Art and advertising

painting of a young girl proudly lifting up her apron to show off her dress, which is satin with a lace trim

'The New Frock' by William Powell Frith
Accession number LL 3419

Lever started collecting art to promote Sunlight Soap.

He was one of the pioneers of modern advertising. Lever went to art exhibitions in London and bought pictures which were beautiful and would appeal to the housewives who were his customers.

Lever then had the pictures copied, adding the Sunlight brand name and slogan. Most artists didn't mind Lever using their art in this way. One exception was William Powell Frith who complained that Lever had changed the meaning of his painting by using it for advertising.

Between 1886 and 1906 Lever spent over £2 million on advertising. He encouraged his customers to collect prints reproduced from his collection. Soap wrappers contained vouchers that could be collected and exchanged for prints. A very modern idea that is still popular today!

At first Lever collected art for business reasons. But as he grew richer and more confident he quickly got a taste for collecting and started to buy things for his own pleasure.