Poster Art 150 - London Underground's Greatest Designs

by FrancesSpiegel

To mark 150 years of London's underground transport system the London Transport Museum presents Poster Art 150 - an exhibition of 150 of the finest posters in their collection.

London's Underground system is the oldest in the world. Since its inauguration in 1863 it has been one of the world's most important patrons of the arts. Copies of every commissioned poster have been retained resulting in one of the world's finest collections of poster art which is now in the care of the London Transport Museum. This remarkable store includes more than 5000 graphic posters and at least 1000 original art works.
The posters appearing in this exhibition were selected by a panel of experts. Throughout the show visitors will be invited to vote for a favourite poster either in the gallery or online in The Siemens Poster vote. The results will be published at the end of the exhibition and it will be interesting to see which poster wins.

Poster Art 150 - Layout of the Exhibition

Poster Art 150 - London Underground's Greatest Designs showcases 150 of London Underground's finest posters including works by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Edward McKnight Kauffer, Man Ray, Margaret Calkin James and many more. The exhibition, curated by Anna Renton and supported by Siemens, forms part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the London Underground and is divided into six sections:

  • Finding your way features posters instructing the public on matters of travel etiquette. It also includes posters designed to assure travellers by passing on information about travel on the underground network.
    Brightest London commemorates the capital's sporting events and best places for a night out.
  • Capital culture informs visitors about cultural events in London's art galleries and museums, or even at London Zoo.
  • Away from it all demonstrates how Londoners were kept informed by posters about the possibilities of days in the country and other exciting leisure activities.
  • Keeps London going showcases posters informing Underground users about improvements to the service, speed and reliability of the Underground.
  • Love your city presents London's most important attractions showing how Underground posters publicized these landmarks over the years.

 

The Art of the Poster

Astronauts on the moon Fabric Cloth R...
NewBrightBase
$6.77  $1.80
7 Rules Of Life, motivational poster ...
Keep Calm Collection
$10.99  $5.99
Tennis Girl Poster Poster Print, 24x36
Poster Discount
$6.99  $3.35

Poster Art 150 - London Underground's Greatest Designs - Highlights of the Exhibition

In an exhibition of this quality it's almost impossible to select 'highlights'. It's a matter of personal taste and for me four posters in particular stood out:

 

London Transport - Keeps London Going - Man Ray

London Transport - Keeps London Going (1938) by American-born Man Ray (1890-1976) demonstrates how London's underground network kept the city rolling along in the inter-war years. The poster is designed in two halves, known as a pair poster. In the 1940s, the head of London Transport's publicity department, Harold F Hutchison, standardized the design of these posters. One half contains an image and the other contains text that explains the purpose of the poster. These posters were usually placed in prominent positions such as entrances to Underground stations.

Man Ray (also known as Emmanuel Rudnitzky) was particularly interested in Surrealism, and will be remembered for his experimental work with photographs, or 'rayographs'.

London Transport - Keeps London Going - Man Ray, 1931

© TfL from the London Transport Museum collection.
London Transport - Keeps London Going - Man Ray, 1931
London Transport - Keeps London Going - Man Ray, 1931
© TfL from the London Transport Museum collection

Your fare - Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

The Hungarian sculptor, painter, designer and photographer, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946), was another important artist commissioned by the Underground's publicity department. His poster, Your fare, (1936) is one of a short series of posters advising passengers on fares from one station to another.

 

After initially training in law Moholy-Nagy moved to Berlin in 1920 where his talents were recognised by Walter Gropius who asked him to run the metalwork shop at the Bauhaus. He taught there from 1922-1928. He was a member of the Abstraction-Creation group in London, Paris and Chicago where he directed New Bauhaus from 1938-1946.

Your fare, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 1936

© TfL from the London Transport Museum collection.
Your fare,  Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 1936
Your fare, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 1936
© TfL from the London Transport Museu...

Play between 6 and 12 - Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1931

Play between 6 and 12 - Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1931
Play between 6 and 12 - Edward McKnig...
© TfL from the London Transport Museu...

Play between 6 and 12 - Edward McKnight Kauffer

Poster Art 150 also features posters by Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954). After moving to London at the outbreak of World War I, Kauffer began a long association with the Underground Group and London Transport (1915-1939) during which he produced various posters including Play between 6 and 12.

Educated in the USA and Paris, Kauffer was a prolific designer whose work was influenced by Futurism, Cubism and Surrealism. Kauffer also produced posters for the Great Western Railway, the Post Office, the Empire Marketing Board and Shell.

Trooping the Colour - Margaret Calkin James

London is well-known the world over for its public ceremonial occasions and in 1932 Margaret Calkin James (1895-1985) was commissioned to produce Trooping the Colour. London-born Margaret Calkin James, well-respected water colourist, textile printer, calligrapher and graphic designer created posters for the Underground Group and London Transport between 1928-1935. James opened The Rainbow Workshops in 1920, one of the first galleries established by a woman specifically to nurture art, craft and design.

Trooping the Colour, Margaret Calkin James, 1932

© TfL from the London Transport Museum collection.
Trooping the Colour, Margaret Calkin James,  1932
Trooping the Colour, Margaret Calkin ...
© TfL from the London Transport Museu...

When to Visit and What to Do

Poster Art 150 - London Underground's Greatest Designs will be on show until 5th January 2014. Apart from exploring the exhibition visitors can take part in a comprehensive programme of events for adults and children including story time sessions, talks and tours, Friday Lates, workshops and panel discussions. There are also regular Open Days at the Museum Depot at Acton, West London. Tickets and further information can be found at London Transport Museum.

 

Sources:

  • London Transport Museum accessed 19th-24th April 2013
  • Read, H., (Editor), The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Art and Artists, Thames and Hudson, 1994.

London Transport Museum, Covent Garden Piazza, London WC2E 7BB

Updated: 09/03/2013, FrancesSpiegel
 
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FrancesSpiegel on 05/01/2013

Thank you for reading - glad you enjoyed it

Guest on 05/01/2013

I always find pop art fascinating. I admire Banksey. Thanks for this interesting art review.

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