Introduction to artist Adrian Paul Allinson (1850-1959)
by Hannah Williamson.
I was really pleased when the groups working on the project chose to display the Colonial Progress Brings Home Prosperity poster set in the exhibition. It is one of the most controversial sets, and so it seemed right and more honest that the Gallery was not going to keep it behind the scenes.
But what to make of it? Well, you’ll have to visit the exhibition to see the art work created in response to the posters.
The artist who designed this poster was Adrian Paul Allinson. Adrian received his artistic training at the Slade School, sharing the school’s 1910 annual scholarship with Stanley Spencer. During World War One, Allinson spent time designing stage sets, after which, his painting became flatter and more decorative. In the 1920s he designed posters for the London Underground and British Rail, as well as for the Empire Marketing Board.
Allinson was known for his strong, sunny colours and apparently, for his precision of observation. This appraisal of his skills seems strange to us now, as we look at the alarming, threatening way that he portrayed the African people in this poster set. How can these portrayals be based on sound observation? It reminds me that although the posters themselves seem bright and fresh still, their way of looking at people is very much a product of their time – the time of Empire.”
Illustration: the first poster from the Colonial Progress set: East African Transport â€“ Old Style, gallery accession number 1935.714
Curator: Collections Access, Manchester City Galleries.
Many people who see this poster set in the exhibition want to know why the central poster proclaims the one word ‘OTTAWA’ – here’s some background:
The Empire Marketing Board’s job was persuasion. It wanted to persuade consumers that the Empire was a family that could be held together amicably by purchasing choices. It worked up to a point – but when economic crisis hit in late 1931, it was time for a policy with more teeth. Trade tariffs.
The decision to replace marketing the Empire with ‘imperial preference agreements’ was finally taken at the Imperial Economic Conference, held in Ottawa in July and August 1932.
So this poster set, commissioned by the Empire Marketing Board from artist Harold Sandys Williamson in 1932, commemorates the conference at which the decision was taken to disband their organisation. I’m sure they were well aware of the irony.
Curator: Collections Access