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Prints for the Pub: The Guinness Lithographs

[ Exhibition )

Lithograph print by Alistair Grant of 5 men surrounded by pigeons

Alistair Grant, Pigeon Racing, 1962, colour lithograph, © The Estate of the Artist

An exhibition of forgotten vintage prints by popular artists of the 1950s produced by Guinness Breweries to promote the 1955 Guinness Book of Records.

Designed by leading British designers including Barnett Freedman, Carel Weight, Edward Ardizzone and Edwin LaDell, the prints were designed for display in pubs, bars and canteens.

Each print illustrates a subject that would appeal to the working classes, from records in darts, football and cycling, to the world’s heaviest woman, longest pleasure pier and busiest port.

Launched in 1956, The Guinness Prints began with a set of six lithographs. The initial project was led by artist printmaker Barnett Freedman, while advising Guinness Breweries on the role of art in its communications with the public. A desire to brighten public spaces led to many commercial organisations like Shell Mex and London Transport commissioning artists to create public works and bring art to the masses.

As well as fulfilling the mid-century idea of ‘Art for All’, the prints provide a strong sense of social history by capturing the interests of everyday people at the time, capturing the sense of optimism and democratisation of art in the post-war period.

Each artist was given a copy of the first Guinness Book of Records from which to choose a record to illustrate, from records in darts, football and cycling, to the world’s heaviest woman, longest pleasure pier and busiest port. The subject and design were chosen carefully by the artists to ensure the prints fulfilled their two-fold purpose: to brighten up the often drab interiors of public houses, canteens and working men’s clubs, and advertise the Guinness Book of Records to a wider audience. The images therefore had to be bright and attractive in order to be seen in the often smoky and dimly lit pubs,, a problem that many other print series from the time did not have.

Who? When? Where? The Story of The Guinness Lithographs by Emma Mason, published by Bread and Butter Press is available at the Pallant Bookshop.

In association with Emma Mason Prints.

Listen to curator Emma Mason explore the story behind the Guinness Lithographs in this talk recorded in December 2016.

What the press said

They are as appealing now as they would have been over fifty year ago.

Dr Darts’ Newsletter

This exhibition was made possible by a number of generous organisations and individuals

Want to know more?

If you’re conducting research into this artist or another aspect of Modern British art and would like to use our library and archive, please contact Sarah Norris, Collections Manager on

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