Wednesday, December 2, 2015

227. The Dynasts in 1920

For the production of Thomas Hardy's play The Dynastst at the Kingsway Theatre in London, Ricketts designed a lithographic poster. The play ran from 25 November 1914 to 30 January 1915. 'Owing to a cold', as his wife later wrote, 'Hardy was unable to be present on the first representation, but he went up two or three weeks later.'

The play was about the Napoleonic Wars, and the main figure on the poster is that of War, a three-headed figure with a headdress of horns, possibly a satyr. It holds a scythe in one hand, and on the palm of his other hand is a toga-clad figure, who can be identified as Napoleon. Along the bottom edge of the poster are battle scenes with soldiers and a horse. 

Charles Ricketts, poster for The Dynasts (1914)
The lettering on the poster was written by Ricketts and mentioned the title and author above the image and the name of the theatre underneath. This poster was printed by Vincent Brooks Day & Son Ltd. in London. Additionally there were 50 proofs, signed by Thomas Hardy and Charles Ricketts. On these the text-lines had been omitted. Furthermore, there was a limited edition of 12 copies, signed by author and designer, with small signed drawings by Ricketts. These little drawings depicted 'Napoleon and Death', 'Napoleon and the Sphinx', 'Napoleon as a Sphinx', etcetera.

R.L. Purdy, in his bibliography of Thomas Hardy, mentions the performance, but not the poster. He also mentioned a later performance by the Oxford University Dramatic Society at the New Theatre Oxford, 10 to 14 February 1920. For this occasion a new poster had been printed, of which I was not aware when I published my checklist of the books designed by Ricketts and Shannon in 1996. The text for the poster was not in Ricketts's lettering. A copy of this rare poster was given to the Victoria and Albert Museum by Mrs T.E. Griffits in 1958.

Charles Ricketts, poster for The Dynasts (1920) (©) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Note, 10 May 2023
Martin Steenson (Books & Things, London) wrote me that Mrs T.E. Griffits donated the poster in memory of her husband T.E. Griffits who was in charge of the Vincent Brooks, Day & Son were the poster had been printed.