Designs from the heyday of British commercial art: The Hupton Collection

This autumn the HAT team were delighted to receive a donation of striking interwar posters with a local connection. Albert Edward, son of Albert and Olive Hupton, was born at Brooke near Norwich in June 1909 and studied at the renowned Norwich School of Art in about 1930. He was always known as Edward to distinguish him from his father. Edward Hupton became firm friends with fellow student Edward Seago, later a well-known painter in the Post-Impressionist style, who introduced him to a number of contemporary artists at his home in Brooke including the legendary Augustus John who donated some picture frames to Edward (Hupton).


Albert Edward Hupton, 1931

By the early 1930s Edward was assisting his father in the latter’s role as estate manager for Brooke Hall in order to supplement his meagre income as an artist. However despite various commercial art commissions during this period he found he was unfortunately not able to make a satisfactory living and by 1935 had made the difficult decision to retrain in a new profession as a chiropodist and worked as one in Norwich and the surrounding area and later as a partner in Taylors Health Foods with his brother Donald until his retirement in 1966. He never painted again, although he maintained a keen interest in art and East Anglian artists and kept in touch with his old friend Edward Seago.

Edward Hupton lived to the grand old age of 88 and died on New Year’s Day 1998. He is buried at St Peter’s Church, Brooke just a short distance from the house where he had his art studio in the 1930s.

The late David Bernstein (a former HAT Trustee) noted in his introduction to ‘The Shell Poster Book’ the 1930s saw forward-thinking companies increasingly commissioning serious artists to convey advertising messages on walls, hoardings and vehicles, media which were henceforth referred to as the ‘art gallery of the street’. The five modernist poster designs in the collection from this period feature Pratts motoring spirit (Ethyl & High Test), The Tower of London by Underground (featuring a Beefeater) and Australian Apples. The latter features a striking still life design of a bowl of apples shown against the outline of the Australian map and accompanied by the famous slogan ‘British to the core’.  The Pratts’ motoring designs display elements of the Futurist style in the way, for example, the motion of the car is shown with its fashionable diagonal layout and indication of slipstream. 


A selection of the posters donated to HAT

These posters also connect to other HAT collections e.g. the Visit Britain archive which records the advertising of tourist sites, the Shell Advertising Collection and advertising agency Mather & Crowther’s commodity marketing campaigns for produce from the British Dominions in the ‘30s, including Australian apples. Some posters include their original exhibition labels and were displayed at the Advertising and Marketing Exhibition at Olympia (1933) and the Royal Society of Arts, Competition of Industrial Designs (1935). The posters have been carefully wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and stored in archive quality polyester sleeves in order to assist long-term preservation. 

The Hupton posters were accompanied by biographical notes and a photograph of the 23 year old Edward with his beloved Austin Seven ‘Chummy’, taken by the river at Gorleston, near Great Yarmouth, in the summer of 1931 (see accompanying image). This vehicle, one of the few motor cars in Brooke at the time, enabled Edward to travel around central and east Norfolk to paint scenes of Broadland and other local landscapes in addition to his commercial commissions. HAT staff are delighted that this collection from the golden era of British commercial art will now be preserved and made available to researchers.

Based on biographical notes supplied by Edward’s son Michael, the donor of the collection


December 2017

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