Sunday, April 06, 2014

Original 1940s Vintage Patterned Paper Designs

Two of the favourite exercises given to 1940s art students were the design of patterned papers and the illustration of book jackets. Two of my favourite things! But of course art students vary considerably in talent and skill so I was delighted the other day to buy a folder which consists entirely of just those two exercises. Theses are some of the patterned papers (I have a hunch you might be seeing the book jackets too sometime soon), all original designs in gouache. There was also a series which were clearly designs for wallpaper. Gwendolen K Young signed her name on the back of each of these compositions, quite rightly proud of them I think. I can't find any intelligence of her working in book illustration or design but who knows, perhaps she went on to a long and happy career as a commercial artist. More likely, like so many other women of her age, art school was the last point in her life where she was independent of another career as wife and mother: I hope she managed to express her considerable talent somehow though.


Tam Francis said...

These are so cool. Do they have a copyright on them? I'm looking for ideas for the cover of my novel a collection of vintagey romantic ghost stories.

~ Tam Francis ~

Callum said...

Hi Tam,

I'm glad you liked these so much. There is a common misconception that creative work is only copyright if it is marked as such. (I'm not saying this is your understanding particularly but it's something I wanted to address). Actually, any artwork or writing is copyright regardless of whether it is marked as such. In most countries of the world this protection extends to 75 years after the death of the person who created it (the timeline is a little different in the US and there are a number of special cases and so on but that's the general rule).

This means that, for example, these lovely patterns, are almost certainly in copyright still as the only thing I have been able to find out about the woman who created them is that she was born in 1914 (it's even possible she may still be alive). A lot of people choose to sit loosely to this kind of thing when there is no financial gain involved, as I have done in placing scans here on the blog. The system also creates what are known as 'orphan copyrights', that is, work which is copyright after the death of its creator that no one has any interest in. This is almost certainly the case here.. but we can't be sure.

Basically, the situation is a whole lot more complicated than the free-for-all that is the Internet has led us to believe over the last twenty years or so.. and complicated even further by the flouting of copyright by huge concerns like *ahem* Google, in their desire to digitise everything...

That said, in this particular case, like many others, the calculation is often, once I've done my due diligence to try and find out if anyone has an interest in these images.. and after strenuous effort I can find no one... then there is no one to object.

Hope that's made things as clear as mud...


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