An Original 1930s Helen Byrne Bryce Coloured Lithograph Poster, Issued by the RSPCA, No. 238


Origin: English
Period: Early Twentieth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1935
Width: 15 inches (without frame)
Height: 20 inches (without frame)
Condition: B+

The numbered and signed lithograph, in pastel shades, with the hard-hitting copy; “Don’t leave Your Cat To Starve While You Are On Holiday”, set in the Johnston Sans typeface, which is perhaps more famous for its use by Transport of London and the London Underground than the RSPCA. There is further copy to the footer; “Issued by the Royal Society for The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 105 Jermyn Street, London, SW1, A.Taylor & Co. London S.W.1”. Helen Bryce was commissioned by the RSPCA for this campaign in 1935 to highlight the need to make arrangements to continue to look after your animal whilst away from the home.

The simple use of colour in this work is exceptionally well executed with only five colours making up the ensemble but to great aesthetic effect with the slate ground pierced by black, mustard yellow and viridian blue-green. There is an Art Deco influence with the angular lettering, the panel and letterbox detailing to the front door and the ruled border that encapsulates it. The much-maligned feline to the centre provides the ultimate visual impact. The lithograph has recently been sympathetically framed.

Educated at St John's Wood School of Art, Helen Byrne Bryce was a painter and poster artist. She exhibited at a number of venues between 1918 and 1931, including several times at the Royal Academy. Bryce lived in Harrow and later in Burford, Oxfordshire. Examples of her work are held at the Tyne and Wear Museum and she designed posters for the London Underground Group between 1924-1926. This would be one of Bryce’s last works, with many of her other larger designs fetching two thousand pounds plus at auctions around the world currently.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded in 1824 by the Rev. Arthur Broome, Rector of St. Mary's, Bromley St. Leonard (now Bromley-by-Bow). The founding members of the new society also included William Wilberforce and Thomas Fowell Buxton, who took the chair at the first meeting. The society was especially interested in the plight of draught horses, the conditions in slaughterhouses, and the abolition of bull-baiting and cock-fighting. During its early years it found little sympathy or support among the general public, and there were serious financial difficulties. Only the hard work and generosity of such men as Richard Martin and Lewis Gompertz saved it from extinction. The head office moved to 105 Jermyn Street in 1869.

An important piece of domestic, and indeed animal welfare history, by a desirable artist in what was perhaps the golden age of the British poster.