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Archive for the ‘commercial artist’ Category

Unblemished Record: The Flawless Reign of Bernard Roundhill

In Air New Zealand, Alberto Vargas, Bernard Roundhill, Bixies, Blue Bonnet, Blue Bonnet Jams, board games, Bond & Bond, Butland Industries, C.L. Innes & Co. Ltd, Cadbury Fry Hudson, Cadbury's, Cereal Foods (N.Z.) Ltd, Champ pet food, Cheesecake art, Choysa Tea, commercial artist, Coulls Somerville Wilkie, Craig's canned foods, Craig's Jams, Crest Fine Foods, DB Lager, Diamond cereals, Diamond Pasta, Dolphin swinmsuits, Dominion Breweries, Duval Dimwit, Edmonds, Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd, Four Square, Four Square Supermarkets, George Petty, Goldpack dried fruits, Goldpack Products, Holdsons games, Illustrators, Innes soft drinks and cordials, Irvine & Stevenson, J.R. Butland, Jason Products, Judith Ann Field, Ken Chapman designer, Kia-Ora jams, Lincoln Games, Little Chief socks, Ltd. calendars, Mabel Rollins Harris artist, McKenzies stores, Montana Wines, New Zealand Home Journal, Norman Rockwell, O-Tis oatmeal, Oak, Peter Pan ice cream, Peter the Pilot, Pin ups, Qantas Airways, RNZAF, Robinson's, Royal New Zealand Air Force, Sanitarium Health Foods, Scientology, Skippy the dog, Speights beer, St. George, Swiss Maid dairy products, Teachatot, TEAL Airways, The Mirror magazine, Thompson & Hill, Timaru Milling Co, Tiny & Droop, Wattie's, White's Aviation, Whittome & Stevenson, Winstone Limited, Wyona canned foods, Yates seeds on December 2, 2013 at 10.46

Diamond O-Tis by Timaru Milling back of Peter The Pilot on Active Service cereal card Album 1941 Bernard Roundhill BACK EDIT copy

An advertisement for Diamond O-Tis, by Timaru Milling Co., from the back of the “Peter The Pilot on Active Service” cereal card album, issued 1941. Designed and printed at Coulls Somerville Wilkie, Dunedin. Image courtesy of Dave Homewood, from Wings Over Cambridge http://www.cambridgeairforce.org.nz/

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Bernard Roundhill was probably Aotearoa’s most successful commercial artist, and certainly the most feted, in retrospect. He has come to be known as the “King of the Airbrush.” That’s a fair moniker; he was a pioneer and pretty much master of the technique in New Zealand. He’s also been described as “the founding father of commercial art”.
This a bit cheeky as he was not – that phrase indicates he was the first and possibly also suggests he was the best. Neither of these things are particularly true. All you have to think of is Joseph Bruno Moran, for instance, and a list of others that came before him and which no doubt he was beholden to. There’s no question he was easily and heavily influenced by others and ergo, indebted to those that were successfully working previously.

Portrait of Bernie Roundhill holding a book titled Information Circular NLNZ collection Nov 1945 Ref WA-00758-G Photograph  by Whites Aviation

Portrait of Bernie Roundhill by White’s Aviation, late 1945, holding a book titled “Information Circular”, which probably has one of his cover designs. NLNZ collection, Ref WA-00758-G

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Born in 1911, Hull, Yorkshire, England to John William and Mabel nee Tate – Bernie, as he was known to most, had two older brothers Kenneth Spencer and Maurice William, one older sister Mabel who was born 1908 in New Zealand, and two younger brothers.
 

Auckland in Fifty Years 1956 Bernard Roundhill  for Winstones Te Papa collection  copy

“Auckland In The Year 2000”, artwork for Winstone’s promotional book centrefold, 1956, is Roundhill’s most famous illustration. Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Reg: CA000659/001/0001

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John William Roundhill (b.1887), having also hailed from Hull, had immigrated to New Zealand in 1903 with his brother Alfred. They both worked as labourers in the Timaru, Canterbury area. He met Mabel Tate there whom he married in March 1905. Alfred met Mary Jane Dukes and married her also in Timaru, 1905.

Dolphin swimsuits illustration by Bernard Roundhill for Whites Aviation Ltd Ref WA-03719-F Alexander Turnbull Library EDIT

Dolphin swimsuits advertisement for Whites Aviation Ltd, 1950. Image courtesy of  Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref WA-03719-F 

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At some point between 1908 and 1911 the Roundhills returned to Britain, where Bernard was born. The family left England again in 1912 – for good this time. His brother Charles came into the world just before they returned to New Zealand. Many sources repeat information from others ad hoc without checking, and quote Bernard as being three years old on arrival; this is incorrect.

Edmonds Advertising Framed palsop 1 Bernard roundhill perhaps EDIT cfurther

Double page spread advert from a 1959  Edmond’s “Sure To Rise” cookbook, which I believe was the 4th printing of the Deluxe version of the 1956 8th edition.

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They settled in Gleniti, Timaru at first, and then later in the 1910s moved to Fairlie, South Canterbury. A younger brother , George, was born in 1917. By this time a young Bernard was already obsessively drawing.
One of the stories repeated that Bernard allegedly told was of around this time, seeing the first plane in New Zealand fly over, and chasing it across the fields with 25 shillings given to him by his father to beg the pilot to take him up – thus beginning his life-long obsession with all things aviation and space orientated and the sense of freedom that entailed. How fanciful this tale may be is worth consideration given that it was not until 1920 the first flight in Aotearoa flew across Cook Strait. Only the third flight in New Zealand the following year by Bert Mercer that was in the vicinity, when he flew from Invercargill to Auckland.

Bernard Roundhill Painting of a Baby Dog & Slipper for magazine cover 1950 EDIT

Painting of “Baby, Dog & Slipper” for a magazine cover, 1950. Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Reg: CA000660/001/0003.

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Roundhill studied architectural drafting by correspondence, in the late 1920s. Bernard was also a cabinet maker and learned the trade from his father – known as a perfectionist, as was apparently his spouse. This obviously had an impact on a formative Bernard and influenced his work practice.

Innes Cordial labels by Bernard Roundhill Te Papa copy

Innes cordial labels for C.L. Innes & Co. Ltd: from left – Reg: CA000680/001/0015 produced 1956, Reg:CA000680/001/0024 produced mid-late 1950s, and Reg:CA000680/001/0023, produced mid-late 1950s. Images courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

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He then moved to Timaru around 1931 where he got his foot in the door of commercial art,  trying his hand professionally at window display material – designing signs, price tags and jewellers’ cards for various businesses. During this period of the lean depression years he also created paintings on material to earn money, daubing demons and heroes on velvet cushion covers and firescreens to earn a meagre living; all the items being dispersed by two salesman friends.

Bernard Roundhill art - OAK WATTIE'S WYONA ROBINSON'S HOLDSON ST GEORGE PETER PAN BLUE BONNET SWISS MAID WONDER SET HAIRSPRAY Te Papa Collection between 1961-1977

A selection of Roundhill Studio designs for various companies. Although this photo looks like it dates from the late 1950s, it was actually taken of contemporary products sometime between 1971-1976. Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Reg: CA000672/003/0002

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This followed a move to Dunedin where work was still thin on the ground, and at first he would accept anything going – recalling one job akin to performance art where he painted on the velvet dresses of live models behind the display glass of a store in The Octagon. This led to some textile design work creating floral patterns.

Bernard Roundhill, Fissionable material. Framed calendar print, 1950s Dunbar Sloane

“Fissionable Material”,  framed calendar print, 1950s, likely commissioned by L. R. Allen & Co., Ltd. Image courtesy of Dunbar Sloane Auctioneers.

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However it was not long before he started to become successful. By 1933 he began working as chief designer for both confectioners Cadbury Fry Hudson and publishers Coulls Somerville Wilkie in Dunedin, who shared his much-in-demand services, split morning and afternoon. It was here working for the latter he created some of his most well-known work – the “Peter the Pilot” character for Timaru Milling Co ‘s O-Tis breakfast cereal, doing a number of adverts, packaging items, album covers, trade cards, and other merchandise; records state from 1939 to 1954. Although, Peter the Pilot had already been issued as an album by 1938, and he continued to work for this company through to at least the early 1970s.

Bernard Roundill for Winstone   from Peter Alsop book sampler CROP

Original artwork for Willy, Lofty, Tiny and Droop: concreting and drain-laying, illustration for Winstone’s promotional book, 1956. Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Reg: CA000659/002/0005

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About this time, Roundhill discovered the airbrush art technique after reading articles about American and German commercial art in a magazine, and inspired by this idea he developed it for his own work, purchasing an Aerograph with a hand-pump compressor, even constructing his own equipment and customising the process in order to create the smooth, graduated and mechanical effects he wanted to achieve. By his own estimation it took around seven years of long work days to learn the craft thoroughly enough to be comparable to the commercial artists he admired – whose work filled magazines like Popular Mechanics.

CHAMP - CHAMP PET FOOD COMPANY - Skippy The Dog J R BUTLAND (dog food and cat food) 1950s EDIT copy 1

Champ dog food can label, featuring Skippy the dog, for J.R. Butland, late 1950s. Private collection 

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In 1935 he married his first wife Eileen Grace Morey in Dunedin. In 1938 they were living at 20 Cranley Street, Dunedin Central, – but then the same year they picked up and relocated with Bernard’s parents at 11 Littlebourne Crescent. Just to add to a crowded situation, Bernard’s brother Kenneth, a carpenter, was also living at the family home (his father John William was also now working as a carpenter). At this time Roundhill worked on the 1939-1940 Centennial Exhibition, as well as for Wattie’s (canned foods) and Speights (beer).

Choysa Tea for Bond & Bond 1950 Bernard Roundhill - Art New Zealand edit

Choysa Tea advertisement,  for Bond & Bond, 1950.

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This move may have had something to do with Bernard commencing military service that year – as a draftsman in the intelligence office of the 8th Brigade, mainly drawing maps. Leigh-Ellen Roundhill, Bernard’s daughter, is now an artist herself working on the Gold Coast in Australia – “Like so many other men, he did not speak of his war years. What I do know is that he was in the Air Force and did the Bombsight surveying (a device used by aircraft to accurately drop bombs, Bombsights were a feature of most aircraft from WW I onwards). Then his commanding officer would keep him back in Wellington to do map work. His work was very hush-hush and I was told he was part of the Secret Service. “

Crest - Bartlett Pears label  - Mike Davidson EDIT

Crest Bartlett pears can label, for J.R. Butland, late 1950s. Image courtesy of Mike Davidson collection

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In 1942 he moved over to the Royal New Zealand Air Force and worked for the Government architect’s office. All seriousness and secret business aside, Roundhill developed “Wing Commander Duval Dimwit” for their instruction manuals during this time to bring “a little humour into them” in the vein of the RAF’s Pilot Officer Prune – and also did brochure covers and pin-up art for aircraft noses, basically whatever was required or desired.

Innes Lemonade Bernard Roundhill 1950-1951 CROP 1

The Innes Lemonade girl. Poster artwork for C.L. Innes & Co. Ltd., 1950-1951. Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Reg: CA000672/001/0014

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It is said he moved to Auckland in 1939 although this cannot be true since his second wedding was in Otago – it wasn’t that long before the marriage with Eileen foundered and Roundhill had met someone else. I think biographers are confused in regards to Bernard’s service in which he was stationed in both Auckland and Wellington during those years, but not permanently. Eileen and Bernard begun divorce proceedings in late 1943. Still in Dunedin, he married his second wife Olive Ella Tasker, whom he had met in Wellington in 1944 whilst still with Eileen.

CREST tomato juice label copy

Crest tomato juice can label, for J.R. Butland, late 1950s. Private collection 

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In the process of research, I trawled through five hundred or more newspaper articles which ended up being mainly of various seemingly unrelated Roundhills competing in sports tournaments. There were adverts for a Miss M. Roundhill’s dress-making studio in the late 1930s-early 1940s in Lower Hutt (Alfred, Mary Jane and daughter Mary had moved there in the late 1920s). But there was hardly a thing of note – apart from his and Eileen ‘s divorce noted in an article unflatteringly entitled “Unhappy Marriages”.

design for Home Loan Poster Education 1960s Bernard Roundhill Te Papa collection crop

One of three designs commissioned by a home loan company, early 1960s. Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Reg: CA000662/002/0007

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So where was the scandal? That was it, I’m afraid – three wives and only one dissolution. The rest of the time it was clearly nose to the grindstone giving a glossy finish to plums on can labels – if any company wanted plump berries and healthful, fresh-looking vegies, or hi-tech planes and spacecraft from another world – Roundhill was the go-to guy for quite a stretch. Leigh-Ellen recalls Bernard was a very keen gardener, landscaping the family home and “grew wonderful vegetables, as well as planting many fruit trees which I used to climb”. No doubt the bounty from this was inspiration for his illustration work.

Four Square - fine things of the future - colouring book 1 brentzconz EDIT

Colouring book cover designed for Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd’s Four Square stores, 1954. Private collection.

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Roundhill does not appear in the electoral roll in Auckland until 1946, so he and Olive must have made their move in 1945. During this period came a stint at an advertising agency studio; but it wasn’t long before he set up a freelance studio in Commerce Street. The couple resided in Dedwood Terrace, Ponsonby until the late 1940s to very early 1950s – when they moved to 1 Ranier Street, Ellerslie.

Four Square advertising picture - her list says butcher baker four square Likely Bernard Roundhill EDIT further final

 “A Treat in Store”, image possibly from a calendar, designed for Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd’s Four Square stores, late 1940s-early 1950s. Private collection.

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By 1947 He was airbrushing ink and gouache with an air compressor and adding watercolour brushwork by hand on top to create illustrations with a highly finished look that nobody else was achieving. In “A Treat In Store” A girl accompanied by her spaniel and a trolley full of products (such as Bird’s Custard) in tow, is about to enter a Four Square corner store holding a shopping list. It is so obviously Roundhill work done for Foodstuffs New Zealand Ltd (Four Square and Pam’s), and is very reminiscent of his other softly-hued cheesecake work like “Fissionable Material”.

Four Square Store cover of puzzle  envelope 1950s 1949-1950 likely Bernard Roundhill EDIT

Promotional puzzle showing many of Four Square’s line of products. Dates for this item vary greatly from 1942 to 1959 – but it was actually issued in 1949-1950. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Manuscripts and Pictorial collection. Ref: Eph-F-GAMES-1950s-05-cover

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His pastel period of the late 1940s and early 1950s was all pinks, mints and aquas – and took a queue from the saccharine, romantic stylings of the very popular 1930s American calendar artist Mabel Rollins Harris’s idyllic works of children and glamour pin-ups. Even so the earlier work, such as his Peter the Pilot items, was markedly awkward and clunky in comparison to the later slick illustrations that became his trademark . Even further down the line when he’d really hit his stride, it was very hit and miss – there was often something a little wooden, and slightly distorted-looking about his renderings of people unless cropped close in a frame or off to the side to mask it. They were mostly neither graceful or believable; it was almost as if finish upstaged focus on form. Nevertheless, this work was still popular with clients – but let’s face it – still objects were his forte. Tomatoes and beans did not have to kick a ball or unfurl a sail.

Goldpack Apple Slices copy on the shelves in 1960 - Innes  Lemon Squash Cordial label mid 1950s copy

left: Innes cordial label, late 1950s, Image courtesy of Mike Davidson collection. Right: Goldpack dried apple box, late 1950s, private collection.

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From here he segued into calendar pin-up work of the early 1950s which he excelled at, probably because they were quite still and posed. Heavy influences are obvious on Roundhill’s cheesecake work from Alberto Vargas, George Petty, and the art direction of Esquire Magazine. They were created for Auckland calendar company L. R. Allen & Co Ltd. Auckland (which is still operating today), and some were used for W.D. & H.O. Wills (cigarettes).

Kauri Museum - Roundhill Peter the Pilot album 1939 -  Royal New Zealand Air Force display Rongotai Cover 1938

Right: Peter the Pilot’s “Century of Progress” album 1939. Image courtesy of The Kauri Museum collection, Matakohe. Left: Royal New Zealand Air Force, Rongotai display, souvenir booklet cover, 1938. The date begs the question as to whether Roundhill could have done this given he did not commence working with the RNZAF until the following year. Image courtesy of  Alexander Turnbull Library, who also question whether it’s authored by him. Ref: Eph-B-AIRFORCE-1938-01-front 

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Roundhill worked for many years as a freelance artist and purportedly established the Roundhill Studios, a large, stylish deco-style building – in Auckland in 1974 according to one of a few short articles that have been written over the recent years. Although the electoral rolls always give the address as Onehunga, it was actually in Ellerslie – at the same address as their home. Then another source describes his Ellerslie studio as “pre- supermarket days”- so 1950s.

Innes Tartan fruit cordials 1956 Te Papa edit

Innes Cordials packaging, for C.L. Innes & Co. Ltd., 1956. Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Reg: ACA000672/003/0007.

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There were two children of the union with Olive, previously mentioned daughter Leigh-Ellen – and also Dean Bernard Roundhill – who born in 1953. Leigh-Ellen says “It is possible the studio became registered as an Enterprise in the 1970s – but was indeed up and running by 1958. I remember a great deal of the studio as it was a big part of my life; this is where I grew up. My first recall is during the construction of the studio in 1957. It was attached to the family home in Ellerslie. Still only crawling, I climbed over all the building materials being used – only to be rescued by Bernard who was two thirds up a two storey ladder at the time.

Lincoln Electric Race Track box by Bernard Roundhill EDIT

Lincoln Electric Race Track box, 1950s-1960s, image courtesy of Clayton Blackwood collection.

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The studio was part of my play ground; and I wandered fairly freely in and out, watching my father and all the other artist staff work. I studied Bernard doing his airbrushing – no questions (to be) asked, so I was very still and silent as I observed. I learned a lot from watching them all, taking up art myself eventually. I recall him doing the beautiful fruit and flower labelling for Wattie’s and Yates, and various jam brands as well. And of course his Vargas lookalikes, which hung on the back walls of the studio.”

Little Chief Socks Bernard Roundhill 1949 Te Papa collection

Design for Little Chief Children’s Sox packaging, 1949. Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Reg: CA000662/002/0003

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As far as canned (and boxed) fruit and vegetable products, Roundhill was known to have worked on label illustrations for Wattie’s and Wyona (General Foods), Crest (Butland), OAK (Thompson and Hills), St. George (Irvine and Stevenson), and Kia-Ora (Whittome and Stevenson) amongst others from the late 1950s through to at least the early 1970s. He had a fairly distinct style and his work was much more polished than other illustrators due to his technique. He was probably responsible for the majority of these designs in the marketplace for at least a couple of decades. As well as can labels, the studio was producing designs for a wide range of products from puzzles, mobiles, and calendars to wrapping paper, chocolate boxes, magazine covers, stationery, food packaging, and board games.

Modern Aircraft Album  CEREAL FOODS (NZ) WEETIES VITA-BRITS KORNIES  RICE FLAKES1950S EDIT copy

Wonder Book of Modern Aircraft Album, issued by Cereal Foods (N.Z.) Ltd., around the mid 1940s. Private collection

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Clients of this period included Little Chief (children’s socks), Winstone’s Limited (building materials), seed packets for Yates and McKenzie’s Stores, and The Mirror magazine. He worked on Butland Industries’ Goldpack brand, as well as their fictional home economics rep Judith Ann Field, and mascot character Skippy the terrier for Champ dog food. Holdson, Lincoln, and Philmar (board games and toys), New Zealand Home Journal, Diamond cereals and pasta (Timaru Milling Company Ltd), The New Zealand Ministry of Tourism, Ballet Russe (makeup), DB Lager (Dominion Breweries Ltd), Innes (soft drinks and cordials), Bond & Bond Ltd (Choysa Tea), Dolphin (swimwear), Edmonds, and aforementioned Foodstuffs NZ Ltd brands. I am sure this is just a small sampling of companies he completed work for.
 

Oak - Orange Marmalade- Thompson and Hills - Mike Davidson - prob early 1960s prob Roundhill artwork

OAK orange marmalade can label, for Thompson & Hills Ltd., probably early 1960s. Image courtesy of Mike Davidson collection.

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Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners NZ Conference Chch Nov-Dec 1916 - Roundhill in it prob John William EDIT copy

Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners Conference, Christchurch, 1916. There is a Roundhill specified in the group, probably Bernard’s father John William – I am guessing middle of back row based on physical appearance. Image courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: PAColl-D-0423.

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However as his work progressed through the 1950s and the 1960s, the crafting of it became extraordinarily precise. The highly polished shapes and forms comprising his work were solid, smooth and soft cubist; reminiscent of Tamara de Lempicka’s celebrated Art Deco era portraits of European café society. The portfolio of images he created for Winstone, featuring the characters Willy, Lofty, Tiny & Droop are exemplary of this period.

Pin Ups - Bernard Roundhill copy

Left: “I Haven’t Got Much On Today”, 1950, Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Reg: CA000661/001/0006. Right: “Forgotten Something, Honey?” 1950-1951, Image courtesy of alisonmc on Flickr. Both likely calendar prints commissioned by L. R. Allen & Co., Ltd.

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In 1956 he designed his most famous illustration, the one that many people are familiar with – “Auckland in the Year 2000” – for Winstone’s, featuring streamlined, high tech craft whizzing between futuristic buildings of downtown Auckland, a feat of swooping late-Deco inspired line work exquisitely rendered to finished perfection with the airbrush by Roundhill. Interestingly, the illustration he is celebrated for was completely his own concept and creation, given carte blanche by the client to do whatever he liked to fill a double-page spread.

Rangitoto - Spaceport II - Auckland 2500 - The Ambassadors concepted 1960 completed early 1990s  Bernard Roundhill  Te Papa collection  copy

“The Ambassadors, Rangitoto Spaceport 11, Auckland in the Year 2500.” Begun in 1960, finished between 1990-1994. Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te
Papa Tongarewa, Reg: CA000659/001/0002

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Also the influence of his early Scientology days, shine through in his work – in particular “The Ambassadors”, featuring space craft zooming over a futuristic Auckland harbour with Rangitoto looming in the background. The intergalactic pulp science fiction concepts, masquerading as religious tenets – of fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard who founded the movement – are obvious even down to the weird logo on the ship’s sail like a mutated cross between the Thetan and Illuminati symbols. This illustration somewhat mirrors the fable that Xenu brought billions of people to Earth in spacecraft resembling futuristic airliners, and stacked them around volcanoes. Still, they are rather visionary and you can compare them with what has come to pass in contemporary times and there are some remarkable features that have fortuitously become realties.

roundhill designs for Yates Seed Packets EDIT copy

Yates seed packets from the 1960s, Image courtesy of Sarah E. Laing collection, 44 Ways of Eating an Apple blog.  

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Roundhill, described as a quiet and withdrawn persona, had embraced the wacko cult in 1953, along with his wife of the time, during a period when he was, besides running the studio, deputy mayor of Ellerslie Borough (he had spent a number of years as a council member previous to this). An acquaintance who was teaching him the art of public speaking, passed him a book on the religion. He said of himself he “learned, through Scientology, to create art that could communicate to people….(through it I) received validation and learned to do it better and better.” The last part may have some basis in truth but the former is quite debatable since Roundhill had effectively been “communicating to people” very successfully through his work for a good twenty years before the religion ever came into his life.

skippy  - judith ann - ice cream baby - sanitarium bixies copy

Clockwise from top left: Portrait of Skippy the Dog,  for J.R. Butland’s Champ pet foods, 1950s, Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Reg: CA000672/003/0008. Point-of-sale advertising material for Sanitarium’s Bixies cereal.  Portrait of  Judith Ann Field, the fictional home economics rep for J.R. Butland’s Crest Foods, 1953. Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Reg: CA000662/001/0004. Painting of baby with ice cream and dog, probably done for a magazine in the early 1950s.

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Along with gravity, communication and its language was a concept that fascinated him and he ruminated on often as he undertook his work – of which he had an extraordinary ability to focus on, to the point of being able to exclude everything else going on around him that may have been distracting. “When I’m doing artwork, there’s nothing else in existence as far as I’m concerned” he once said.

Teachatot Game by Holdsons 1960s-1970s retouched Bernard Roundhill

Holdson’s Teachatot game box for Thomas Holdsworth & Sons, issued 1961. Private collection.

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During the 1960s and 1970s, he was a very busy designer and continued to complete a huge amount of work. He may well have been the most prolific commercial artist during that time. Between commercial work that continued to flow in – he returned to his former Depression-era occupation of painting mystical and symbolic scenes on dark velvet; he had flirted with this style again in his spare time in the 1950s, making greeting cards.
His creations in this genre were fantastic, kitsch, and…pretty awful really – in fact so much so that I am not going to include a picture of one (it’s true what they say about not quitting your day job). For someone who had built a reputation for cheerful, colourful and glossy work, these tacky renderings of Kingfishers, sailing ships, woodsmen and deer were surprisingly dark and creepy. But really, when you look hard at the characters in his commercial work like his portrait of Judith Ann Field and others – there is something slightly unnerving about their glazed stares and sinister Stepfordesque perfection – like they are aliens that have been zipped into a full body disguise.

The Incredible Tale (Fisherman and Boy ) 1953 Bernard Roundhill Te Papa collection edit copy

“The Incredible Tale (Fisherman and boy)”, 1953. Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Reg:CA000661/001/0003

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The most famous design he produced from the studio in his long career, one that went around the world, over and over, was during this period – the Air New Zealand Koru which was apparently designed originally in 1965 when TEAL became Air New Zealand and looked to replace its Southern Cross logo with something new and innovative. The koru was first applied to the tail of Air New Zealand aircraft with the arrival of the DC-10 in 1973, and has remained in use ever since.
Leigh-Ellen recalls: “I was banned from the studio when they were working on this, which was created by (graphic designer) Ken Chapman. I reasoned my way around that, and I watched the development of the project which was very exciting. I saw a lot of confidential things go on during it.” Although Roundhill mostly gets complete and unquestioned credit for this design, it seems he only came up with the original concept that was repeatedly returned to the drawing board, re-designed, developed and finished by members of his staff.

In amongst this period of great success resulting in the zenith of his most famous design – was also a period of tragedy for him. In 1967 his mother and his father John William and Mabel Roundhill both died within the year (sister Mabel had passed away ten years earlier). Then in 1969 son Dean Bernard Roundhill was killed in a road accident with a motorcycle at just 16 years old.

Whittomes Kia-Ora Jam - whittome & Stevenson- Mike Davidson prob early- mid 1960s prob Roundhill artwork

Kia-Ora jam can label, for Whittome & Stevenson, probably early-mid 1960s. Image courtesy of Mike Davidson collection.

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Winstone by Bernard Roundhill from  Peter Alsop's book

Original artwork for Willy, Lofty, Tiny and Droop: Roofing Tiles, illustration for Winstone’s promotional book, 1956. Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te
Papa Tongarewa, Reg: CA000659/002/0004

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However clients kept him occupied while he delegated jobs to a staff that swelled to as many as sixteen at times. As well as most of the clients listed of the 1950s, in the 1960s-1970s Roundhill added Peter Pan (ice cream and frozen foods), Air New Zealand, Robinson’s (cordials and baby foods), Jason Products (placemats and coasters) Blue Bonnet (spreads and jams), Wonderset (hair products) Yukich’s Montana Wines, Swiss Maid (dairy), Craig’s canned foods, sauces and jams (Butland Industries) and Qantas amongst his roster during this period. Initially he had started employing others post-war period to help with the more tedious jobs like lettering, but the studio, which also had the rare distinction of being independent from an advertising agency, produced a number of respected designers like John Woodruffe and Graham Braddock. It wasn’t until the mid to late 1980s that Roundhill finally dipped his toe in the digital world of production – converting the studio which previously had run without even a photocopier.

In 1988 Bernard Roundhill was presented with the Gold Axis Award by the New Zealand Advertising Institute, for excellence in advertising communication and craft excellence. At the time it was only one of three that had been bestowed.

Yates Garden Painting Book - New Gold Dream -Bernard Roundhill  - Phillip Matthews - Listener Apr 20-26 2002

The Yates Garden Painting Book for children, issued 1953, replete with evil gnomes to give you nightmares.

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After Olive died in 1984, Roundhill married for a third and final time – to Peggy Lee (not the celebrated crooner). Peggy was a widow who had one son from her former marriage. She also claimed she was a writer and director, as well as a “highly trained” scientology counsellor. Peggy was a few years behind Bernard, having discovered the religion in 1961 through the Dianetics book which was held at Auckland University. It was after his second wife died they found had their faith in common; whether they knew each other earlier on is unknown but highly likely. They soon sold the Ellerslie property and moved to a cottage in Torbay.

Air New Zealand craft with Roundhill's Koru design All rights reserved by dbcnwa flickr edit copy

Air New Zealand craft with the Roundhill Studio’s Koru design. Image courtesy of and © dbcnwa on Flickr .

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His relationship and union happened with Peggy very quickly – who was by all accounts a very charismatic individual with “enough energy to power the national grid.” Controlling and possessive – she essentially closed Bernard off into a spiritual bubble, alienating him from his family. Leigh-Allen says “…I became estranged until two weeks before he died. I was banned from retrieving any of my, or my family’s things, from the house after (Peggy married him). Peggy told a lot of tales and I think Bernard just gave up (fighting it).” One journalist described her style as “cheerful embellishment.” Apparently in her world the truth was highly negotiable if inconvenient – see earlier story about Bernard and the aeroplane, which may have had a vague basis in legitimacy – but was pretty far-fetched by the time she had re-styled it.

So devoted were they that by 1994, the couple moved to Southern California to teach and lecture on the religion. To say that a move to the other side of the world to establish a new life in his early eighties was risk-taking is an understatement – not only was he very elderly but Bernard was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. The couple spent much of their savings trying to find a cure and when the money and will power ran out – they decided to go home.
By the early 2000s they had returned to New Zealand and were living in Mairangi Bay on North Shore, Auckland where Bernard indulged in his favourite pastime; gardening. Towards the end, Peggy undertook the administrative role for Bernard’s art studio, which seems to indicate he continued to work in some capacity – although seemingly he started wind down commissions in the early-mid 1990s when his illness got the better of him. Nevertheless, he had been kept busy work-wise well into his eighth decade.

Yates Seeds_350 Art by Bernards Roundhill EDIT

Yate’s seed packet designs, probably early-mid 1950s. Image from the “New Zealand In Bloom” exhibition, 2005, courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te
Papa Tongarewa.

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Peggy had a scientology website, which was a joint undertaking also showcasing Bernard and his work. It has since gone out of commission – likely it went down because she died in 2006, the year following Bernard – and the hosting has obviously since expired. Bernard had passed away in 2005 at age 94; but before that Peggy had spent three years between 1999 and 2002 sorting his archives in preparation for offering the collection to a museum. The archive collection effectively falls into three categories: original finished art, commercial art products (such as posters and ephemera), and then Bernard’s reference material, including some by his contemporaries. Ultimately the body of work went to Te Papa where it remains today as an example of how he styled some of our most recognisable brands through the seven decades of his remarkable career. In 2005 they showcased some of it in a Richard Wolfe-curated exhibition “New Zealand in Bloom.”

Young woman hitching 1951-1954 Te Papa collection

“Young Woman Hitching a Ride”, 1951-1954. Likely commissioned by L. R. Allen & Co., Ltd. for a calendar. Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te
Papa Tongarewa, Reg: A000683/001/0003

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When working in other styles and genres such as the cartoonish and quirky “Surfing Santas” design for wrapping paper of 1950 – Roundhill showed that he was perfectly competent in capturing action adequately (although, on reflection, it seems likely this was designed by an employee). Everyone knows I am a devotee of some of his work like his hyper-real illustrations for Holdson; however his irregularity in a stellar level of illustration across the board tempts me to dub him overrated in comparison to the international greats – for as innovative as he was – butted up against them he tends to regularly fall short in consistence as well as imagination.

INNES - C L INNES & CO LTD  Strawberry Milk Shake & Ice Block Flavouring Syrup  1950S or 1960s Te Papa prob Bernard Roundhill EDIT

An Innes syrup label for C.L. Innes & Co. Ltd., produced mid-late 1950s. Images courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Reg: CA000680/001/0004

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The majority of his work speaks little of New Zealand culturally in that unique manner that defines such things as Kiwiana, and as such cannot claim that differentiation from the international work of others that would really propel it into its own unique genre.
But this is what happens when an attempt is made to reframe commercial work as high art – a concept and distinction that Roundhill always stated he was indifferent to; it is voluntarily judged under the harsh light of a new work lamp.
More than anything his oeuvre’s real value is as a time capsule of product showcasing packaging and advertising that stretches nearly seventy years. Although inspired by Norman Rockwell and his luscious Coca-Cola adverts, amongst other celebrated illustrators – Roundhill never quite reached that level excepting some of his brilliant futuristic scapes and was rightly awarded for them; but as such he ultimately may have just been a big fish in a small retouched pond.

Thanks to: Bridget Simpson, Reference Librarian, Central Auckland Research Centre, Central City Library. Jennifer Twist, Archivist, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Leigh-Ellen Roundhill, Grant Cathro, Peter Michel, Lemuel Lyes of History Geek and Mike Davidson for interviews, images, and assistance with research.

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Flights Of Fancy : Alison Fyfe

In Alison Fyfe, board games, Card games, commercial artist, Kiwiana, The Sunshine Club on August 3, 2013 at 10.46

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe - box front copy

The exterior design of the snap set box, believed to have been designed in the first half of the 1950s.

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A Kakariki with a parasol balances on a tightrope. A jaunty Pukeko wobbles on shiny leather boots with his hunting gun; and a studious, spinsterish White-eye in perky red pumps shows off her frock creations in an atelier. I have wanted to get this card set for a very long time because I love the wonderful, whimsical interpretation of native New Zealand birds. They are a unique rendering of something completely endemic to the country – and in that sense, this item qualifies as true Kiwiana.

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe 1 Kiwi Bob

This set of 36 cards with nine different designs come up for sale  perhaps  every couple of years at most – and are hard enough to get, especially a complete set –  that they were included in a rare book auction earlier this year.

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe 1 Clarey Clown

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe 1 Miss White-eye

Although Alison Fyfe’s name is boldly emblazoned on the box – next to nothing is available on her life before or after this game was produced, so we do not know whether she perhaps had a career as a commercial artist (highly likely) or designed any further products for anyone else. No manufacturer is noted on the box, so it is possible they were even produced independently for sale – her father and brother were lifelong commercial travellers. However a card inside makes mention of another Happy Families game of animals in fancy dress, so we can assume she did illustrate at least one other, which has not turned up yet that I know of – but someone must have one somewhere, and I would love to see it eventually.

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe 1 Bell Bottom Joe

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe 1 Peter Pukeko

Alison’s grandfather Robert Fyfe originated from Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, Scotland. He married New Zealand-born Annie Clark in Kakanui, near Oamaru in 1886 where he had been settled for at least a couple of years beforehand. This was a heavily agricultural area with rich volcanic soil and a busy port. The couple remained here until at least 1890, but by late 1891 the family were living at Hope Street, central Dunedin. By late 1893 were back again at their Sea View Villa property at Kakanui.

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe - box flattened copy

Flattened snap set box showing front and back, and instruction cards – indicating that at least one more set was designed by Fyfe.

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New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe 1 Pigeon Mayor

In the 1910s, the Fyfe family were living in Mornington, at 1 Eglinton Road to the south-east of the Dunedin hub, where they remained until at least the mid-1920s. The couple had five children – and Alison’s father was Robert Edgar Fyfe (1893-1970), who was single at the time he enlisted in WWI, with the Otago Infantry Battalion and left for Suez, Egypt in October 1914. By June 1916 he had been wounded for a second time and again chose to stay with his unit. At this point he had been promoted to Company Sergeant-Major. By November 1918 he was promoted to second lieutenant, for conspicuous gallantry and good leadership. the London Gazette, of 7 November, 1918 notes he “…led his platoon with great dash on the flank of the enemy, throughout operations he displayed great courage and qualities of leadership of a high order.”

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe 1 Tui Teacher

At some point between 1919 and 1922 he made his way to Auckland, where he met and married Jessie Bruce Buchanan (1899-1974) in 1923, and in the late 1920s they were residing at Saltburn Road, Milford with Robert working as a salesman (he continued to work in this field for the rest of his career). The family settled on the North Shore of Auckland near Jessie’s parents who had their homestead “Whare Oki Oki’ in Clifton Road. Alison was born in 1927, and also had one younger brother – Robert Bruce Fyfe (1930-2007).

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe - Fanny Ballerina

She attended Takapuna Grammar School in Belmont, where the family moved in the early-mid 1930s to Harrison Road (they stayed here until the mid 1950s). She won a cup in the swimming carnival of February 1942, but out of the pool Alison’s artistic talent became apparent early -winning her in December of that year the headmaster’s special prize for drawing. She had previously entered a number of painting competitions as a youngster – amongst them the “Seen In a Woodland Glade ” competition in which she was awarded a green certificate in March 1939, but prior to that she was a prize winner in the Auckland Star’s “Valentine Painting” competition, of February 1939.

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe 1 Percy Penguin

Most telling I thought, was her membership to The Sunshine Club. I am not sure exactly what it had its basis in – but it was likely a social group of the sort that was often formed around popular radio shows of the time. Alison joined the Karakas of Takapuna faction. Other sub-groups of the time were the playfully named “Kowhai Kingfishers”, the “Cuckoo Club”, “White Feather Clan”, the “Silver wings”, and “Parakeet Club”, amongst others. I have no doubt this later influenced her fanciful ornithological illustration work. There are also strong influences from Avis Acres’s work; the author of the Hutu and Kawa series of children’s books of the Fifties – with their exquisite illustrations of birds and their humanesque activities and adventures. Some comparing the two may dub Fyfe a second rate version; however I don’t entirely believe this is the case. Fyf’e’s work may not have been quite as skilled or finely rendered- but both are fairly different in approach, in that Acres focussed on a completely natural, contained fantasy world – whereas Fyfe’s concepts were more pop workaday observations with the natural passing into the man-made realm and being placed in human situations.

Winning Hearts competition EDIT  copy

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Fyfe wins one of the prizes in the Valentine Painting competition, Auckland Star,  22 February 1939. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.

 

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Alison Bruce Fyfe appears once in the electoral rolls living on the North Shore of Auckland in 1949, living at 7 Harrison Avenue with her parents. In 1954 Robert and Jessie have moved to Walter Street, Hauraki, North Shore, Auckland – and Alison is no longer with them. The only further hint on her life is a possible match in Australian records of a Miss A B Fyfe, the correct age, leaving London port and arriving to Melbourne in 1952 – it’s likely that as so many girls of that era did, particularly those with a creative bent – she went off to do her “grand tour” of Europe.

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe - back  copy

This design of an adventuring Kiwi in a hat features on the reverse of all the cards.

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And then, she disappears from the records, likely having married. Without being able to find any information on her marriage due to privacy, it’s unlikely we will ever know anything further. It was common for artists to use a nom de plume, especially for women who had established a career before marriage and the inevitable surname change. However the fact that she used her maiden name means the cards were likely produced in the first half of the 1950s. In conclusion, I know far more about Alison Fyfe’s family than I know about her work. Maybe a relative, or someone else that knew her – will put their hand up in time.

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Fruits Of Commerce: The Bountiful Depictions of Joseph Bruno Moran

In Abel Dykes Ltd publishers, Alexander Turnbull Library collection, Auckland Art Gallery collection, Auckland Star newspaper, Bank's Box Company, Brett Printing and Publishing Company Ltd, Brown Barrett, Bushell's coffee and tea, Champion Flour, Charles Haines agency, Clark & Matheson map publishers, commercial artist, Dominion Mark Fruit, Frank Duncan & Co Ltd, graphic designer, Household Necessity Company, Johnstons Ltd tea, Joseph Bruno Moran, N.Z. Fruitgrowers' Federation Ltd, Northern Roller Mills (NRM), NZ Herald newspaper, Palmerston Buildings, publishers, Roma tea, Smith & Caughey department store, Wilson & Horton publshers on February 22, 2013 at 10.46

Dominion Mark Fruit Book 1934 (NZ) EDIT

The front cover of the Dominion Mark recipe book, published 1934. A beautiful design attributed to Moran, and refers to the series of greengrocers’ posters in the back, but no specific mention of one that links back to any of his known work.  

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Generally the artist does not matter a great deal in the scheme of the finished product, and stays forever in the background – never to get any attention or acknowledgement for their sometimes spectacular work. Having spent nearly fifteen years in that commercial art realm myself I certainly understand this aspect.

dominion mark  fruit - health fruit poster diet - Probably by Joseph Bruno  Moraalexander turnbull image and pictorial

Poster for greengrocers commissioned by Dominion Mark, c. 1920s-1930s, watercolour, pencil and pen. Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and Pictorial collection, Reference Number: Eph-F-MORAN-01.

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I also  certainly know that the commercial  artist  often has more input than we are aware of; well – that’s the point which is confirmed when talking to commercial artists of yore – back in the day when roles like the high-faluting  “art director”,  and even “copy writer”, were terms that had not yet been created or at least were far and few between – the artist would often encompass an element of all of those jobs.

19th century fabric design gouache on paper French

An example of late 19th century fabric design, in gouache on paper.

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 Although some celebrated artists like Dick Frizzell not only were elevated to more of a creative input role, but went on to garner cred in the fine arts world as well – Joseph Bruno Moran was an artist who embodied the completely authentic role of purely making commercial work , as exemplified in the Alexander Turnbull Library collection as well as that of the Auckland Art Gallery–  of which both institutions share a  collection of  Moran’s most beautiful items.  This is underlined by the fact that you can see the rendering process in a number of them; pencil marks and notes and paint brush strokes just underline the legitimacy.

New Zealand gravenstein unexcelled for dessert health fruit poster Probably by Joseph Bruno  Moradietalexander turnbull image and pictorial

Poster for greengrocers commissioned by Dominion Mark, c. 1920s-1930s, watercolour, pencil and pen. Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and Pictorial collection, Reference Number: Eph-F-MORAN-02.

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Many examples are lush, beckoning  fruits – pears, apples, and citrus – created as crate labels for Dominion Mark, the “brand” of the N.Z. Fruitgrowers’ Federation Ltd,  and they will be familiar to many as they are often held up as some of the best early examples of New Zealand commercial art. I bet the fruit boxes have never looked this good (before or) since.

Champion Flour Ad - Mucle Raiser copy colour corrected

Champion flour poster, gouache, circa 1920s. Auckland Art Gallery collection, Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mrs K M Marsh, 1976. Accession Number: 1976/40/1/12

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aHe also created  a number of posters  on the same topic,  commissioned  for display in greengrocers’ shops around the same time he completed the cover of their Dominion Mark Fruit Book (1934). It seems that the posters were in conjunction with the NZ Herald, so they may have been given away in the newspapers of the period. (Wilson & Horton, New Zealand’s leading news and information company owned the NZ Herald –  and were one of Moran’s private clients).

Nabob Bombay chutney condiments Probably by Joseph Bruno  Moran alexander turnbull image and pictorial

Watercolour, pencil and pen rough for chutney label, circa 1920s. Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and Pictorial collection, Reference Number: Eph-A-MORAN-07

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aJoseph Bruno Moran was born in 1874 at Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, Lancashire to mechanical engineer James (1940-1900) and Eleanor Mary A. Moran nee Weightman (1852-). He was one of five children and the oldest. His siblings were James Aloysius (1876), Agnes (1879), Clara May E. (1884), and Eleanor Mary (1893). The family stayed in Stretford, residing at 18 Rose Street in the 1881 British census, and remained in the area well into the 1890s.

It was here  that he began in the field of textile design. By the time he was 17 years old, and living at 50 Combrook Road, Stretford with his parents and one brother, he is already a designer’s apprentice.  Given some of the gouache art samples I have seen produced by mills in the late nineteenth century his later skill with the brush in this medium for advertising makes sense – as his brilliance would stem from his training in this field.

Joseph Bruno Moran political cartoon

Political cartoon, pen and ink, likely for the Auckland Star, circa mid-late 1910s.  Credit: Auckland Art Gallery collection, Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mrs K M Marsh, 1976,  Accession Number:1976/40/3/5

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In 1901 he is living at 31 Leaf Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock,  South Manchester, as a boarder. He lists his profession at the time as fabric and embroidery designer. As a result of the  Industrial Revolution, the population of Chorlton as well as many other areas of Manchester, quickly increased  “a hundred fold” and the town became filled with textile mills, and overcrowded, poor quality housing with  dismal  sanitation. Still, it meant plenty of work locally  for those of a creative disposition.

Kowhai Brand apricots Whoisit & Co fruit canners Auckland 1920s Joseph Bruno Moran

Watercolour, pencil and pen rough for canned fruit label, circa 1920s. Probably a sample for portfolio – I doubt “Whoisit & Co” really existed. Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and Pictorial collection, Reference Number: Eph-B-MORAN-08

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He left the U.K. for New Zealand,  from the London port in 1912 and travelling to Auckland via Sydney, Australia. Why he decided to emigrate will probably remain a mystery. He had married Emma Barbara (nee Travers) in Chorlton in 1907. She was  a number of years younger than him,  being born 1885 in Prestwich, Lancashire.

Joseph Bruno  Moran Fruit 1920-30s not it says NZ Herald Ltd alexander turnbull image and pictorial

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Lithograph illustration commissioned by the NZ Herald newspaper c 1920s-1930s, Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and Pictorial collection, Reference Number: Eph-D-MORAN-1920s-03

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 In 1911 he was working as a designer for calico prints, in South Machester. The couple were  living at 5 Baldock Road, Didsbury, South Manchester, with a baby daughter, Kathleen Marie Moran (1910-1986). Both Kathleen and her mother followed Joseph to Aotearoa one year later, leaving from London in 1913. There were three other children born in New Zealand of which both sons died in their twenties; James Rene (known as Jimmy, 1918-1944), Edward (Teddy, 1916-1937) and Annie Moran.

buy lemons and make lemonade joseph bruno moran

Poster for greengrocers commissioned by Dominion Mark, c 1920s-1930s, lithograph. Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and Pictorial collection, Reference Number: Eph-D-MORAN-1920s.

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Upon his arrival he worked as a salesman for a couple of years. He was living in a building named “Kelvin”, in Reimers Ave, Mt Albert. Concurrently Emma Moran was either living separately in  Edendale Rd Kingsland, or the Kelvin address was a studio to build up freelance work (a more likely scenario, although why give it as a residential address and not ascribe his true profession). The other obvious possibility is that the couple were simply separated at the time.  He was employed by the Auckland Star newspaper as a commercial artist some time during or after 1914.  A few examples of his political cartoons in pen and ink, done for this paper survive, but whether he conceptualized them as well – we don’t know.

Maori wonder land Frank Duncan & Co Ltd c 1920 possibly designed by J B Moran add logo   copy copy

Maori Wonderland picture album, published by Frank Duncan & Co Ltd, c. 1920. Possibly the cover, as well as the company’s logo, were designed by Moran. Courtesy of Early Canterbury Photographers blog, canterburyphotography.blogspot.com

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In the mid-1910s he was working as an assistant lithograph artist, then there is an indication that he served briefly in the first world war,  as he is listed in the  New Zealand Army WWI Reserve Rolls of 1916-1917  – this may have been in the capacity of war artist.

EAT FRUIT by Joseph Bruno Moran 1920 copy

Poster for greengrocers commissioned by Dominion Mark, c 1920s-1930s, lithograph. Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and Pictorial collection, Reference Number: Eph-D-MORAN-1920s-01.

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aIn 1919  he is again on record as working as salesman. The family are living at 102 Burnley Terrace, Mt Roskill. This same year he started his own business in the Palmerston Buildings opposite the Auckland Post Office, on the corner of Queen and Custom street (an Italiante office block from circa 1900 – demolished around 1970). His clients included: Bushell’s (tea, coffee), the Northern Roller Milling Co (flours and cereals), Harvey & Company, Clark & Matheson (mainly travel maps and posters), Smith & Caughey (department store on Queen Street which is still operating today), John Weeks Ltd,  Duncan & Co (postcards and other  tourist goods such as books and albums).

Troopship_ZTPAR_01 The Parting of the Ways Troopship Journal Digital image courtesy of Dunedin Public Libraries  by Abel Dyke Ltd poss J B Moran

“The Parting of the Ways”  Troopship Journal,  by Abel Dyke Ltd, published 1919. Digital image courtesy of Dunedin Public Libraries, Ref: Troopship_ZTPAR_01. I thought this may have been possibly designed by Moran, thus included it. However since writing this article some time back, a copy turned up at auction showing an advert on the back cover for Cailler’s chocolates designed by leading advertising agency Charles Haines. It doesn’t mean that Moran didn’t design the cover illustration; but seems unlikely now. 

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Also – Johnstons Ltd (tea, the warehouse was at 20 Customs Street East), Household Necessity Company (No Rubbing laundry help was one of their products ), Brett Printing and Publishing Company Ltd,  Roma Tea company (I have a lot of ads, it’s hard to say which if any are Moran’s, and Charles Haines Agency definitely still had Roma as a client in 1920).

William Bon Cretien Pears - Gravenstein

Crate label designs in Watercolour for Dominion Mark Fruit, N. Z. c1930s. Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and Pictorial collection, Reference Numbers: Eph-B-MORAN-11 and Eph-C-THORP-01.

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In addition – Brown Barrett & Co (which I covered recently here),  Abel Dykes Ltd (printers, engravers, and bookbinders – their big business was stationery). In 1920 he designed an illuminated address from the Legion of Frontiersmen for the visit of the Prince of Wales which was  held at the Art Gallery in Manchester- going full circle.

Smith and Caughey Ltd 1926 Turnbill M & P Reference Number Eph-A-COSTUME-1926-01-cover

Fashion illustration, not confirmed as Moran’s work but does look like his style. Photo-lithograph, Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and Pictorial collection, Reference Number: Eph-A-COSTUME-1926-01-cover.

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The fact that he was described as a “salesman” again when he was most likely running his own business as a  commercial artist makes me wonder whether the previous same description just after his arrival in the country was just a way of describing him as a freelancer. Although, again – why not just ascribe an accurate profession as done at all other times? It makes more logical  sense that it is an accurate description and during times of difficulty or urgency he did indeed take other work. How relative it was to advertising, I do not know.

In 1928 the family were living at 27 Mountain View Rd, Mt Roskill when they picked up and left for Wellington, where Joseph worked for the Bank’s Box Company briefly while they lived at 45 Karepa Street. Sometime between 1929 and early 1931 they returned to Auckland.  Apart from that work foray he resided the rest of his life in Auckland at 18 Reimers Avenue, Mount Albert. their unmarried daughters are registered as living with them; Kathleen in 1938, and Annie during 1946-1949.

Bushell's Tea - Old King Cole ad Joseph Bruno Moran

Bushell’s tea  poster, gouache, circa 1920s. Auckland Art Gallery collection, Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mrs K M Marsh, 1976. Accession Number: 1976/40/1/1.

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The N.Z. Fruitgrowers’ Federation Ltd was also based in Wellington so they were obviously relative to his period  there (and likely explains why he didn’t choose to stay in Auckland and work for the Bank’s Box Company branch instead);  and it was around this time that Moran started to do his most well-remembered work for them. Most sources quote circa 1931-1935 for his fruit labels and posters but I’d take a quite educated guess they were done between 1928 and 1931.

ROMA JOHNSTONS ADS POSS MORAN  copy

I have dozens of ads that could possibly be by Moran. These are two examples of work that may possibly be his – as they were both clients at this time. Johnston’s teas,  Auckland Star ,  October 1922, and Roma tea,  Auckland Star, December 1925.  Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.

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aBy mid-1931 was employed as head of the Art Department at the NZ Herald in the commercial printing section; and there he stayed for over twenty years. He worked almost up until his death, finishing at the Herald just twelve weeks before he passed away.  He died in 1952  at 78 years old.

Johnston tea tin probably designed by Moran  copy

Johnston Ltd tea tin probably designed by Moran, circa 1920s.

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aFor someone who was precise enough never to fail in using their middle name, there is surprisingly little documented about his life and career.  I don’t really  know anything else about his background or persona, or expect to find anything more than I have – excepting that he and his wife bought land off a Denis Joseph Whelan  just a few years prior to his death in 1945. His wife died quite some time after him in 1970, at the ripe old age of  84 in Murrays Bay on the upper North Shore, and it was likely after this event that his daughter ( by now Kathleen Marsh-Wildgoose) thought about preserving his memory through his work.

DOMINION MARK FRUIT BOOK NZ 1934 artwork must be by Joseph Bruno Moran

The front and back cover of the Dominion Mark recipe book, published 1934. Undoubtedly Moran’s work. The cooking manual contained recipes for jams, preserves and instructions for bottling. 

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He was skilled in pen, watercolours and oils, a lithographic expert, and a magician in gouache. If  it was not for his daughter supplying some notes on his career  as well as a small collection of art and ephemera in the mid-1970s to the Auckland Art Gallery and Alexander Turnbull Library –  it is likely we would know nothing of Moran and his career today except for some odd  surviving examples of  incredible, but potentially anonymous  artwork.

Cox's orange- Washinton

Crate label design for Cox’s, for Dominion Mark Fruit, N. Z. c1930s,  Lithograph, Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and Pictorial collection, Reference Numbers: Eph-C-THORP-02. Crate label for Dominion Mark Fruit, N. Z. c1930s, photo-lithograph. Auckland Art Gallery collection, Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mrs K M Marsh, 1976. Accession Number: 1976/40/1/16. Both attributed to Moran.

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All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2013. All rights reserved.

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Addendum mid-April 2013: Whilst scratching around in the process of  trying to find more information, I followed up a lead on property-seller Denis Joseph Whelan to see if there were any more clues on Moran. There weren’t that I could find – it seems Moran and his wife bought the property planning for retirement and that is where Emma Barbara Moran lived out her days. It revealed scant data associated to my story, however it took me on a little journey and I ended up connecting with a Whelan descendant who sent me via the USA some wonderful pictures of the Whelan/Robb  family taken in an Auckland studio, I’m speculating in the mid-late 1880s. 

Denis Joseph Whelan  (1869-1947)  likely immigrated to New Zealand in the 1880s , between 1881-1890, just  prior to UK passenger records being kept. The only Denis Whelan born 1869 shows up in the UK census as living in Gloucestershire in 1871,  then Essex in 1881 – yet born in South Australia.He is absent from the UK by 1891.  There is nothing to rule out he and his family  travelled back and forth. You would think that with a journey taking months on board, that anyone would be reluctant to re-live that experience more than once in a lifetime – however it happened more often than you would imagine.

 Whelan was a former blacksmith who had once owned a carriage builders Wharton & Whelan in Newton Rd on the corner of  Symonds Street, Auckland with Robert Sydney Wharton, in the early 1890s. They were “makers of waggons (sic), drays, carts, buggies, & vehicles of all descriptions ” . The partnership dissolved in 1894.  He went bankrupt in 1899, and was discharged from the bankruptcy in 1900.

He  married Sarah Ann Robb (born 1871)  in 1894 and they had several children: Joseph 1894, Lilian Maria 1896, Catherine Irene 1897, Muriel Constance 1899, Evelyn Aileen 1902, Albert James Roy 1903, Edward Leslie Raymond 1905.

The same year he sold land to the Morans, he also sold Hector Sutherland McKenzie and Edna Freer McKenzie some land he owned. He died just two years later. His wife had predeceased him in 1942. One can assume he was ill and needed the money to get by to the end.

The images below are of the Robb family; Denis Whelan’s in-laws James and Maria Robb, and possibly Sarah Ann Robb and/or her sisters Eliza Peel  Robb (born 1866) and Maria Jane Robb (born 1868). James and Maria Jane’s other children were James Robb 1869, Henry Robb 1875, William John Robb 1878, and Anna  Robb 1874 – who  died at 9 weeks old and is buried with her parents,  in the Symonds Street Cemetery in Auckland in the part on the corner of Karangahape Rd. Presumably if there were other offspring they entered the world before the family emigrated from Ireland and there were not  records. Little directly relevant to my topic but it was an interesting  side trip, anyway!

 

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Sarah Robb Denis Joseph Whelans wife and-or her sisters Eliza Peel  Robb (born 1866) and Maria Jane Robb (born 1868) EDIT SML

James and Maria Robb’s children  circa late 1880s; photographed in Auckland. Likely  Sarah Robb, Denis Joseph Whelan’s wife, and/or her sisters Eliza Peel  Robb (born 1866) and Maria Jane Robb (born 1868). Image courtesy of Jennie Shelley.

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WHARTON & WHELAN coachbuilders - Bay Of Plenty Times  18 February 1895 Page 1 copy

Advert for Whelan’s coach-building business from the Bay Of Plenty Times, 18 February 1895.

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Sarah Robb (wife of Denis Joseph Whelan) parents were James and Maria Jane Robb (d 1898) EDIT sml

James and Maria Robb, circa 1880s; Sarah Robb’s parents photographed in Auckland. Maria Jane Robb Sr. died in 1898 described as “settler”. I doubt the two pictures were done in the same studio of R H Bartlett who was working in an Auckland studio from 1866 to at least the early 1890s. Image courtesy of Jennie Shelley.

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Wharton & Whelan dissolution of partnership - Auckland Star  9 August 1894 Page 12 copy

Advert for  dissolution of Wharton and Whelan’s coach-building business partnership, from the Auckland Star,  9 August 1894.

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Addendum mid-Jan 2014: I’ve done a lot of updates to this story because of new information that has come in about Moran’s life both in England as well as in Auckland. It was a bit thin on the ground before; but I’ve filled in some of his movements, for instance – it was 1928 he moved to Wellington, not 1925 as other sources claim. Which means his stay in the capital city was fairly brief. Perhaps it was not a success. Thanks to descendant Barbara Sheridan for providing information on her ancestors which has helped give a better picture of Moran’s life and career. In addition, I’ve also run across some images lately that I suspect may be his work: 

Canterbury Souvenir Tourist Booklet -  South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce- 1926 edit

This souvenir tourist booklet published by the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce in 1926, came up for sale on Trade Me just recently – and bidding was fierce for this gorgeous piece of artwork. I am very sure this is Moran’s work. Everything from the child’s face, to the fonts, to the colour palette is so typical of his style.

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Oak Tomato Soup - Thompson & Hills Ltd - 11 ozs can label - Owain Morris collection

A can label from Dunedin collector Owain Morris’s fantastic extensive collection of OAK memorabilia. You can just see the note in the bottom right corner that indicates it was designed and printed at the N.Z. Herald, aka Wilson and Horton or W&H for short. This was produced in the 1930s and would have been created under the direction of Moran who was in charge of the art department at that time. I can’t say for sure whether any of the labels from this period were actually designed by Moran himself. Generally the work on OAK labels is verging on primitive at worst, and at best it’s usually nowhere near the level of finesse usually attributed to Moran’s amazing lithographic skills.

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OVALTINE VINTAGE ADVERTISING POSTER - c 1920'S edit

This 1920s era lithographed poster for Ovaltine also came up at auction recently. It was a bit damaged but a lovely piece and I’ve never seen another like it. Cursory research turned up nothing similar done in Britain or elsewhere so it’s quite possible that it was a Kiwi-designed and produced item.  I am not completely sure it is Moran’s work –  but it does look strikingly similar to his style during his 1920s freelancing period. Another hint is the font. Moran’s hand-painted fonts were deceptively simple and yet upon examination are usually quietly flamboyant with all kids of kicks and curls in them. Yet they never looked particularly fussy. Over all it reminded me straight away of his “Eat More Fruit” poster (in article above).

DELICIOUS APPLES ADVERTISING BANNER for DOMINION MARK FRUIT, NZ Joseph Bruno Moran edit

This point of sale banner for a grocery/fruit shop wall came up for sale on Trade me a while back, pretty sure it was just after I had published this article. It started off with a rather nominal price and within a few days jumped to about 500% (I think they may have read my piece and realised what they had). As I recall it was about a metre in length, maybe a lot longer. Undoubtedly a Joseph Bruno Moran design for Dominion Mark – not even debatable. This would have been designed in the 1930s but may have been in print for a long time, perhaps even into the 1960s. They tended to run these for a really long time. I remember quite a few of the older health and fruit poster designs were still in print when I was young. And no false advertising – it’s true that delicious apples are delicious.