Keep Calm & Carry On.. at Richard Winterton Auctioneers

. September 19, 2014

What has to be the most iconic poster or all time is a familiar sight. The famous WWII ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ poster can be found everywhere..from coffee cups and t-shirts to stationery. It has spurned many parodies….some comical.

Keep Calm and Carry OnHowever, this quintessentially British piece of art was ordered by the Government in 1939 in preparation for WWII when it was suspected that Hitler would launch gas attacks on the population. The aim of this motivational poster was self-explanatory. It was hoped to prevent panic ensuing. Ironically for such a famous piece of graphic design, (which shows King George VI’s coronet over the famously simple lettering on a red ground) the artist for such a triumph remains anonymous.

Although millions of copies were printed, the campaign was abandoned and it is believed that the posters were not displayed and destroyed. It remained virtually unknown until a copy was discovered in 2000 when it entered popular modern culture and exploded onto the high street and into our homes on mugs etc.

Original copies are rare collector’s items and examples have appeared at auction recently with some fetching in excess of £13,000.

One such example in the more unusual smaller size, (50cm by 37cm) was discovered on a valuation day recently in Sutton Coldfield.

At the outbreak of WWII the father of the local vendor was a teacher at a School in West Hartlepool. The school was issued with this poster to display but before it could, orders came to evacuate the school away to Scarborough. The vendor’s father packed the poster away and it remained in the family ever since.

Although nicely faded to a ‘Nantucket’ red, it remains intact. It is seen ‘not only as a distillation of a crucial moment in Britishness, but an inspiring message from past to present in a time of crisis’.

It will appear as Lot 171 in Richard Winterton Auctioneers Fine Art & Collectors’ Auction in Lichfield on Tuesday 30th September at 11am. The preview for the Auction is Monday 29th from 2pm-7pm and the sale day from 8.30am.

Please contact Adrian Rathbone, Fine Arts Manager for further details on 01543 251081 or visit

Category: Auction News

Comments are closed.