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Biography of J & W Beggarstaff

The Beggarstaffs set out to prove how striking a poster could be if emphasis lay on economy in both image and caption. They felt the man on the street might be in too much of a hurry to notice, or to stop and look at a complicated, detailed design. They thought someone might remember a general outline more easily.

They approached form with a stylized simplification of shape and color, and a handling of perspective and picture space that had never been seen before in Britain. Clearly minimalist in a world that had been dominated by voluptuous detail, their flat silhouettes reminiscent of paper cutouts and their spare and careful use of lettering were a source of inspiration for future poster designers.

James Pryde and Sir William Nicholson were brothers-in-law who went under the pseudonym 'J. & W. Beggarstaff.' The name Beggarstaff was chosen at random and happened to be the name of a local grain company. Both studied art as young men and traveled to France for further study before becoming friends. They worked together for only a few years, dissolving their partnership by 1900. Though the two men produced fewer than 20 posters during their association, they count among the most influential graphic designers of all time.