Sunday, 7 December 2014

Christmas 1940

The Sanity Clause in our brief for this review of Christmas art from bygone years said that we should avoid overly sentimental Father Christmas images.  So here's a slightly darker twist on that theme.

The Christmas edition of the Radio Times, the BBC's own listings magazine, is still very much part of a traditional British Christmas - almost as vital as the Queens Speech and the James Bond movie. This particular edition is from December 1940 and shows St Nick in a tin hat reading the news from overseas. 

This was the British public's second Christmas since the outbreak of hostilities and it came at the end of a year that had already seen the fall of France, the Dunkirk evacuation, the airborne Battle of Britain and the London Blitz.  The dark times are reflected in the article titles - "Evacuee Children", "From Across the Atlantic" and "Christmas Under Fire" - a stark contrast to the celebrity diets and reality show finals featured in 2014 editions.

The art is signed as "Gilroy" (at bottom right, just below Santa's left cuff).  Presumably this is John Gilroy (1898 - 1986), the Whitley Bay born commercial artist who had a long association with the Radio Times and is probably best known for his art on thirty years worth of Guinness advertising campaigns including those featuring their iconic toucan.  Gilroy was also employed extensively by the Ministry of Information for wartime work including the Make Do & Mend campaign.

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