Every Friday we’re inviting our experts and guests to share a letter to something they love linked to the post.

The Last Minute Posters

‘The Last Minute’, by Vanessa Bell (POST 110/2489)

Dear ‘The Last Minute’ poster, 

You captured me the first time I set my eyes on you, on my very first day working at The Postal Museum. I was taken aback: struck first by your provenance (“Vanessa Bell, really?”), I came to quickly admire the way in which you elevated a commonplace transaction to a level never considered, let alone celebrated. I was saddened to learn, later that day, that you were never used, although Bell did receive 40 guineas for you.  

Left alone with my thoughts, I’ve often wondered why. Apparently, you didn’t capture ‘the tone [for] which the Post Office wishes to convey on the subject of Early Posting’. To me though, your tone is one that recognises the dignity of those working within the postal service. The postal clerk you portray is an oasis of calm, and reminds me now, in this period of great uncertainty, of how grateful I am for the hard work of those working to keep us connected. I suppose that the Post Office may have taken issue with the frenetic dynamism of the three posters, even as they serve as a cautionary tale of why not to put posting things off. 

Like a lot of Bell’s work, you centre the representation of women, something which isn’t always the case within popular portrayals of the post. Such labour is often either invisible or deemed inconsequential. You’re a rebuttal to these attitudes – all those who look at you see the importance of your clerk and her job. Although seen only in part profile with eyes downcast, her demeanour and chic black dress radiate composure and grace, values we can all aspire towards. And as if by luck, your sage green background, so soothing on the eyes, matches the colour of my own living room walls.  

Thank you, for making the ordinary sublime. I can’t wait to see you again.  

Meg Venter,
Archivist, The Postal Museum

Read more about Vanessa Bell and other women artists of the Post Office.