Friday, 4 December 2009

Shell Guide to the Roads of Britain, 1965

This straight stetch of the A15 in Lincolnshire sits on top of the original Roman road, Ermine Street, which linked London to York. It is one in a series of four poster advertisements that Shell produced on a roads theme, using paintings commissioned from David Gentleman(1930-). The other three are the Berkshire Ridgeway, Sewston Lane and Corrieyairack Pass.

They were used as eye catching full-colour advertisements in up-market magazines such as Country Life. They are subtle in approach, with a low key and almost subliminal message at the bottom: 'Go Well-Go Shell. The Key to the Countryside'.

This is very much in a tradition of Shell advertising going back to the 1920s in which commissioned works from known or up and coming artists were combined with catchy slogans to identify the product with the joys of exploring the countryside by motor car, and wed the company name to heritage and landscape and everything the nation held dear. The campaign took published form with the Shell County Guides series, beginning with John Betjemain's Cornwall in 1934 and running on through to the 1980s.

David Gentleman, painter of the Ermine Street image above, is one of the most successful commercial artists and illustrators of his generation with a portfolio embracing the whole spectrum from postage stamps to campaign posters and from murals to bookjackets. He married the daughter of George Ewart Evans (1909-88), the famed recorder of East Anglian oral tradition whose many works include Ask the Fellows Who Cut the Hay (1956), and has a close connection with rural Suffolk. His father, Tom Gentleman (1882-1966)was also a commercial artist and included some Shell advertising material amongst his commissions as well as an inclusion in the School Prints series (see earlier post).

Stubble burning is shown in process just off to the right of the road. This operation became steadily more controversial for the hazard it posed to buildings, flora and fauna, and road users, and was finally banned in 1993.

4 comments:

Milka said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Alisha

http://sketchingdrawing.com

Crownfolio said...

These were also produced as educational posters for schools - I'll be showing a set of the county ones on the blog tomorrow, but I also have 3 of the 4 roads ones as posters. But it's really good to see this, as it's the only thing I've ever seen written about them.

Alan Norfolk Norton said...

I think you will find that there were in total 12 of these all by David Gentleman. I was fortunate to be able to buy two of the originals at a Sotheby's auction on 4th July 2002.
I have 10 of these as ads which were in Country Life and also in the Geographical Magazine (a UK version not the US National Geographic).
The originals I have are for: *

The 10 I have copies of are:
The Great North Road
Berkshire Ridgeway and Icknield Way
Fosse Way
The Motorways
Sewstern Lane
The Bath Road*
Antrim Coast Road
Ermine Street
The Holyhead Road*
Corrieyairack Pass

I think the other two are for:
Roman Steps
The Dover Road

Alan

Alan Norfolk Norton said...

I think you will find that there were in total 12 of these all by David Gentleman. I was fortunate to be able to buy two of the originals at a Sotheby's auction on 4th July 2002.
I have 10 of these as ads which were in Country Life and also in the Geographical Magazine (a UK version not the US National Geographic).
The originals I have are for: *

The 10 I have copies of are:
The Great North Road
Berkshire Ridgeway and Icknield Way
Fosse Way
The Motorways
Sewstern Lane
The Bath Road*
Antrim Coast Road
Ermine Street
The Holyhead Road*
Corrieyairack Pass

I think the other two are for:
Roman Steps
The Dover Road

Alan