Apr 12 2012: A Portrait of Harry Wheatcroft (Illustration on Celluloid for an Unknown Magazine, 1970s)
A curious item, this image reproduces as best I can the image on a reddish-tinted celluloid sheet containing a photographic transfer of a watercolour portrait of Harry Wheatcroft, the Nottingham-born celebrity horticulturalist and 70s media entrepreneur whose name became synonymous with commercial rose-growing, and whose garden centre, Wheatcrofts, still trades on the edge of the city. With the ‘reduce by 60%’ note at the bottom of the sheet, it’s obvious that this was part of the production process of a colour magazine, presumably commissioned to accompany a feature or interview with Wheatcroft himself – something of a regular occurence in the 1970s, as he had become adept at spinning his personal idiosyncrasies and eccentric style into an instantly recognisable brand for himself and his business via television, publishing and other media. The curious thing is how closely his composite portrait resembles a kind of capitalist version of the Soviet propaganda poster, with Wheatcroft cast as the glorious businessman surrounded by the trappings of his success – the Rolls Royce, the Bond-villain business HQ, the Dr Strangelove style map of the globe he appears to dominate – in much the same way that Stalin’s regime always showed the Communist leadership presiding over abundant harvests and breathtaking engineering projects. If further evidence were needed that the superficially opposed systems manipulated their subjects in very similar ways, this might be taken as another small piece in the case under construction.