La voix de son Maitre 1899








    Francis James Barraud était un peintre britannique. Son œuvre la plus célèbre, His Master's Voice, représentant un chien qui écoute un gramophone, est l'un des logotypes les plus connus de l'industrie de la musique. 


    So, farewell HMV. Without stating the obvious, for those too young to know, it was originally His Masters Voice; hence the painting of Nipper listening to the cutting edge technology with which the brand was associated.


    The original painting was by Francis Barraud in 1898.





    ‘According to contemporary Gramophone Company publicity material, the dog, a fox terrier called Nipper, had originally belonged to Barraud’s brother Mark. When Mark Barraud died, Francis inherited Nipper, along with a cylinder phonograph and a number of recordings of Mark’s voice. Francis noted the peculiar interest that the dog took in the recorded voice of his late master emanating from the trumpet, and conceived the idea of committing the scene to canvas.







    In early 1899, Francis Barraud applied for copyright of the original painting using the descriptive working title Dog looking at and listening to a Phonograph. He was unable to sell the work to any cylinder phonograph company but the Gramophone Company purchased it later that year, under the condition that Barraud modify it to show one of their disc machines.’ So, like a shaggy dog story, the dog eventually became adopted by HMV. (Source:Wiki)




    Do we see, in the evolution of company and design, an archetypal story of decline and fall for a once great brand? They started off making things and were a major record label, radio manufacturer etc. Then they stopped making things and started selling things. Things that became less and less relevant as time went by. In the meantime, Nipper became a less characterful mascot (I seem to recall there was even a period when he had his record player taken away) as the retailer moved beyond music, and music moved into downloads. The writing was on the wall; a once proud brand now a hostage to fortune.

    Sad – he was one of the more memorable, idiosyncratic and charming identities of the last hundred years. I hope all is not lost. Like the Playboy brand which is highly prized for its logo but not its products (see story here), perhaps the design will outlive the company. After all, they were not the original owner. I hope so. It’s a terrible day for the folk that worked in the stores. And a slightly sad one for anyone who hates to see a lovely design disappear from the high street.






    Courtesy of  EMI Group Archive Trust


    Name:            Nipper

    Born:               1884

    Resident:        London

    Occupation:   Posing for paintings, attacking Gramophones, looking for His  

    Masters Voice

         Loves : Being a world famous icon, treats

    Francis Barraud’s painting of a fox terrier to an early gramophone remains one of the oldest and best-known of trademarks and records logos. It was a brilliantly conceived piece of commercial art that has become one of the worlds most recognised trade marks.


    Courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust

    Nipper was a stray dog found by Mark Barraud (Francis Barraud’s brother) in 1884. He was called Nipper because he a habit of nipping at the back legs of any visitors. Nipper became Francis’ pet three years later when Mark died.  The iconic ‘His Master’s Voice’ painting was made some time before 1899, although in the original Nipper was listening to an Edison phonograph.

    On May 31, 1899, Barraud went to the Maiden Lane offices of The Gramophone Company with the intention of borrowing a brass horn to replace the original black horn on the painting. Manager William Barry Owen suggested that if the artist replaced the machine with a Berliner disc gramophone the Company would buy the painting.  Since then Nipper has been the face of a huge global brand the ‘His Master’s Voice’ painting is one of the most recognised trademarks in the world.


    Courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust







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