Artist’s paintings under the hammer

TEN posters created by one of Hartlepool’s most celebrated artistic sons look set to fetch thousands of pounds at auction next week.

The vintage railway posters, by Seaton Carew artist Frank Henry Mason, could sell for between £7,000 and £9,500 when they go under the hammer at Bloomsbury Auctions, in London, on Thursday, July 12.

The posters were mostly produced for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) between 1923 and 1947 and two of these alone could now fetch as much as £1,800.

In the early and middle parts of the 20th century, when comparatively few people owned cars and when overseas travel was beyond the financial reach of most holidaymakers, railway companies commissioned artists to produce colourful, eye-catching posters of seaside resorts, beauty spots and places of historical interest in a bid to boost rail travel.

These posters, which once adorned railway station platforms and waiting rooms, are becoming increasingly sought-after mementoes of a by-gone era.

The Hartlepool Mail reported that two of Mr Mason’s paintings were expected to sell for up to £4,400 at an auction at Christie’s, in New York, in 2004.

Meanwhile, in 1987, a Mason painting of shipping at Newcastle Quayside was sold at auction to a Newcastle businessman for £3,000.

His skill has been recognised for more than 100 years, with samples of his work first exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1900.

He spent much of his time travelling and served as a lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Services in Egypt and the North Sea during the First World War.

But today he is most remembered for his commercial work including railway posters.

Mr Mason was born in Seaton Carew on March 27, 1875 and in 1881 he was living at South End, Seaton Carew, with his grandparents, lighthouse keeper Henry Harbord and wife, Ellen.

He worked for engineering and shipbuilding firms in Hartlepool, Leeds and Scarborough before he went on to become one of Britain’s most prolific railway poster artists.

Now 47 years after his death, in 1965, his posters often sell for hundreds of pounds at major London auctions.

Two of Mr Mason’s pre-war LNER posters – advertising Whitley Bay and The Western Highlands – are expected to sell for between £1,400 and £1,800 at the auction.

Between 1927 and 1929, he was on an exclusive retainer to produce posters for the LNER, which guaranteed him £350 a year.

This was increased in 1930 to £450 a year.

He was then one of the LNER’s so-called Big Five group of poster artists, along with Tom Purvis, Frank Newbould, Austin Cooper and Fred Taylor.

Mr Mason, whose work featured in the Hartlepool Visual Arts Festival in 1996, was 89 when he died of a heart attack at the Dreadnought Hospital for seamen at Greenwich, in London, on February 24, 1965.