Presents for Particular People

Heals furniture shop Tottenham Court Road booket

I was prompted to write this post by a Tweet on Twitter about a small exhibition of Heal’s posters. More of which later.

Shops and shopping are what I’m interested in. Both the history and present of. Heal’s publicity from the 1930s holds me mesmerised. Such well tailored combinations of imagery and text. The former addresses my taste for moderne commercial art, the latter my over-developed high-snobriety.

Presents for Particular People was a booklet Heal’s produced yearly. It contains pages of rather glamorous gift suggestions for such 1930s types as: Bright Young People, Those of Riper Years, The Bon Viveur, The Bookworm, The Punctual Correspondent, The Hopeful Gardener, The Fastidious Lady and (pictured here) The Sluggard.

The Sluggard’s list, by the way, included: an Ashtead Pottery breakfast in bed set, a fold-flat table (available in cream, blue, orange or green), a lazy shoehorn, two biscuit jars (one in silver lustre on cream), a cigarette holder, ash tray and bookends. It sounds just right for Bertie Wooster. And not too far off for me.

Heals furniture booklet page from 1930s

The cover of the booklet is sweet, a 3 colour lino-looking print signed ‘MF’.  No idea who ‘MF’ is and I don’t recognise the hand in this illustration. I had thought of Maxwell Fry, the architect who was designing furniture for Heal’s about this time. But that’s unlikely. Hmm. Intriguing.

And so the ‘exhibition’ of Heal’s posters that I mentioned? Normally the Geffrye Museum can do no wrong for me, it’s a great place. But this particular show, advertised as an ‘exhibition of Heal’s posters’ was just A3 colour prints drawn from the V&A’s archive, shown behind glass. It felt like a con. If you can’t see the real thing in a museum, where can you?

You could argue, I suppose, that posters are just reproductions anyway.  And my esteemed fellow bloggers over at Quadroyal argue about posters and authenticity very well. But nevertheless I left unsatisfied. And came home to blog the ‘real’ thing.



No that’s not a proper exhibition, is it. Might as well be a blog post.

But as for my Christmas present list, I am torn between being of Riper Years, a Bookworm or a Sluggard. I suspect the latter. But I’m sure I wouldn’t mind getting anything from Heals in 1933.

shelf appeal

Well, I work in museums, so I know budgets can be tight and staffing minimal. So I don’t like to just be negative. What annoys me is not telling people they are prints on their website, and publicity they got suggested it was a genuine exhibition, too. It’s all very well selling your space to sponsors, and Heals+Geffrye is a obvious tie-up. But the reason brands want to be part of museums is that, in theory, museums have credibility, collections, the genuine items etc. It’s not enough to just stick a few prints up and run away. I’ll shut up now..

simon at easyontheeye

You lot should just be grateful you’ve got some Museums to go to; they’ve destroyed Sheffield’s. It’s now an unglorified creche for middle class brats, made even worse (and that’s not easy to achieve) at present by the addition of a ruddy Santa’s Grotto in the middle (£5 a pop hasn’t put them off). Still as you say, you’d expect original posters if that’s what the exhibition is about. Gloucester Art Gallery did the same trick on us earlier this year; their exhibition on the famous Ace Biker’s Cafe turned out to be mostly display panels enlarged from a book!


well it would do if originals had been lost. Otherwise it is pointless. A book would do the trick less the hassle.

I wonder if this catalog shows presents for children ? I guess not…. were not seen as particular people yet…Always curious on this.

Enjoy your Week end and happy holidays.

shelf appeal

The catalogue has two pages of gifts for ‘The children’. I might blog those soon too, as they’re lovely.


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