Published  12/01/2004

Ashley Havinden: Advertising and the Artist

Ashley Havinden: Advertising and the Artist

Dean Gallery, Edinburgh
15 October 2003 - 18 January 2004

The work of Ashley Havinden is on show at the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh. Havinden was a major force in the development of advertising during the years between the two World Wars and beyond, working for the company WS Crawford from the age of 19.

Crawford's had an impressive list of clients including the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York, Chrysler Motors, Western Electric Sound Systems (for cinemas), Eno's Fruit Salt, Dewar's Whisky and Kayser Silk Stockings, all of whom stayed with the agency for ten or more years. Crawford's took an up-to-date approach to advertising that involved the abandonment of symmetrical layouts, horizontal type and monotonous colour inherited from the 19th century. Havinden was influenced by Stanley Morison (who revolutionised typography with his design of sans serif faces for Monotype) and the posters done for London Transport by the American designer, Edward McKnight Kauffer. He adopted asymmetrical layouts, introduced his own particular style of lettering and worked with a copywriter called Bingy Mills whose use of words was often short, punchy and witty.

Because of this, Havinden's work is typical of its age, beginning with the illustrative woodblock ads for the Pennsylvania Hotel and then moving on to the use of collage that combined angled lettering, air brushed backgrounds and photography (as seen in an ad for Dewar's White Label whisky). He then adopted streamlined images - also presented at an angle - for Chrysler cars. According to the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, Havinden was influenced by Charles Loupot's use of the angle and the slipstream in his work for Peugeot cars. But surely the master of this style was Cassandre, brilliantly demonstrated by his posters for the night train from Paris to Brussels? It is unlikely that Havinden did not know Cassandre's work.

Towards the end of the 1920s came further influences from Jan Tschichold's revolutionary redesign of type and layout, and from the work by Herbert Bayer and others coming out of the Bauhaus, first in Weimar and then in Dessau. Indeed, as members of the Bauhaus fled from Nazi Germany from 1934 onwards - and they included Gropius, Breuer and Moholy-Nagy, all of whom settled briefly in London before leaving for America a few years later - Havinden's contact with the pioneers of the Modern International Movement became firsthand, and he employed Moholy-Nagy when Crawford's became involved in Simpson's new store in Piccadilly, London. By then, Havinden's own style had left Art Deco behind as it became much calmer and more abstract, as can be seen in some of his advertisements for DAKS, the self-supporting trousers made by Simpsons. The use of abstract (and in this case, slightly surrealist) shapes can also be seen in the cover he designed for the MARS (Modern Architectural Research Group) exhibition held in London in 1938.

After the war (during which Havinden worked in camouflage), Crawford's clients included London store, Liberty as well as Richard shops and Pretty Polly, and although some of Havinden's work showed that he was still keeping up with the times (a 1960s ad for Pretty Polly stockings makes references to the Pop culture then prevalent), other examples were beginning to look old fashioned, particularly when he used drawn images. Perhaps he was most at home during the 1930s, especially when he lived in Lubetkin's block of flats, Highpoint 2. Here, Havinden's own textile designs complemented works by Gabo, Calder and Hepworth. Perhaps, too, his career peaked when he worked on Simpson's new store, designed by Joseph Emberton and opened in 1936, because it demonstrated the belief in total design so close to Havinden's heart. Today Simpson's of Piccadilly no longer exists, although the building - now a bookstore - still contains a pendant light fitting by Moholy-Nagy. Also gone is the style demonstrated by the store and the clothes it sold - gone, too, is the elegance and panache of the best Art Deco interiors and furniture

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