Auctions | January 30, 2023

Blonde Bombshell Among Vintage Posters at Bonhams


JOIN THE ATS. Lithographic poster in colours, 1941, printed by Fosh & Cross Ltd., London

A banned World War II poster, best known by its nickname 'the blonde bombshell', is set to thrill as much as it did in 1941 at The Vintage Posters Sale between January 26 and February 2 online at Designed by Abram Games, this rare vintage poster has become seductively infamous - despite its innocent intentions. Estimate: £2,000- 4,000 ($2,483 - $4,966).

In 1941, a well-meaning poster campaign aimed at recruiting women to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service rapidly attracted widespread and unexpected attention. With pouting red lips, blonde curls and striking lighting reminiscent of a Hollywood film, the glamorous design sparked controversy which rippled throughout the press, the public and even the government.

Ultimately deemed as too provocative for the wartime British public, the poster was banned. Not only was it considered too sultry and suggestive, but the poster was also condemned as 'too Soviet' by Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Bonhams Specialist, Richard Barclay, commented: "We are all familiar with the instantly recognisable WWII posters such as 'Keep Calm and Carry On', a wonderful example of which also features in the sale, but 'Join the ATS' is much rarer and its bombshell status has cemented is place as a desirable vintage poster with a unique backstory."