Games, Abram

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Games, Abram

Abraham Games was born in Whitechapel, London, in August 1914, just as the First World War was breaking out. He was the son of a Latvian photographer and a seamstress from Russo-Poland. The family name was anglicised to Games in 1926, and Abraham became known as Abram.

Abram Games attended school in Hackney, but left in 1930 aged just 16. He wanted to be an artist, but since no scholarships were available, his parents had to find the money to pay his tuition fees. Games started a course at St Martins School of Art, but the expense concerned him and he soon became disillusioned with the teaching. He left after just two terms and went to work for his father as a photographer's assistant. Still determined to become an artist, Games continued his studies by attending evening classes in life drawing.

In 1932, Games was employed as a studio boy at Askew-Young, a commercial art company. After working there for four years, he was dismissed for having 'independent views'.

In 1936 Games won first prize of 20 in a graphic design competition. The brief was to design a poster to promote London County Council evening classes. His success gave him the confidence to set up on his own as a freelance commercial artist. The following year an article on Games was published in Art and Industry magazine, helping him to secure commissions from London Transport, Shell and the Post Office.

When the Second World War broke out, Games was called up to the army. After six months as a private, Games was given the role of draughtsman on the recommendation of Jack Beddington, the design director at Shell. In 1942, Games was promoted to captain and given the title of Official War Artist. He designed more than a hundred propaganda posters, urging the people of Britain to do their bit towards the war effort. He used modern design techniques and sophisticated wit to communicate the primary messages of wartime. One of his personal favourites was a design from 1942, 'Your Talk May Kill Your Comrades'. In this powerful metaphor for the danger of careless talk, words spiralling from a soldier's mouth brutally spear three comrades.

In 1945, after the war, Games married Marianne Salfeld. The couple lived with Marianne's father in Surbiton, Surrey, whilst Games set about rebuilding his freelance design business. He soon received a commission for a set of commemorative stamps for the 1948 Olympic Games, an association that earned him the nickname 'Olympic' Games.

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