The above poster is the collection of the People’s History Museum. Its been confusing me – and others – for a while. It is by Gerald Spencer Pryse, who produced posters for Labour from around 1910 to the 1930s. It’s obviously a Pryse, whose style, somehow more artistic, marked him out from other poster produces of the period. The mystery lies with the absence of words. One of the defining things about posters – certainly it defines the best posters – is the interaction of the text and image, the interplay between the verbal and visual. Words both develop the pictorial message of the picture, but also anchor its meaning. Without words the image is entirely in the eye of the beholder, the text wrests some control back.
There is a another poster in the PHM collection, again by Pryse, similar to the above, but an image of male clerks, again without words. What were these posters for, who were they aimed at, what do they mean? I was working in the archive the other day and found this article.
The two posters formed, with a third larger design, a triptych. Pryse often worked in this form, two out-flanking posters with a larger one in the centre. Suddenly all has meaning, the text of the middle poster relates to the outside two. ‘Labour stands for all who work’. Suddenly ‘all’ is a much more encompassing term.