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John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera for Art Historians: Commercial art

How to maximise use of the John Johnson Collection to find information about artists and art

The Art of Advertising Exhibition


Home page of Art of Advertising exhibition online

The Art of Advertising exhibition has rarely been open since its opening on 5 March 2020. It is, however, online. There are two related publications: The Art of Advertising explores various aspects of commercial art and social history seen through advertising through chapters by noted academics. Vintage Advertising: an A to Z is a more image-based volume, with juxtapositions of advertisements relating to a variety of associated themes.

Dudley Hardy's Gaiety Girl

Cover by Dudley Hardy of the theatrical souvenir for A Gaiety Girl

(C) John Johnson Collection: Theatrical Souvenirs

Commercial and jobbing art

Commercial art had to make an immediate impact and is quintessentially of its time.   While it operated within its own constraints, notably those of deadlines, it is interesting to see the overlap with contemporary Fine Art movements.

The John Johnson Collection is a major source for the output of commercial and jobbing artists. There is an Artists section devoted to illustrators, such as John Hassall, Kate Greenaway, and McKnight Kauffer. However, the bulk of the output of commercial artists, illustrators, engravers, lithographers, etc (named and anonymous) is in other sections of the Collection: Advertising, Entertainment, Travel and Transport and ephemera kept by genre, such as trade cards,and posters. We have worked for many years to make this dispersed material accessible through our Online catalogue and associated projects. This work, however, remains incomplete.

The best way to search the Advertisements in the John Johnson Collection is through the ProQuest project: The John Johnson Collection: an archive of printed ephemera (free access within the UK). Most, but not all, Advertising sections have been catalogued and digitised here. Notable exceptions (mainly for copyright reasons) are Electricity and Electrical Appliances and Shell Mex.  You can combine searches by name or product with subjects of illustration, and limit by date, or by printing process. However, advertisements by artists still in copyright were excluded from the project.  For John Hassall (who has over 300 entries in our online catalogue), McKnight Kauffer etc you will need to search our own online catalogue and follow our procedure to order material

Our Motor Car ephemera and 1,000 other transport images can be found through the Toyota Project (now in archived form only), but the Transport and Travel sections of the Collection have not otherwise been catalogued or digitised. There are indexes online. 

Trade cards are online through our own website and through Zegami. Artists' invitations and menus have been catalogued (the latter in detail, including Double Crown Club and Savage Club menus with covers by famous artists) but very little else kept by genre is catalogued or digitised.  Please refer to the indexes.

Most of our posters are catalogued at a mimimal level (Browse, set scroll bar to Shelfmarks, type posters). Not all are on-site and retrieval of off-site posters is very difficult.




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Julie Anne Lambert
John Johnson Collection
Bodleian Libraries
Broad Street
+44 (0)1865 277047

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