Hamlet poster by J and W Beggarstaff, the Beggarstaffs

Catalogue Raisonné


1A [Poster for W.C. Hardy's production of Hamlet, 1894]

Four-color stencil and hand-painting on grey-brown wrapping paper: pale grey, buff, brown and black. Denham: William Nicholson and James Pryde (The Beggarstaff Brothers), published Aug 1894. Signed lower left: J. W. Beggarstaff. Denham Uxbridge. 28 7/8 " w. x 67 3/8 " h. (73,4 cm w. x 171,2 cm h.)

The actor Edward Gordon Craig commissioned this advertising poster from Pryde and Nicholson. They signed it with a pseudonym. It is possible that they did not want their excursion into commercial art to prejudice their careers as painters in any way, but there is no concrete evidence that they wished to conceal their real identities, and they seem simply to have regarded a single pseudonym as a conveniently brief alternative to their own two names, and an appropriate symbol of the idea that their work was the product of equal endeavor.

When the anonymous reporter from The Idler asked the artists a year or two later how they came to choose the soubriquet “Beggarstaff,” Nicholson explained that “Pryde and I came across it one day in an old stable, on a sack of fodder. It is a good, hearty, old English name, and it appealed to us; so we adopted it immediately.”

Pryde’s later version of how the name was discovered varies slightly from Nicholson’s, (Pryde believed that it was he alone who had discovered the name and suggested its use), but his account is substantially the same.

Initially Pryde and Nicholson signed themselves J & W. Beggarstaff, and in due course this led a number of their admirers to refer to them as the Beggarstaff brothers. However, the artists themselves, although brothers-in-law, hardly ever employed this description, and Nicholson in particular protested against the use of the word brothers.

References: Campbell 1A.

Collections: Collection, MoMA, New York, NY. Gift of The Lauder Foundation, Leonard and Evelyn Lauder Fund, Jack Banning, and by exchange (231.1987).

Original poster design comp.
Poster, first version.
Maitres de l’Affiche reproduction.
Poster, variant.

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