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The Robert Harling Collection
Robert Harling (1910-2008) was a typographer, designer, House and Garden editor, novelist, author, connoisseur and collector. His first job for a newspaper during the 1920s gave him a good grounding in publishing, writing and typography and he worked freelance for a number of years before publishing Typography in 1936, the first of several periodicals produced intermittently with printer James Shand until the early 1950s, thereby influencing a whole generation of post-war graphic designers. A lifelong collector of art and antiques, Harling was passionate about Georgian Gothic Revival, Regency and early Victorian design and architecture, examples of which are strongly represented in the contents of his Surrey home offered here.
Raised in Brighton, Harling was a keen sailor and volunteered for the Royal Navy under the direction of Captain O.M. Watts. He was in charge of a whaler during the evacuation of Dunkirk and crossed paths with the then Naval intelligence officer Ian Fleming who summoned the assistance of Harling to operate on the front line retrieving enemy code books, wireless equipment and security documents as part of the 30AU (30 Assault Unit). Fleming became a lifelong friend and signed first editions of 'Casino Royal' and 'You only live twice' were treasured items on the shelves of his extensive library.
At the end of the war Harling returned to civilian life. He married Phoebe Konstam in April 1945, and the couple moved to Suffolk from where he resumed his career in graphic design as an advertising art director. From 1957 Harling became editor of Condé Nast's House and Garden where he remained until 1993 and under whose direction the magazine was re-designed and dramatically increased its circulation. Another facet of his working life was his role as design consultant for the Sunday Times. Essentially, this involved designing the news pages and from the early 1960s until 1985, his Fridays and Saturdays were spent in the news room of 'one of the world's great newspapers', the slogan coined by Harling in the 1940s and taken up by Ian Fleming, the Foreign Editor.
Glebe House near Godstone became the Harling's family home from 1953 onwards. A neglected Gothic rectory dating from the 1790s, Harling lovingly re-designed both the exterior and interior of the house creating a colourful backdrop for the parties that Harling and his wife threw for friends from the worlds of design and journalism. Harling's artist friend Felix Kelly depicted the house on a number of occasions and the sale features a fanciful pen and ink drawing of Glebe House embellished with imaginary turrets.
Robert Harling was an important patron of the arts and wrote several books on some of the most distinguished artists of the early 20th century in Britain. Amongst others, his collecting focused on Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden, the latter with whom he co-wrote a book in 1950. Harling worked collaboratively with Ravilious in the 1930s on a publication entitled Country Walks and in summation of Ravilious's engraving style, he also captures the essence and grammar of his own Collection - "simple..assured and incisive" he "found his own idiom of expression and that idiom had charm, strangeness and always that sense of disciplined decoration".