Rare poster goes under the hammer

CONTROVERSIAL: The poster by Edward Wadsworth which was withdrawn after a public outcry.
CONTROVERSIAL: The poster by Edward Wadsworth which was withdrawn after a public outcry.

A CONTROVERSIAL 1930s London Underground poster by Cleckheaton artist Edward Wadsworth is set to fetch between £3,000-£5,000 when it comes under the hammer in October.

The rare poster was produced by Wadsworth for the Lord Mayor’s Show in London in 1936 but was withdrawn after protests about its depiction of war weapons.

Auctioneers Christie’s said: “All copies were withdrawn as a result of a public outcry following a press campaign which accused London Transport of promoting militarism through its poster.

“The Daily Mirror journalist Cassandra wrote: ‘If we are to show the beauty of the engines of war to a peacefully travelling public, why not have the guts to show the effects of these instruments? Or would pictures of bullet-riddled bodies appear a trifle unseemly?’.”

The posters were withdrawn the next day.

Wadsworth’s work is among around 330 vintage London Underground posters put up for sale by the LondonTransport Museum at Christie’s South Kensington in London on October 4.

The auction coincides with the 123rd anniversary of Edward Wadsworth’s birth at Prospect Street, Cleckheaton on October 9, 1889.

At Christie’s last year a Wadsworth poster for a 1923 exhibition of graphic art was expected to fetch between £6,000-£8,000, but in the end sold for £22,500.

Wadsworth was born into a prominent Cleckheaton family, but tragically his mother, Hannah, died just nine days after he was born.

Edward’s father, worsted spinner Fred Wadsworth, was left to bring him up on his own at the family home, Highfield House in Westgate,

The Wadsworth family owned Broomfield Mills – affectionately known as Waddie’s – in Cleckheaton, but Edward never joined the family business and instead became a successful artist.

In 1936, he completed two large paintings for the smoking rooms of the ocean liner, Queen Mary, and he also designed the initial letters used by Lawrence of Arabia in his book, The Seven Pillars Of Wisdom.

He died in June 1949 at the age of 59.