Modern hen

Modern Hen by FHK Henrion at Festival of Britain

The 1951 Festival of Britain is of consistent interest here at Shelf Appeal. The exhibition was a fleeting sight in London, open from 4 May to 30 September 1951. They started to dismantle it the day after it closed and by Christmas that year almost all traces of it had been removed. That has only helped the whole thing become legend amongst design and exhibition types.

I have just finished reading the book The Festival of Britain: A Land and It’s People by Harriet Atkinson. And a darn good read it is too, with a lot of detail about the ‘exhibition’ aspect of the whole thing. Both literally, as in who made what, and metaphorically, as in a country choosing to put itself on exhibit.

Elsewhere I have been working on a book about ephemera collected by one Charles Hasler, who worked on typography for the Festival. A lot of his friends and contemporaries also worked on the Festival. In fact you’d have felt most neglected in the late very 1940s if you were a designer and weren’t doing something on it.

This image shows F.H.K. Henrion’s Modern Hen display in the livestock section of The Country, in Land in the main Dome of Discovery. It appears in Atkinson’s book. Henrion, an émigré from Germany, was a super graphic designer who also worked on Ministry of Information propaganda exhibitions during the Second World War.

How joyous is Henrion’s use of eggs as a graphic conceit to pick out the title on a backing of cardboard egg boxes? I can only think I have become too immersed in the Festival world that this sort of thing looks perfectly appropriate to me. The use of real hens in the display slightly boggles the mind though.

And. What is a Modern Hen anyway?

One Comment

colin tompkins

a year before i was born ! but this was a celebration coming a few years after the war and sadly nothing i know of comes close to celebrate the !britain” i understand things change and money is a big influence! but back in 1951 money must of been even more a squeeze .. or is it a concept that has died…to celebrate britain in all forms ? just a ramble folks


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