ing­ham is an artist, best known for his many il­lus­trated chil­dren’s books ‘I was priv­i­leged enough to do seven-plus posters for London Trans­port in the 1960s and, to some ex­tent, it still pro­vides a good op­por­tu­nity for artists with its “Art on the Un­der­ground” scheme, launched in 2000. But what a tragedy that we’re no longer able to see won­der­ful pic­tures like this one, done for the LNER, on rail­way sta­tions around the coun­try. Let’s bring it all back again. It was such a great thing for both the artists and the rail­way com­pa­nies and it gave peo­ple who might never set foot in a gallery a chance to see good art. PS: Had Tom Purvis painted in oils, he Tate’ would surely now be in the

Lin­colnshire LNER—IT’S Quicker by Rail, 1930s, by Tom Purvis (1888– 1959), 40in by 50in, Pri­vate Col­lec­tion

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