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You can be sure of Shell

July 25, 2016

Fishinkblog 10127 Shell Oil 1

As a child my earliest associated memory of going for petrol, was always the free gift you would get for filling up at that service station. Different companies tried to outdo one another with the presents they would bestow on you for your custom. As an early artist, I particularly remember one company giving away felt tip pens. Each colour had a name and so you were encouraged to try and get the set. I always found it so exciting, going to choose the colour (or colours, depending how much fuel you had bought) after my dad had filled the car. It was a clever way to get loyalty and repeat custom and was possibly one of my first exposures of the power of advertising and consumerism !

Shell used postcards as an early form of advertising, beginning in the early 1900s. Postcards were a quick and easy way of sending messages before telephones became a popular commodity and postal deliveries could arrive several times a day. The popularity of postcards helped Shell increase their profile in Britain, reaching everyone including the non-motorists.


The first Shell advertising poster was created in 1920. They were displayed on the side of lorries carrying fuel to customers all over the country. These adverts (or ‘Lorry Bills’ as they became known), were designed in reaction to the public outcry against roadside hoardings in the countryside.

Fishinkblog 10133 Shell 7

Foreign posters too and a whole range of topics and themes, not just centered around the more obvious choices of cars and transport.

Fishinkblog 10132 Shell 6

Of course there were still many classic posters produced using the more obvious themes too.

Fishinkblog 10134 Shell 8

But unusually Britain’s landmarks and a campaign showing the different types of people who use Shell, became very popular.

Fishinkblog 10131 Shell 5

I’m sure you’re relieved to know that Judges, Architects, Scientists and even Film Stars all use Shell.

Fishinkblog 10130 Shell 4

We’re told it’s even a ‘friend to the Farmer’, giving it that ‘good for the environment angle’.

Fishinkblog 10129 Shell 3

The most innovative designs were created around 1932, when Jack Beddington became responsible for the company’s advertising. Under his direction, artists were commissioned who weren’t necessarily associated with commercial art. These artists went on to become famous names in British contemporary art.  Among them were people like Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland, Vanessa Bell, Ben Nicholson and John Piper.

Fishinkblog 10128 Shell 2

There are over 7,000 posters in the Shell Art Collection, reflecting the charm and character of a nostalgic age of motoring.

Just imagine filling up here… : )

Fishinkblog 10135 Shell 9

Fishinkblog 10137 Shell 11

The poster (below) depicting the family all ready for their holidays, is definitely my favourite.

Fishinkblog 10136 Shell 10

Which one is yours ? You can find out more about the Shell Posters by visiting the National Motor Museum website.











12 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2016 8:58 am

    A friend of mine sent this link to me because my nickname is Shell and he knows I love all things Shell. These vintage posters and ads are tops. Such good curating.

    • July 26, 2016 9:57 am

      Cheers Michelle. Nice that your name brought you here : )

  2. permalink
    July 25, 2016 9:07 am

    Hi Craig
    Came across your blog whilst looking for work of Tibor Reich and have been following ever since. Really enjoy them. The Shell blog reminded me of the Shell placemats we had as a child. They featured the work of Edith and Rowland Hilder amongst others. I use to pour over these mats. My Mum still has the book called The Shell Nature Book first published 1964. There were mats for every month featuring the flowers/trees/and animals about in the countryside at that time. I’ll try and send you a picture. Tina

    • July 26, 2016 9:56 am

      Thanks Tina that would be great. Loved hearing about your memories of placemats and The Shell Nature Book too.

  3. July 25, 2016 12:41 pm

    Aren’t these just great? I love the way the Cerne Abbas giant has had his bits obscured by a cloud! Thanks for sharing them Craig

  4. July 25, 2016 9:36 pm

    Marvelous post! I love the historic Shell gas station in Raleigh. What fun!

  5. alibrookes permalink
    August 1, 2016 9:01 pm

    Fabulous post, Craig! I could spend hours looking at these posters and ads.

  6. audry briere permalink
    September 5, 2016 9:12 pm

    Found one of your mixed media projects on pinterest and fell in love with your site. It is now my daily inspiration when I can no longer think. I just love color and mixed media, you surely have got it all!

    • September 6, 2016 7:42 am

      Many thanks Audry, great that you’ve found me and thanks for your thoughts. Glad you enjoy visiting too : )

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