Rowland Hilder, Hartley’s Jam advertisement, first appeared in Picture Post on 9 December 1939.
In December 1939, three months into World War II, Hartley’s Jams adopted a new stance in their press advertising, moving away from the direct selling of their products in favour of a more creative and evocative approach. Initially reproducing sketches by Rowland Hilder (1905 – 1993), then those of Eric Fraser (1902 – 1983), they adopted a highly expressive style that at once keyed into the prevailing mood and idiom.
In this example by Rowland Hilder which appeared in the weekly magazine Picture Post on 9 December 1939 an ideal of the British countryside is captured which spoke to wartime sensibilities. The calm and tranquil scene is set up as inescapably British, reminding viewers what it was that they were fighting for. Hilder, well known for his paintings of the Kent countryside, borrows from a tradition of British landscape art which goes beyond merely presenting a rural idyll, stressing instead land in productive use: an environment controlled and cultivated. The fields portrayed are managed and well-ordered; neat clumps of trees frame the scene, suggesting a protective barrier; and at the centre sits the farmhouse. In the context of war, farming was depicted as a patriotic act, a practice in art stretching back to the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792 – 1815). This is well captured by the hand of Hilder.
Albeit in the service of Hartley’s Jam’s, what Hilder offers here is a well-ordered vision of the British countryside conveying a sense of rational, clear order: crucial traits in wartime. People, land and work are brought together by tradition with a common purpose; national unity in time of crisis is stressed. Advertisements such as these played their part in establishing the visual culture of wartime Britain, emphasising the unchanging nature of the countryside and conveying a sense of stability. DC