Thursday, 22 December 2016

All About: Sleighs

Our final transport blog for the year is all about a Christmassy collection which includes artwork of people travelling by sleigh (despite the current lack of snow here in Newcastle). 

We're focusing on the ‘Johnstone Memorial Collection’ archive and book collection at Seven Stories. This extensive collection of publications, prints, original artwork and over 200 books by the illustrator twins Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone, was brought together by Betty and Anthony Reid, admirers and personal friends of the illustrators.  The collection includes quite a few Christmas cards and other seasonal items so it seems like an appropriate time to share them!

The twins, Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone , were born 1st June 1928 in London. They were educated at Heathfield School, Ascot, during the Second World War and then at St Martin's School of Art, London.  Working together in the early 1950's the twins became established artists and illustrators, receiving regular commissions for picture books from Award Publications and Deans. During the 1950's and 1960's the Johnstone twins also contributed work to several weekly comic publications, including 'Robin', 'Parent' and 'Seven', providing illustrations for characters such as Andy Pandy and The Flower-pot Men, which went on to be popularised on children's television. From about 1968 onward, the Johnstones were also commissioned to design greetings cards for various publishers, including most notably Royle of London and Valentines of Dundee. They produced just over 200 of these, including about 80 colour postcards.

 (left) The New Sleigh and (right) The Litte Blue Sleigh cards by the Johnstone Sisters printed by Royle Publications Ltd. (JAJ/02/05/14 and JAJ/02/05/19) Photograph © Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children's Books

While the twins generally worked on their paintings together, Janet had a preference for drawing birds and animals, particularly horses, and produced many specially commissioned animal portraits whilst Anne concentrated on figures and period costume.

Home with the Tree card by Anne Johnstone, printed by Royle Publications Ltd. (JAJ/02/10/16) Photograph © Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children's Books

Quite a few cards in this collection (including the one below) were created using the Dufex process.  Dufex printing was a process developed by F.J. Warren in the early 20th century, and involves printing images onto aluminium foil-lined paper or cardboard, using UV formulated transparent inks, which allow the reflective shine to be retained.  Engraving techniques are then used to add a range of light reflective textures to the foil. 
 'Winter Sleigh Ride' Dufex postcard by Anne Johnstone, printed by F.J. Warren Ltd.  (JAJ/02/06/20) Photograph © Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children's Books

Moving away from the sleigh cards, to provide further seasonal flavour and more context about the many books the twins produced, here are some of the ‘Christmas’ books from their collection:

(Top left) Your Pantomime Book (The Heirloom Library Ltd.,[1952])
(Top right) My Christmas book of stories and carols illustrated by Anne Grahame Johnstone (Award Publications, 1993)
(Middle) Postcard book of Christmas scenes (Grange Books in association with Royle Publications Ltd., 1992)
(Bottom left) Santa Claus is coming to town (Dean & Son Ltd.,1980)

(Bottom right) The night before Christmas (Dean & Son Ltd.,1980) Photograph © Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children's Books

And some Christmassy Pop-up books:

 More carols pop-up book with illustrations by Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone (Dean & Son Ltd., 1974) Photograph © Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children's Books

Christmas Carols pop-up book with illustrations by Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone (Dean & Son Ltd., 1972) Photograph © Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children's Books

Perhaps the most notable of the twins’ book illustrations include those they produced for Dodie Smith’s  'The Hundred and One Dalmatians' (of course another seasonal favourite) and its sequels, 'The Starlight Barking' and 'The Midnight Kittens', (all published by Heinemann, in 1956, 1967 and 1978 respectively).

The collection constitutes an unbroken sequence of the twins' work, whether as original artwork or published material, from about 1951 to 1999.  If you’d like to find out more, this collection also includes the typescript of an unpublished book 'Gems in Unfathom'd Caves'  by Betty and Anthony Reid, which gives a brief overview of their relationship with the twins and an in-depth critique of their work.  This typescript also gives a detailed history of how the collection was developed over the years, and where material came from.

Wishing all our Blog readers a very Happy Christmas from all the Seven Stories, Collection Team.  May all of you who are travelling over the festive season (though probably not by sleigh, except for Santa of course), have safe journeys!

- Paula Wride, Collections Officer