Hanging sign for shop display, colour lithographic print on paper, 400 x 280 mm, signed in image at lower right ‘Hackett & Northfield’; printer’s credit ‘Syd Day’ lower left; on original backing board, with two eyelets at top edge. The artwork depicts two women standing behind a wooden washing trough with a long white scrubbing board placed across it. The woman on the left is wearing an apron and scrubbing a corset with a brush. The other more elegantly dressed woman is watching her and has one hand on her hip. They are in a gray oval frame against a black background with white lettering. The image may have been commissioned to illustrate advertising copy that began appearing in newspapers in 1916: “Wear your corset through the hottest weather—wear it bathing if you like—you will not stain your lingerie with Warner's Rust-Proof Corsets. You can give a Warner's Corset the hardest kind of treatment—then wash it with a scrubbing brush and it will be as good as new” (Guyra Argus, 14 September 1916, page 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article173593648). A slightly different version of the image was published in The Ballarat Star, 11 December 1918, page 55, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article154778542), accompanied by washing instructions.
Brothers Dr. Lucien and Ira De Ver Warner established the Warner Brother's Company (later Warnaco) in New York in 1874. Their first product, a “coraline” corset was boned with a flexible textile material, said to be superior to rigid steel, horn or whalebone. They moved their manufacturing operations to to Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1876, and were extremely successful, exporting their products around the world.
James Northfield (1887-1973) was one of Australia's best known commercial artists from the early 1920s to the late 1950s. He was born on a station near Inverleigh, Victoria, and after attending Geelong West State School studied art with George King (1872–1950) at the Gordon Technical College in Geelong. Northfield was employed by H. Thacker Printers in Geelong before he joined F. W. Niven in Melbourne. He then seems to have gone into business with William Henry Hackett (1881-1962) and later with W. H. Hackett’s step-son Joseph Elnor Hackett (1895-1939). W. H. Hackett (born 4 July 1881, Leytonstone, Essex) trained as an artist/painter and lithographic artist apprentice with his father in England, and emigrated to Victoria in December 1911. Northfield’s partnership with W. H. Hackett was dissolved in October 1918 (The Argus, 16 October 1918, page 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1438856, retrieved October 2016). J. E. Hackett was born Joseph Elnor Shaw, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England, 16 June 1895; his mother Alice Gertrude Bradder (1874-1949) married W. H. Hackett on 7 March 1905. Alice (aged 38) and Joseph (aged 18) emigrated to Melbourne in August 1913. J. E. Hackett seems to have been in partnership with Northfield primarily as a printer from perhaps the mid-1920s through the 1930s (he died in Caulfield on 24 November 1939).