‘Don Quixote’ poster by J and W Beggarstaff, Beggarstaff Brothers
Fig. 12A Comp for the proposed Lyceum’s Don Quixote poster.



12A [Poster design for John Irving, 1895,] Don Quixote on a white horse, holding a large staff, with a windmill in left background. Two-color stencil and hand-painting on wrapping paper: brown and black. Denham: Beggarstaff Brothers, 1895. Signed lower left: ‘Beggarstaffs’. 77 1/4" w. x 76" h. (196.2cm w. x 193cm h.)

This design comp was to advertise William Gorman Wills’ one-act play A Chapter from Don Quixote, which opened as part of a triple bill with Arthur Wing Pinero’s Bygones and Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Story of Waterloo, at the Lyceum Theatre in London, on 4 May 1895. Wills’ play was based on episodes in the novel Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616). The short play was produced throughout the season, and included in the Lyceum repertory company's traveling show throughout America in 1895-96.

Initial reviews were mixed, at best, faulting the playwright’s work over the actor’s best efforts. “There is no getting out of it,” wrote the Daily Telegraph of Don Quixote. “The play that introduces our favorite hero is a downright bad one.” But attendance increased after Irving was knighted late in May 1895, the first actor to receive such a title from the Crown.

“Using their distinctive collage technique, the Beggarstaffs designed three versions of this monumental and sombre poster for a production starring Henry Irving.” Their collage was a radical departure for contemporary theatrical advertising. Irving declined to use it, declaring he wanted ‘no more mills!’” The tempestuous star, Henry Irving (born John Henry Brodribb), likewise rejected the Beggarstaff’s later design for the play Robespierre.

Although it never made it to the streets, the Beggarstaffs’ design for A Chapter from Don Quixote was influential through its publication in various art periodicals, and as an art print reproduced by Maitres.

Ref: Bella 6, Brinkmann 130, Henriot 1353, Sponsel p. 167, Spielmann 268, Hillier p. 109, Campbell 1B, VAM p. xxx.

In Collections : Victoria & Albert Museum in the Department of Design, Prints & Drawing, E.1208-1927.