Pub painting, advertising, framed, 'Tooth's Sheaf Stout Keeps you fit!', painted glass/steel/tin/gold leaf, Tom Woodman/R B Coleman Signs, Australia, 1952-1953
Tooth & Co operated the Kent Brewery on Sydney's Broadway for almost 150 years from 1835. For most of this time Tooth & Co dominated the brewing and hotel industries of NSW, 'tying' over 600 pubs to sell only its products.
During the early 1930s, Tooth & Co was under pressure from the temperance movement and declining beer sales. Tom Watson, the company's new manager, decided to improve the public image of beer and pubs by creating what would now be called a 'corporate image'. Tooth & Co launched a consistent style of hotel architecture, interior decor and advertising. Glass advertising paintings became a feature of hotel exteriors from this time.
Between 1930 and 1969 Tooth & Co commissioned almost 6000 glass pub paintings. As advertisements, the paintings are unusual in production and unique in their graphic and functional character. They show innovation in the promotion and sale of goods and have no equivalents in their use of local, national and cultural imagery.
Pub paintings were not mass produced -- most were unique, one-off creations, designed to appeal to the clientele of a particular pub. This one was commissioned by Tooth & Co in 1952 for the Federal Hotel at Penrith. It is an excellent example of marketing techniques where local identity is established via the depiction of familiar scenery and community pastimes. Like most pub paintings it depicts healthy work and leisure rather than the product it sold.
The painting depicts a pastoral setting with a woman and a man on horseback and a homestead at rear. The landscape is represented less as a scenic backdrop than as a possession of the couple in the foreground. The horse riders are placed in a proprietorial relationship to landscape and homestead. The intention of this painting seems to have been to portray Penrith as not merely a rural area, which it still largely was in the early 1950s, but one in which a rather traditional form of rural society prevailed. The depiction of galloping gentry surveying their broad acres was an unusual way to appeal to hotel patrons.
Beer is normally advertised as 'a man's drink', but pub paintings show that Tooth & Co were commonly marketing their products to women. In this case the woman is at the centre and dominates the picture. As only the 'ladies lounge' in most pubs was open to women, Tooth & Co set out to make beer a part of the middle class home.
To distance pub paintings from mainstream graphic design, Tooth & Co preferred to use artists with a fine art reputation and style. Tom Woodman (1901-1959) migrated to Australia from England in 1924. While struggling to establish himself as a portrait and landscape artist, Woodman worked as a commercial artist and theatre set painter in Melbourne before moving to Sydney. Between 1936 and his death Woodman worked almost exclusively for Tooth & Co, producing numerous pub paintings and other commissions. Unlike Henry Hanke and Alan Baker he did not create a wider reputation as an artist, but was responsible for Tooth's 'supper scene' paintings, which are among the best known Australian advertising images. The signwriting, painting transfer and framing were carried out by RB Coleman signs of Canterbury in Sydney. The painting was purchased by the Federal Hotel's publican in 1968.
In its depiction of riders and landscape, the painting borrowed from a well-established artistic genre. Indeed Woodman completed a remarkably similar horse riding painting during 1953. This other work was painted on board, and was commissioned as an interior decoration for a Tooth residential hotel, confirming the close affinity between the advertising painting and the broader cultural imagery.
The Powerhouse Museum has over 30 pub paintings in its collection. Most were donated by Tooth & Co after Melbourne's Carlton and United Brewery purchased Kent Brewery in 1983. This painting was purchased privately in 1991.
Pub paintings were made by applying oil paint on paper and coated with varnish. When the varnish was tacky it was stuck to the reverse of the glass and rolled with a roller to remove air bubbles. The paper was then removed with water. When the back was dry it was covered with an overcoat. Lettering, borders and gilding was applied directly onto the reverse of the glass before the painting was applied.
Commissioned by Tooth & Co Limited as external advertising for the Federal Hotel, Penrith. Artwork by Tom Woodman, signwriting, painting transfer and framing by R B Coleman signs, Canterbury, Sydney.