City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

H. A. Rothholz exhibition, London

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Now showing at the Margaret Howell shop on Wigmore Street, London, an exhibition of posters by H. A. Rothholz. Produced during the war years and post-war period, they’re essentially public information posters, concerning health and safety in factories and suchlike. Additionally, new social and technical advances – radiographs to ships; post offices; that kind of thing. Despite this mundane if worthy subject matter, they’re absolutely beautiful things, and redolent of the care, wit, attention to detail and skill that went into public design during this period (cf. Abram Games, Tom Eckersley et al.)

It’s actually odd, now, to see such high-quality work for something so defiantly everyday. Most health and safety posters at offices are now the victims of people armed with much clip art but little skill, time or care. So to see a series of carefully-rendered exhortations to roll up your sleeves or cover your hair – "Be in the fashion" – or the slightly unsettling despair of "Here lies the victim of an untied shoe-lace" (!), makes you not only stop and think about the time and conditions in which they were produced, but also the state of everyday public design now. I note that Paul Rennie, who presumably ran Rennie’s – produced a piece on this genre of design for Eye (#52). Must dig that out. (Incidentally, Rennie’s seems to have moved to Folkestone.) 

Leaving all that aside, if you’re in London, take a look. They are just beautiful pieces of work. The fact that, as noted, Margaret Howell makes the best clothes, sells some of the finest furniture and homewares, in one of the loveliest shops in London, should only speed you on your way.

Update: Some posters by Rothholz (top-left is in the Howell exhibition):


Heads-up via Steve Gibbons – ta!]


7 responses to “H. A. Rothholz exhibition, London”

  1. stephen rothholz Avatar
    stephen rothholz

    My thanks to Dan Hill for his excellent review of my Father’s poster exhibition at the Margaret Howell shop.


  2. Peter Rothholz Avatar
    Peter Rothholz

    What a thrill it is to see the great work of my only cousin given such prominence in his adopted city and online!


  3. Dan Avatar

    Thank you Peter and Stephen.


  4. Alex Watson Avatar

    I walked past there the other night and thought the posters in the window looked great; thoughtful post, I’ll definitely have to check it out.


  5. Roger Altass Avatar
    Roger Altass

    A bit late only just stumbled across the H A Rothholz exhibition site, is it still on?
    I worked with Arnold Rothholz from 1957-73. The illustrations for the Post Office poster were done by Sylvia Stockeld (Stokie as I knew her).
    I worked with Arnold later on corporate work for Winsor & Newton and The Welcome Foundation.
    I left Arnold to join Ogilvy & Mather in 1974, I retired from full-time work in 2001.
    If I can help you with any further info please contact me.
    Roger Altass


  6. Paul Byrne Avatar
    Paul Byrne

    An even later stumble…
    Arnold Rothholz gave me my first paid work a few months after art college in 1970 at a time when even I wouldn’t have employed me… fond memories of him for that first break… managed to scrape through the next 30-odd years, more-or-less earning a living as a typographer.
    He’s surely having a giggle at Roger’s spelling of Wellcome… (“Why the ‘L’ not, Roger?”)…


  7. Peter Altass Avatar
    Peter Altass

    I have been trying to trace Roger Altass for the last few years. could you please forward my email address to him . thanks


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