Plenty of examples are coming up for auction at North Yorkshire saleroom Tennants on June 21. A private collection of original Illustrations for the smutty mementoes will include more than 80 artworks offered in group lots, with estimates ranging from £300-500 to £700-1000.
They are typical of the comic art harking back to the working men’s club joke and the music hall comedy turn, with stock characters such as fat ladies, small, hen-pecked husbands, courting couples, and heaving bosoms.
All the illustrations in this collection were drawn by artist Arnold Taylor for Bamforth’s - a family firm of printers established in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, in 1870, which was renowned for its artist-drawn comic postcards. By the 1960s Bamforth’s was the world’s largest publisher of the comic card, and produced more than 50,000 designs.
Taylor (b.1910), was one of the most prolific and best known of Bamforth’s team of artists. He joined the firm in 1926, and carried on until his retirement in 1987.
A Tennants spokeswoman says: “The increasingly risqué subject matter in his illustrations forms a fascinating social documentation in public tolerance for this fun but bawdy British humour. Alongside the full-colour illustrations are simpler, sketched versions of the postcards, which were sent to the Blackpool Postcard Censorship Board for approval – and from the stamps on the reverse it is clear that many were denied.”
The second part of the collection will be coming up for sale in the Autumn Stamp, Postcard & Ephemera Sale on October 18. It is being sold by the family of Arnold Taylor.
King of the seaside postcard
Donald McGill is regarded as the king of the smutty seaside postcard. He created more than 12,000 postcards from 1904 until his death in 1962.
There is a Donald McGill Museum on the Isle of Wight. According to its website, saucyseasidepostcards.com, in 1894, British publishers had been given permission by the Royal Mail to manufacture and distribute picture postcards which could be sent through the mail.
The museum says: “In the early 1930s cartoon-style saucy postcards became widespread and at the peak of their popularity the sale of saucy postcards reached a massive 16m a year. They were often tacky in nature making use of innuendo and traditionally featured stereotypical characters such as priests, large ladies and put-upon husbands in the same vein as the Carry On films.”
However, in the early 1950s the newly elected Conservative government was concerned at the apparent deterioration of morals in Britain and decided on a crackdown on these postcards. The main target on their hit list was the renowned postcard artist McGill. In the more liberal 1960s “the saucy postcard was revived and became to be considered, by some, as an art form”.
The museum adds: “The demise of the saucy postcard occurred during the 1970s and 1980s, the quality of the artwork and humour started to deteriorate with changing attitudes towards the cards content.”
Original artwork is in demand with collectors. Last December Mallams of Oxord sold a signed McGill gouache, 18.5 x 14cm, for a mid-estimate hammer price of £200. It showed a couple with the words ‘We’ve been engaged a year, don’t you think we ought to speak to the parents about getting married?’.
Reply: ‘Why, I always thought they were!!’.