Mar 25 2012: Forty-Three Monochrome Illustrations From Girl Annual Number Six (1958)

If yesterday’s images by Edward Mortelmans from the 1958 edition of Girl Annual seemed to draw inspiration from the paintings of Laura Knight, the forty-three sampled monochrome illustrations seen here have no such unifying element beyond being largely executed in line and wash, and seeming largely unchanged in format from the kind of images that would have graced similar annuals at any point after the Edwardian era. What’s conjured, as far as the society depicted is concerned, is a world of sensible and resourceful middle-class girls saving the day by keeping a close eye on the usually nouveau or lower class types who seem constantly up to no good. In one story, a gamekeeper impersonates his former master and tries to sell off a playing field, in another a spivvy character attending a public school with his film crew is discovered to be  attempting the kidnap of a wealthy man’s daughter. Beyond engagement in Enid Blyton-style Famous Five escapades against a seemingly endless procession of smugglers, kidnappers and wrong ‘uns, the reader of Girl in 1958 could also partake of instruction in hobby skills (such as knitting a ski-cap, making a bracelet or leaf printing) and generally be tutored in the arts of selflessness, modesty and – for all their intermittent resourcefulness – finally handing responsibility for the restoration of authority to such male figures as the friendly policeman, the kindly local squire or the returning father and older brother. In it’s own way, it’s fascinating stuff, and as a snapshot of the continuity of a world not yet conscious of the changes occurring around it, perhaps tells us something about the time-lag between the beginnings and consolidations of wider social change.

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