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  • Writer's pictureMichael Skalka

No "D" in Winsor and Newton

The recent passing of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edenborough, reminded all of us of the long time span that Elizabeth has been the reigning monarch. From the early part of the 20th century and for the last 21 years of this century, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have been together experiencing a number of historic milestones.

During a visit to Windsor Castle several years ago, a question came up. We asked, “What is the surname used by the Royal Family?” The tour guides we approached with this question appeared a bit perplexed. Apparently, the need to have proper identification or to write their full names on documents with what we all commonly use as our first and last names, does not come up very often with regards to the Royal Family. However, after a few minutes of explaining royal lineage, the guides were in agreement that if any member of the family needed to use a last name, for any purpose, “Windsor” would be the choice.

Thinking about the name Windsor, during the televised funeral ceremony broadcast on Saturday, April 18th, it came to mind that another British establishment, not related to the monarchy, had an identity issue related to their name. The venerable firm of Winsor and Newton, established in 1832, appears to have struggled with a spelling issue that is related to the name “Windsor.” It is clear that one of the two founders, William Winsor, began to receive company correspondence with the addition of the letter “d” placed after the “n,” in his and subsequently, in the company’s name.

The founders appeared to be good sports about the name misspelling, so much so that they even capitalized on it in a series of advertisements that appeared in the British art magazine, “The Studio,” for several months. Each advertisement, gently corrected the reader that no “d” has ever been in the name “Winsor.” They then went on to tout the qualities of their art materials no matter what spelling people used to identify the company.

The ad depicted is from June, 1944, The Studio. The ad mentioned the lack of “non-priority” supplies, meaning that pigments were diverted from the leisure crafts of fine arts painting to support the war effort by Britain. Many other advertisements during this time period from 1940 to late into 1946 mention the lack of materials to make art supplies. Some even provided support by retooling production to manufacture camouflage colors for military vehicles.

World events shape the lives of everyone involved. Men and women enlisted in the military, those left behind in London, spent evenings and nights in the London Underground sheltering from bombings. Prince Philip served in the Royal Navy. Art materials manufacturers provided expertise in supporting specialized paint making for the war effort. No one was left untouched. This last week provided an opportunity to connect and recall all things British, including the role that art materials producers played during the WWII in providing products to artists.

The Syntax of Color

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