Alfred Leete

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Alfred Leete's Lord Kitchener poster

Alfred Ambrose Chew Leete (1882–1933) was a British graphic artist. Born at Thorpe Achurch, Northamptonshire,[1] he studied at Kingsholme School, Weston-super-Mare, before moving to London in 1899 and taking a post as an artist with a printer. His career as a paid artist had begun in 1897 when the Daily Graphic accepted one of his drawings; later he contributed regularly to a number of magazines including Punch magazine, the Strand Magazine, Tatler, etc. As a commercial artist he designed numerous posters and advertisements, especially in the 1910s and 1920s, for such brands as Rowntrees chocolates, Guinness and Bovril, and his series of advertisements for the Underground Electric Railways Company (the London Underground) were very well known; his work as a wartime propagandist includes the poster for which he is known above all, the Lord Kitchener poster design, which first appeared on the cover of the weekly magazine London Opinion on 5 September 1914. "His prolific output was characterized by its humour, keen observation of the everyday, and an eye for strong design"[2]

Invitation to one of the regular "smoking" evenings at the London Sketch Club, dated at 11 November 1921. Designed by Alfred Leete.

Leete died in London in 1933. In 2004, Leete's work was on display in his native Weston at the North Somerset Museum.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Thorpe Achurch parish registers: baptized 24 September 1882
  2. ^ Jim Aulich, "Leete, Alfred Ambrose Chew", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. ^ "War artist's drawings on display". BBC News. 2004-08-05. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 


THE 100th anniversary of the day the iconic Your Country Needs You poster was published, encouraging young men to sign up to fight in the Great War, took place last Friday.

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The man behind the design, Alfred Leete, grew up in Weston as his parents ran the Addington Hotel on the seafront.

For many, the image symbolises recruitment in World War One. It features an imposing portrait of Lord Kitchener with an outstretched hand, and was later copied and adopted in the US with the face of Uncle Sam in 1917.

Leete was born in Northamptonshire on August 28, 1882, and his parents, John and Harriet, were farmers. The family moved to Weston in 1893.

Instead of following in his father’s footsteps, Leete wanted to pursue a career in drawing.

With his father’s blessing he left school aged 12 to work for a surveyor in Bristol, and five years later he moved to London to become a commercial artist.

Leete was aged 32 when the conflict broke out, and by this point he had established his reputation as a quality artist.

On September 5, 1914, his bold Kitchener sketch featured on the front of Opinion magazine, emblazoned with the bold caption, Your Country Needs You.

But this was not the last time this image would be used to encourage young men to sign up. In fact, it was turned into an unofficial recruiting poster by the magazine.

Leete himself joined the fight in 1916, serving in France on the Western Front. At this time, his typical drawing style, usually cartoons with cheeky captions, was replaced with sensitive watercolour washes.

Unlike many others, Leete survived the war and died on June 17, 1933, in London and is buried in Milton Road Cemetery.

But his legacy lives on, as the design is still copied and reproduced today. A replica of his poster and some of Leete’s original cartoons are on display at Weston Museum. The exhibition, called Five Lives, Five Stories, is open to the public until December 14. It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am-5pm.