The Join the ATS poster – better known as the ‘blonde bombshell’ – made £9000 (plus 24% buyer’s premium inc VAT), against an estimate of £3000-5000 at Onslows’ auction on July 12.
Games created the poster in 1941 at a time when single women in the UK were conscripted into war work in industry or one of the auxiliary services, such as the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS).
The poster is now very rare as, soon after its publication, it received a (very 21st century) complaint in Parliament from the MP Thelma Cazalet-Keir. She felt the image was too glamorous with the red lipstick in particular sending the wrong message. It was quickly removed from circulation.
The copy offered in Onslows’ auction – making its return to the saleroom after 29 years – sold to a buyer based in Westminster who had seen pre-sale publicity in the national press. Patrick Bogue of Onslows said: “It is interesting to note that the poster has a small label for the Colchester Recruiting office pasted down – this confirms that this copy of the poster was displayed in public. The conservation of the poster shows three of the corners missing from when it was pulled down from display.
“The last one sold was at Christie’s South Kensington in 2012 for £4375. The bidder for our poster was prepared to go a lot higher. The price achieved is probably a record for a poster by this famous poster designer.”
Games was born in the East End of London on the eve of the First World War, the son of Jewish refugees. By the Second World War he was an established designer and poster artist.
Originally conscripted as an infantry soldier, in 1941, the War Office Public Relations Department recruited him to help promote their messages.
In November 1942 he became official war poster artist – a title never before or since claimed by any other.
Demand for Games posters could be set to rise even higher thanks to an exhibition of his wartime designs currently on show at the National Army Museum in London (until November 24).