“Ale and Art is the New Slogan…”

British Brewers’ Initiative Early Post-War

An innovative program ahead of its time by a few decades was Ale and Art, introduced in 1946. It was a joint effort of the Central Institute for Art and Design and four brewers in the capital.

The idea was to give work to London artists who would paint original works to brighten the brewers’ pubs.

The story, reported by the Associated Press, was reprinted in at least two Australian newspapers as there was an indirect connection to the pub where the program was launched.


The nub:

During the next 80 weeks, as he sits in his favourite pub, the Englishman will gaze at the work of over 30 artists, many of whose pictures are well known in the London art galleries. And the pictures are not just “extra-special” advertisements of public houses, quite the contrary. Although the brewers financed the scheme and made some suggestions as to subjects, the artists had a more-or-less free hand. They ranged far and wide through London and the Home Counties, painting churches and villages, hop fields and country market places, maltings and the River Thames.

The story has a concise, even tone typical of British journalism in the 1900s. Withal the style conveys a quiet authority. And the accuracy should be noted. When it was stated art did not generally festoon the English pub, an exception was made for Chelsea, then an artists’ quarter.

Augustus John was the leading artist in the group and was quoted by the journalist at the launch. John’s comment that brewers should support art because artists are some of their best customers was doubtless a bit of drollery, but rounded the story nicely.

Brave London which fought so hard against the Nazis! Grey, half-destroyed, exhausted London, still to be on rations for years. Despite these challenges, the government and brewing chiefs had the foresight and spirit to brighten the post-war pub and provide paid work to the art sector, who can usually use it.

Art and Ale would have cost relatively and was an early example of public-private cooperation.

The Cogers pub mentioned is today, as far as I can tell, the modern St. Brides Tavern, pictured above, see also here for more informationCogers was – is – the name of a storied debating society.

The term “coger” comes from cogitate, not codger. The club used to meet at this pub, apparently. I am not clear if St. Brides pub was the actual meeting place or a pub behind it called the White Hart.

Both pubs were located in a stylish Edward Luteyns block of the 1930s.

Formerly, the pubs were independent, older, structures, elements of which were retained by Luteyns. The club met in one of these but I think it was St. Brides pub, which faces Salisbury Square. The second pub mentioned is now an airy City restaurant, Luteyns.

One wonders what happened to John’s paintings done for the scheme. Perhaps some still hang in St. Brides pub. In this gallery page of the pub’s website, a number of paintings are shown adorning the walls. Some seem of the vintage required. Could they be by the famous Augustus John, or other artists part of the scheme?

John’s name is, appropriately, remembered by a pub in Hampshire, in the village where he lived, you see it pictured.

Why doesn’t a brewery or pub group create a plan like this now, does anyone think of these things? I’d guess in a time when family descendants still ran big breweries and perhaps were art lovers or who had a son in that line, it occurred to one to chat with a senior bureaucrat and make this happen.

I know that some craft breweries have encouraged artists in similar ways but it would be good to see it done on a wider scale, say all the Fuller managed pubs, or Wells Youngs’.

Note re images: The first two images were sourced from the brewery history site linked in the text. The third, at this bed and inns site. All intellectual property in or to the images belongs solely to their lawful owner or authorized user. Images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


1 thought on ““Ale and Art is the New Slogan…””

  1. A Fullers pub (actually Fullers only acquired it a couple of years ago) called the Harp has an enviable collection of “bric-a-brac” art. One item which might have had some financial worth was a SPBW mirror (as I’m sure you know – Society for the Protection of Beer from the Wood). During a renovation, this masterpiece vanished through the contractors and has never been seen since. This might be one reason pubs are loath to have any artwork too precious. Bizarrely, it was a Twitter friend in Germany that made me aware of its disappearance! I went and investigated for him by speaking to the landlord as I go there as often as I can.

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