Monday, 15 July 2013


We tend to think of business as a force for good as a 21st century concept, with global ambitions to raise women's self-esteem, or save rain forests, or clean the world's water, while selling a few packs of this or that.

But business has a history of doing well and doing good. Just think of those 19th century philanthropist industrialists who built whole towns and villages for their workers. And in the mid 20th century, the ambitions were slightly closer to home but centred very much on culture and education. One of my prized possessions is the Shell Nature Book, which must date from the 50s, full of beautiful artwork of the flora and fauna of this sceptred isle.

Another wonderful example is the Lyons Teashop Lithographs, currently on show in Eastbourne. This was one of many mid-20th century initiatives aimed at democratising art. Interestingly enough, the need arose from a practicality: after the war, J Lyons' Teashops were looking in a rather shabby state of repair and the lithographs were actually commissioned to cover over worn decor.

The work of 40 artists was represented from 1946 to 1955, including famous names such as Edward Bawden (see The Dolls at Home, above), Edward Ardizzone (whose book illustrations I remember fondly from my childhood) and David Gentleman (who I always think of as the stamp man.)

The lithographs, with their palette of faded brick, austerity grey and Air Force blue, are a wonderful and quirky evocation of a vanished but very British way of life.

The branding was subtle, by association, but there can be no doubt that perceptions of the J Lyons brand were enriched by this initiative, even if Millward Brown weren't around to prove it with a Link Test!

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