Tuesday 21 May 2024

Frank Bellamy and 1951 Coach Guide

Summer 1951 ABC Coach Guide

Let's celebrate Frank Bellamy's birthday (21 May 1917) by looking at a newly discovered piece of early Frank Bellamy artwork!

The Summer 1951 "The Official A B C Coach Guide for Great Britain Complete Timetables & Fares" cost 2/6 (12.5p) and had 273 pages plus a fold-out map of Great Britain. I presume that Victoria Coach Station and bus depots all over Britain will have bought this meticulous guide in 1951. The contents page shows us that this year was the year of "The Festival of Britain" - an important cultural event in post-war Britain which was staged primarily at the South Bank and as one book states it "left behind more memories than solid structures". It ran from May to September 1951. A cursory search shows how exciting the event was and how local events also took place around Britain. What better way to travel than coach. 

I bet you're asking "Norman, what's this got to do with Frank Bellamy?"

Well, I was stunned to see on eBay, the above book for sale with a description saying "containing artwork by Frank Bellamy". The seller showed the said artwork and indeed it is by our favourite artist. I've scanned the page so you can see the detail

Artwork by Frank Bellamy
The piece is clearly signed up the top left - F(rank) A(lfred) Bellamy and has elements of Bellamy's early cartoon style art. At the time he would have been working for the Norfolk Studio where he worked from late 1948 through to December 1951 when he began to be represented by International Artists. 

The page above show coaches around Britain's insignias plus the Festival of Britain emblem designed by Abram Games. Looking clockwise around the piece, we also see the Skylon tower (the needle shaped tower to the right of the insignia, a 90m high ‘floating’ tube of steel), the Dome of Discovery, plus Nelson's Column and various coaches (and a car!). We see St. Paul's Cathedral, what looks like Durham Cathedral with its twin peaked roofs and tower behind. We then see a bucket and spade and starfish (for seaside holidays) and the profile of Windsor Castle above the lion and unicorn. We return to Victoria Coach Station, and see the sun shining behind the Welsh dragon. I couldn't find any images to map Bellamy's "Majestic Hotel" - a generic name.  Finally we get back to the South bank - where the Shot Tower stood, followed by a partial drawing of the only still extant building from the Exhibition: the Royal Festival Hall.

I always wondered whether Bellamy and family attended the Festival as they lived in Morden, South London and the journey would have been very straight forward - especially as he could have dropped off artwork in town at the same time. I wish I'd asked Nancy Bellamy but that one more question that remains unanswered. At least I now know Bellamy drew part of the Festival architecture.

It's been 48 years since Frank's untimely demise at 59 but today we remember the birth of one of the most influential artists.

Saturday 18 May 2024


Eagle Vol10:40 (21 November 1959)

Two beautifully preserved examples of Frank Bellamy's artwork on "Dan Dare" have come to auction.

The first (Lot #64) comes from the very last episode of the "Terra Nova" story - the first Bellamy Dan Dare story he drew. It's described as: 

Dan Dare/Eagle original artwork (1959) painted and signed by Frank Bellamy for The Eagle Vol. 10 No 40. Dan and Digby had set off in Anastasia to wipe out the dreaded 'Nagreb' man-eating ant colony with a high explosive missile. Their mission accomplished, they land Anastasia outside Pax...' Bright Pelikan inks on board. 15 x 13 ins

The opening bid is £1,260 with an auctioneer's estimate of £1,400- £1,800. I love the composition and how Bellamy shows the dome on the spaceship Anastasia. Notice that the caption "Later..." is attached below the artwork and the Eagle logo and details have been added to the artwork. As the pencil inscription shows, Bemrose the printer will have added the panel but not to the artwork. So that's an addition to the best of my knowledge. Bellamy signed the pages he drew and left the Harley/Watson/Palmer page for them.  I am drafting an article on who did what in each of the episodes - watch this space. Just for your delight, here is the second page of this story (and therefore the final page) by said Harley, Watson and Palmer, so you can see how jarring the change of styles are from one page to another. No wonder a lot of the original readers still do not like Bellamy's "Dan Dare"! It wasn't his choice to do it in this way, inheriting some of Hamspon's studio team when the shake-ups took place.

Eagle Vol10:40 (21 November 1959), p.2

Back to Bellamy.

Eagle Vol10:41 (28 November 1959)
Lot #62 is the next consecutive episode, the beginning of the "Dan Dare" story "Trip to Trouble" and features some lovely portraits of Dan Dare and Galileo McHoo (who first appeared in Eagle Vol:10:10 in 7 March 1959). The opening bid is £1,260 with an auctioneer's estimate of £1,400- £1,800:

Dan Dare/Eagle original artwork (1959) painted and signed by Frank Bellamy for The Eagle Vol. 10 No 41. 'On Terra Nova - a new world - Dan Dare is trying to find his father who landed many years before and disappeared without trace. Dan has a sudden flash of inspiration... Bright Pelikan inks on board. 15 x 13 ins

Again the strip at the top and the Eagle logo have been added in my opinion. But enlarge the image and you'll see some gorgeous Bellamy techniques.

These two episodes follow on from the recently auctioned page which sold fro £1,700.

I'll add the final sales onto the spreadsheet, as usual.


"Dan Dare", Eagle Vol10:40 (21 November 1959)
WHERE?: Compal /Thesaleroom)
END DATE: Sunday 2 June 2024

"Dan Dare", Eagle Vol10:41 (28 November 1959)
WHERE?: Compal /Thesaleroom)
END DATE: Sunday 2 June 2024