The Beggarstaffs – Hamlet

Hamlet was a poster advertisement the Beggarstaffs designed in 1895 for Gordon Craig, who was their friend and also an emerging actor starring in the aforementioned play. This project was a big deal for the Beggarstaffs; not only would it be their first collaboration, but Craig was also the son of Ellen Terry, a famous actress during this time period. If the design was successful, it could create a huge advantage for Nicholson and Pryde as they continued their career as the Beggarstaffs.

But what makes this piece significant is the unique method the Beggarstaffs created to put the poster together. With just a penknife and a pair of scissors, the Beggarstaffs cut out shapes of colored paper, which were then collaged and pasted onto a large sheet of brown paper. Even though this method only permitted a simple design, it was also daring. While art nouveau posters were full of detail and color, the style these two artists had created had little to no detail and was restricted in color. In the Hamlet poster the Beggarstaffs designed the lack of colors did not make the work boring; it actually made it more exciting. The large shape of black used to create a majority of Hamlet’s silhouette has a bold simplicity that catches the viewer’s eye. Additionally, the limited color scheme unifies the entire work, making the piece even more visually interesting. It was an almost a completely new style; although it heavily relied on flat silhouettes of color to suggest form, it challenged the norms of what was expected from other posters and pictorial work of the time.

Works Cited:

“Arcades Ambo: The Beggarstaff Brothers at Home: Reprinted from The Idler, January 1896.” The Journal of the Decorative Arts Society 1890-1940, no. 2, 1978, pp. 44–50. JSTOR, Accessed 8 Apr. 2020.

Prodger, Michael. “The poster boys: The Beggarstaff brothers’ advertising partnership may have been a financial failure, but it transformed the nature of graphic design.” New Statesman, vol. 148, no. 5470, 10 May 2019, p. 50+. Gale Literature Resource Center, Accessed 8 Apr. 2020.