Art review: The Lyons Teashops Lithographs: Art in a Time of Austerity 1946-55, Towner Gallery, Eastbourne

view gallery VIEW GALLERY
3.00

 

Lyons teashops were the Starbucks of their day. In the aftermath of war, the management of the restaurant chain (the last one closed its doors in 1981) was faced with a pressing challenge: how to enliven dingy and often war-scarred interiors up and down the country without spending a fortune.

An ingenious solution was proposed, which also happened to be a clever early example of enlightened corporate sponsorship: to cover the walls with large lithographs commissioned from some of the best artists of the times. There were 40 of them in all, produced in three series over almost a decade. They hung in all the teashops, and prints were also available for purchase by customers. Artists were not only paid a fee to produce them; they also received a royalty on each one sold. The Towner is showing them all, arranged chronologically, with additional documentation: preparatory drawings and paintings, advertising material and much else.

The artists were a variable bunch, from the emerging to the fully emerged. We know the names of many of them well – Edward Ardizzone, Edward Bawden, John Piper. For some – David Gentleman, for example – it was the first commercial break after college. The subject matter, generally speaking, is soothing and uncontroversial. (Just occasionally we find ourselves butting up against something which feels almost daringly French – a still life of fruit by Duncan Grant, for example.) Although war had barely ended, it was not to be spoken of on the café’s walls. The closest we get to a sense that the worst was not far behind is in Carel Weight’s high view of Albert Bridge, London, which looks and feels stark and chill and bony.

Otherwise, there is a good deal of manufactured good cheer here, from the syrupy sweetness of children at a window in Barnett Freedman’s The Window Box to the punts which idle along the Cam in Edwin La Dell’s Clare Bridge, Cambridge. And yet there are some fine individual works too, including David Gentleman’s Cornish Pilchard Boat, in which the benefits of lithography seem to be shown to the full – the way that colour can seem to float across the surface of what it is defining. And in Barnett Freedman’s People, the  artist seems to have captured, in the way the two women link arms as they walk, half-smiling, the very the essence of the late-forties look.

To 22 September (01323 434670)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup