Museums & Galleries Ltd launched in the 1980s with the aim of bringing the gems of the world’s museums to beautifully made and produced cards and stationery for the high street. It remains true to this mission today, but over the years the company has expanded both its product portfolio and the variety of art it publishes, so today has an outstanding retail offer covering a wide spectrum from heritage fine art to contemporary fashion design, old masters to contemporary artists and illustrators, anonymous archival discoveries to the most prestigious of fine art museum brands.
The company’s core collection of greetings cards branded ‘Classics’ is a heady mix of styles curated from a variety of sources. Every image is chosen for its quality and timeless style. The range is infinitely adaptable to the changing consumer moods, and M&G carefully balances some endearingly quirky designs against classics by the likes of Monet, Van Gogh, and LS Lowry. Asian art is a striking trend here, as well as cards aimed at masculine interests. Animals, florals, and landscapes are hugely popular. ‘Classics’ comes in a square format as well as a traditional rectangular format, all blank for the sender’s own message.
The next own brand the company developed was ‘The Illustrators’, all square cards printed on textured board and originally featuring classic illustration from children’s books. Over time this range has blossomed into a showcase for iconic, slightly nostalgic, British character illustration – Peggy Fortnum’s classic Paddington Bear illustrations; Quentin Blake’s work for Roald Dahl’s books; Judith Kerr’s ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’ illustrations, Anita Jeram’s illustrations to ‘Guess How Much I Love You’, amongst others. New this year are Jill Barklem’s gloriously detailed and much loved ‘Brambly Hedge’ illustrations.
M&G has continued to innovate with new own-brand ranges, and in recent years has launched two contemporary art strands which have quickly established themselves as retailer favourites: ‘Mezzanine’ and ‘Art of Print’. ‘Art of Print’ is a collection of contemporary printmaking across all disciplines, printed on textured board and rectangular in format. Wildlife and especially birds are very strong in this range, but landscapes also feature. ‘Mezzanine’ focuses on bright, bold and refreshing modern art sourced fresh from contemporary galleries, agencies, and direct from artists. Printed on high quality textured art board, all the cards are square with white borders.
Strongly individual artists with powerful stories to tell and strong commercial appeal are given their own personal ranges: from Alison Fennel’s charming animal watercolours (“Alison’s Ark”) to veteran illustrator Lucy Grossmith’s atmospheric, lushly coloured and finely detailed “Coast and Country” M&G aims to feature each individual artist’s unique strengths. Developed over the last couple of years have been new ranges showcasing the strikingly unique style of Liberty Prize winning designer Catherine Rowe and Helen Ahpornsiri’s jaw-droppingly intricate wildflower collages (‘Wild Press”).
While all the above is richly diverse in itself, M&G today is possibly best known for its prestigious branded ranges – starting with the national collections based in London. In one way or another, M&G has worked with both the V&A and the British Library since its inception as a publisher, and today both museums have licensed branded card, stationery and gift collections in M&G’s portfolio. The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance, and M&G’s V&A greeting cards offer the ultimate range of decorative art and design. Drawing from wallpaper patterns, textiles and exquisite laquerwork, the collection comes in multiple formats, including a luxury range featuring gold-foil stamp detail and embossing.
The British Museum offers a world of striking imagery which M&G publishes on gift packaging, stationery, journals and gifts. M&G’s Tate range explores this world-famous gallery’s collection of British art from the 16th century to the present and of international modern and contemporary art. M&G’s art studio collaborated with the Natural History Museum to develop a design-led and inspired NHM range, and M&G has also published imagery from BBC Earth, and Transport for London’ classic posters.
An important and growing interest is in fashion design – M&G launched star designer Matthew Williamson’s first dazzling stationery collection 5 years ago, and this hugely successful range has been joined by collections by such luminaries as Zandra Rhodes, Cressida Bell, and, launching this year, Sarah Campbell. Each designer has their own utterly distinctive style and approach which M&G translates with sensitivity and aplomb to cards and stationery products.