C&RE

A modern couple who brought a new aesthetic to 1930s poster art

Unique among the artists featured in London Transport Museum’s Poster Girls, Clifford and Rosemary Ellis were a husband and wife design partnership. They married in 1931 after meeting at the Regents Street Polytechnic, and henceforth virtually all their commercial work was jointly signed, often with the initials ‘C&RE’. At the time, this was an unusual demonstration of artistic and marital equality, underlined by the occasional use of the signature ‘Rosemary and Clifford Ellis’ (rather than ‘Clifford & Rosemary’) which can be seen on one of the London Transport posters in the exhibition. In describing their collaborative approach, Rosemary explained that either one might have the original idea for a design which they would then finalise together.

Whatever the origins of their ideas may have been, the results were extraordinary. Their unmistakable style was characterised by a lively use of colour and form, creating unusual and memorable poster designs. Travels in Time (1937), for example, is almost surrealist in its depiction of a disembodied Charles I against an imagined landscape. Luckily for Londoners, this bewildering image was paired with an explanatory poster (also designed by Rosemary and Clifford) promoting the Capital’s museums. In contrast, their representation of animals and birds, seen in their designs for Green Line Coaches (1933), was wonderfully naturalistic and alive with movement.

Ellis artwork

By the late thirties, the couple were much in demand, having designed posters for London Transport, the Empire Marketing Board, the Post Office and Shell-Mex. Their joint output included book jackets, lithographs, murals, mosaics and wallpaper. Clifford was also the headmaster of the Bath Academy of Art and instrumental in re-establishing it as one of Britain’s foremost art colleges at Corsham Court after the Second World War. During the war, Rosemary and Clifford worked together on the monumental Recording Britain project, but are perhaps best remembered today for the 60+ dust jackets they designed for the long running New Naturalist book series.

The couple’s extensive personal archive was auctioned in 2017 following the death of their only child, the sculptor Penelope Ellis. London Transport Museum acquired two rare ‘proof’ versions of ‘Museums’ (1937), showing annotations made by the artists before final printing. These included the replacement of the printed London Transport logo with a hand drawn alternative, which was accepted for the final design.

To find out more about Clifford and Rosemary Ellis, visit the Poster Girls exhibition at London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, or go behind the scenes to explore the Museum’s famous poster collection at Acton Depot Open Weekend, 21-22 April. Full details of Depot tours and times can be found here www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/museum-depot/open-weekends

David Bownes is co-curator of Poster Girls and director of Twentieth Century Posters (www.twentiethcenturyposters.com)

Advertisements

Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project – Session Three

This blog is part of a mini-series of updates about the Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project. To keep up-to-date with all the latest programme activities, please visit the ‘Battle Bus’ section in London Transport Museum blog.

Session Three

Introduction to research

Volunteer Rhys Davies-Santibanez reflects on session three of the project, which introduced the volunteers to the resources available to help them start their research.

Having spent the previous week out and about visiting other museums, being back at the London Transport Museum was a welcome return to soft seats and having tea on tap. A quick recap of our impressions of the different ways other museums displayed their exhibits revealed many diverse opinions in the room. With that in mind, how were we going to agree on the direction of our research?

We split into two teams to discuss subject areas and approaches to researching the B-type buses. My group’s interests lay in the tales of the soldiers on board, together with the broader (and political) story of the First World War’s effect on women’s rights and on workers in general. Before we knew it, our guest speaker had arrived.

Andrew Robertshaw talk

Andrew Robertshaw is a man of boundless energy and passion. He introduced himself by rattling off a handful of impressive credentials (and a quick Google search easily doubled this list). Armed with just a USB stick and a boxful of trinkets, Andy effortlessly proved that curiosity and some online tools are all you need to start researching First World War military personnel. I thought he’d just briefly touch on the generalities of research, but by the time he left I had two pages packed full of notes. Lunch provided time to digest his many insights before the afternoon’s activity, our library induction!

Library induction

Caroline Warhurst, the Library and Information Services Manager, warned us it was normally pretty cosy with just two people working in the library. Nevertheless, ten of us managed to squeeze in to listen to her. Despite the crush, the short time we were in there proved fruitful.

One book in particular, ‘The London B-type motor omnibus’ by G J Robbins and J B Atkinson, 3rd ed. 1991, was packed with excerpts of soldiers’ letters about the B-type buses. They were originally published in ‘News of T.O.T’ (which stands for Train, Omnibus, Tram) a wartime newsletter produced by the transport companies, which the Museum has had digitised. A quick keyword search revealed a treasure trove of stories from the front line. I started following the adventures of W H Davis, a former signal repairman from south of the river who first popped up in T.O.T’s wounded list in December 1916, but by March 1918 was awarded a medal and promotion for his bravery and leadership. If I could find that snippet in just an hour, I wonder what might appear over the coming weeks…

Research

The day wound to a close with a group discussion revisiting the research interests we had explored. In contrast to my group’s focus on personal and social stories, the others had been thinking about the Battle Bus as an object in its own right: what the B-type buses had been used for during the Frist World War, and even the materials and process of production.

Plenty to think about between sessions! How do we tie our various interests into a single thematic thread? What do we look into next? Next week we start researching in earnest, thinking about what our Battle Bus exhibition might look like.

Comeback every week to read the latest instalment on how our volunteers are getting on with their Battle Bus project.

Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project – Session Two

This blog is part of a mini-series of updates about the Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project. To keep up-to-date with all the latest programme activities, please visit the ‘Battle Bus’ section in London Transport Museum blog.

Session Two

Visit to the Imperial War Museum and the National Army Museum

This week the group visited the First World War galleries at Imperial War Museum and the Society and the War gallery at National Army Museum. Here, volunteer Eithne Cullen, talks about her experience of the day.

At the Imperial War Museum, the number of deaths and the awful conditions endured by the soldiers and civilians who lived through the First World War make visiting the exhibition an emotive and powerful experience. All the people in the group felt they had the chance to examine artefacts and get a sense of the sights and sounds of war, with sympathetic lighting and a variety of hands-on displays.

The opportunity to learn about individuals’ lives and see artefacts as varied as china and crockery, newspaper headlines of the day, propaganda posters, empty bullet shells, uniforms and a reconstructed trench – all made this come to life. Individual lives were opened up too, from Edith Cavell the heroic nurse, to Siegfreid Sassoon the officer-poet who spoke out about the conditions his men experienced. Other letters and diaries provide vivid records of individual service, like Gabrielle West whose diary tells of her role in a special police service set up to supervise women workers.

Museum visit

By way of contrast, the exhibition at the National Army Museum seems like an attractive cinema entrance, where there is generous use of colourful posters and bright display cases. We saw the cultural influence of the army on our lives in a display looking at everything from representations of the army in cinema to the way army language and slang has entered everyday speech. The use of a film about the conflict in Northern Ireland know as the Troubles made some of the group feel uncomfortable because it was unexpected and felt out of place in this gallery considering the other themes. The small exhibition about the symbol of the poppy was interesting and provoked some thought about how the poppy is used for Remembrance.

National Army Museum Visit

These two contrasting displays gave us lots to think about when considering how we react to the way information is presented to us and the way we respond to it.

I was very taken by the stories of the women who worked in the munitions factories, the munitionettes. I wrote this poem in response.

Munitionette        

On Monday she’s a  munitionette

packing shells and placing wicks

the powder makes her hair and skin  yellow.

Canary girl in an opera of canaries.

 

On Monday she’s in drab brown clothes

mob cap on her head, trousers like a man

she’s not allowed a buckle or a badge

one spark and they’d be off, all blown away.

 

The men look at them, with contempt

they’ll cut our wages, take away our jobs

no place for a woman in our   factory…

but the women fill the orders in this

hour of need send plenty to the front to

beat the Hun.

 

The men look down on their yellow faces

their tunics a mockery of battledress and frontline uniforms.

 

But on Sunday she puts on a dress

it’s white and it’s embroidered at the front

her sash of green and purple like her hat

and the metal brooch she wears a badge of honour

a medal for her service at the front and times in Holloway.

 

On Sunday in the park with crowds of women just like her

The explosives in this case are powerful words –

speeches and glorious cries of ‘Votes for Women!’

and the songs they sing block the awful factory sounds.

 

The men look at them, with contempt

they’ll cut our wages-take away our power

the ballot box is not the place

Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project – Session One

This blog is part of a mini-series of updates about the Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project. To keep up-to-date with all the latest programme activities, please visit the ‘Battle Bus’ section in London Transport Museum blog.

Session One

This year the Battle Bus project is focussing on ‘London’s Memories’. We are starting the programme of activities with a research volunteer project, to uncover stories of transport workers involved in the First World War.

Marta Kronberga, one of our research volunteers, describes what happened in the project’s first session:

This week we were based at the Museum Depot at Acton. We started the morning with some group activities to get to know each other better and discussed what makes good presentation skills. We then went to explore the famous Battle Bus, with curator Katariina Mauranen, who worked on the bus restoration project.

Battle Bus group activity

This amazing B-type bus was introduced in London in 1910, and was operated by the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC). More than 1,000 of these buses were sent to war, many with their bus drivers. They were used to transport troops to and from the front lines. After the war, only around 400 buses came back to London and many were in such bad condition they were just used for parts.

It was such an interesting experience. We got to hear about the story of the Battle Bus, sit on the top deck, see all the little details and some of us even got a chance to sit in the driver’s seat!

Behind the wheel of Battle Bus

After lunch it was time for some more group activities. This time each group created a presentation from documents we were given, to get us in the mood to start thinking about the Battle Bus research project. We discussed the First World War in general, remembrance of the war and stories of individual transport workers. Everybody was really interested in the postcards and letters sent from or to soldiers, and the personal stories they showed.

Battle Bus group activity

At the end of the day we were given a tour of the Depot by Keith Raeburn, the Depot Supervisor. It was a great chance to see the development of London buses. We saw everything from horse-drawn omnibuses to ones that are almost the same as the buses on London streets today. We also saw posters and objects from the collection and of course Underground trains that were used throughout the 20th century.

At the end of the day it was clear that we have a great group of volunteers with different interests and backgrounds. Hopefully this will give us some fascinating outcomes at the end of the project. Let’s see where this research will take us!

Comeback every week to read the latest instalment on how our volunteers are getting on with their Battle Bus project.

The bright young things who put women centre stage

Written by David Bownes, co-curator of Poster Girls – a century of art and design and Director of twentiethcenturyposters.com

Of all the designers featured in the Poster Girls exhibition, none were as glamorous as the Scottish-born sisters, Doris and Anna Zinkeisen, whose precocious talent, beauty, and modernity propelled them into the centre of interwar London’s fashionable art scene. Typically described in the pages of society papers as ‘extremely pretty’ and ‘brilliantly clever’, it would be easy to view the sisters as the epitome of the entitled ‘bright young things’ parodied by Evelyn Waugh in Vile Bodies (1930). But there was so much more to Anna and Doris than this, as their extraordinary body of work testifies. And as the posters in London Transport Museum’s exhibition show, it was a body of work that put confident, independent, women firmly on the centre stage.

Born in 1898, Doris was the elder of the two by three years. Despite the age gap, they trained together at the Royal Academy Schools and by the mid-1920s were sharing a studio in London. The range of their work was dazzling, including book illustration, publicity for railway companies, murals for the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth ocean liners, and society portraits of the fashionable ‘set’. Doris also developed a hugely successful career as a stage and costume designer for theatre and films, working alongside Noel Coward, Charles B Cochran and Cole Porter.

But it is their depiction of women that strikes the viewer as truly modern. Take, for example, the panel posters produced by Anna for the inside of Tube carriages. These show dynamic, active, women who are not defined by their relationship to men – a far cry from most commercial art of the time. Similarly, Doris’ unpublished poster of female theatre goers (1939) depicts a group of young women enjoying a night out without an obvious male chaperon (shown above). And the subject matter, too, is far removed from traditional ‘feminine’ commissions. Anna’s output for the Underground included motor shows, air displays and military parades. There was also something distinctly racy about their portrayal of the modern woman. The scantily clad revellers of Anna’s Merry-go-round poster (1935) would raise eyebrows even today, while Doris’ costumes for the West End play Nymph Errant (1933) were regarded as so revealing that the chorus girls refused to wear them. In the changed circumstance of the Second World War, their work became less frivolous but no less assertive, as their moving depictions of female war workers demonstrates.

  

Image: Merry-go-round (1935) Anna Zinkeisen

Inspired by the Zinkeisen sisters and their female design contemporaries, London Transport Museum is hosting a very special evening event this Friday celebrating the Golden Age of the 1920s and 30s poster design.  Experience vintage girl power and iconic art movements through curated lectures and workshops and discover Poster Girls after hours. With music, dancing and bars it promises to be a fun night.

Full details can be found here: https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/friday-lates

 

Happy 80th birthday Carol Barker

Happy 80th birthday to Carol Barker, illustrator and author 

Written by David Bownes, co-curator of Poster Girls – a century of art and design.

The multi award-winning illustrator and author Carol Mintum Barker turns 80 on 16 February. I first met Carol last year while researching London Transport Museums Poster Girls exhibition, and I’m not surprised to learn that this sprightly artist is celebrating her landmark birthday teaching young women art and design in Rajasthan, India. In fact, Carol has been visiting and working in India since the 1970s, and has helped many women out of poverty and on to university through art education.

Her remarkable career began sixty years ago. Inspired by her artist father, John Rowland Barker, Carol attended Bournemouth College of Art, Chelsea Polytechnic and the Central School of Arts & Crafts. She became a freelance illustrator in 1958, eventually contributing to over 30 books. Until the late-1970s, her work was most closely associated with children’s book illustration, including a collaboration with the comedian Spike Milligan (The Bald Twit Lion, 1968). It was during this period that she designed four posters for London Transport (LT) promoting Fenton House (1966), London Museum (1969), Children’s London (1973) and London’s Museums (1979) – a selection of which can be seen in the current exhibition at Covent Garden. Her designs in pen and ink, watercolour, collage and wax, capture the joyful exuberance of the age, and are arguably among the best posters commissioned by LT at that time. London Museum in particular is a rich visual scrapbook of the Capital’s past, and visitors to Poster Girls are encouraged to compare the original 3D artwork with the printed poster (both on display). My favourite, though, is the Children’s London pair poster, which was praised by the internationally renowned design journal, Modern Publicity (1974) as one of the best British posters of the previous year.

Since 1977, Carol has undertaken several extensive research trips to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Africa, Tibet and elsewhere to produce non-fiction ‘picture-information’ books for children which sympathetically record day-to-day life in other cultures. On one of these trips she was given a rare private audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Her work, often at the behest of international organisations such as Oxfam and the United Nations, has garnered critical acclaim and achieved worldwide publication.

Children's LondonCarol Barker 60s

David Bownes is the Director of twentiethcenturyposters.com

For more information about Poster Girls – a century of art and design and our public programme of events please visit www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/events-calendar

Browse the Poster Girls shop range  www.ltmuseumshop.co.uk/poster-girls

the first women poster pioneers

A Room of One’s Own

David Bownes, co-curator of the Poster Girls – a century of art and design exhibition

90 years ago, the author Virginia Woolf argued that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”. This call for a literal and figurative space, free of male control and domestic responsibilities, applied equally to all areas of female creative endeavour. Yet as Woolf knew all too well, women had few opportunities for genuine financial and creative independence in the 1920s. Commercial art, as graphic design was then known, provided one of these opportunities, and London Transport was at the forefront of commissioning female talent. How did this come about?

When Frank Pick took charge of the Underground’s publicity in 1908 the male-dominated advertising industry regarded women artists, at best, as suitable for illustrating ‘feminine’ subjects or children’s books. From the start, Pick took a progressive view towards commissioning irrespective of gender or subject matter. The first poster by a woman appeared on the company’s trams in 1910, and by 1930 over 25% of all Underground publicity was designed by women.  No other British company or government agency took such an enlightened stance or promoted female designers to the same extent.

In finding young artists Pick was greatly helped by a revolution in the teaching of art and design in London, led by the Central School of Arts & Crafts. Women made up a disproportionate number of the students on commercial art courses, and in Pick they found a willing patron able to jump start their careers with the gift of well-paid and high-profile poster commissions.

But it wasn’t a feminist triumph in the modern sense. Male designers were still paid more and achieved greater fame than their female colleagues. And many promising careers were cut short by marriage and the expectations of childcare and running the family home. The names of these female poster pioneers, too, have been criminally neglected by history. Who now has heard of Nancy Smith, Dora Batty, Herry Perry, Margaret Calkin James, or the dozens of successful women designers whose work enlivened the hoardings in the first 50 years of the twentieth century?

On 25th January design historians Oliver Green, Ruth Sykes and Susannah Walker will be exploring these themes in more detail at London Transport Museum’s A Room of One’s Own evening event www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/events-calendar/talks#room Starting with the first commissions in the 1910s, the speakers will chart the crucial role of London art colleges and London Transport in providing training and employment opportunities for women designers and ask whether female artists bought a new aesthetic to the male world of commercial art.

Lambourne End

Letter from Santa

Santa has been spotted in our Museum and has written a letter to let all of the children know about his visit, how they can find him and the festive activities they can enjoy.

Ho Ho Hello!

My goodness what a busy time we’re having here in the North Pole! So many letters to read and gifts to wrap, there’s almost no time to sneak off to London Transport Museum. That’s right, you may not ever have noticed before, but tucked away behind old Routemasters and London Taxis is my secret cosy Christmas hideaway. This is where I come to relax, read and try out the latest toys from the elves workshop.

Why not join me? Oh what fun! You can make your own decorations (here’s a video from one of the elves to show you how simple it can be!) and take part in a festive storytime and singalong about travelling in the city at Christmas – which trust me, isn’t easy, especially with such a heavy sack of presents to carry. Some years, I honestly don’t know how I manage to deliver everything on time, not with all the rush hour traffic (thank goodness for public transport!).

I’ve even decided to give the reindeer a couple of nights off and have booked a vintage bus tour of the city’s West End lights. If you’re not doing any last-minute Christmas shopping why not come along on the 21 or 22 December?

Oh, look at the time! I must go and finish wrapping the latest toys from the workshop!

I hope to bump into you at London Transport Museum for some festive fun very soon. If you see me, please do say ho ho hello, I’ll be around every day until 23 December (I have a long standing prior engagement on Christmas Eve).

Merry Christmas!

Santa, Mrs Clause, the elves and all the reindeer

Santa's hideout

Connecting London’s Past and Present

The Museum’s extensive range of learning programmes, which includes work with families, schools, communities and young people, provides exciting opportunities to make connections between transport’s past and the present-day lives of Londoners.
None perhaps more so than the Battle Bus Project. Since the restoration of the B-type bus number B2737in 2014 the Museum’s Learning Team has been delving deeper into the story of London’s buses during the First World War, working with young people in Tottenham and Camberwell to bring the story of the Battle Bus back to the communities and streets of London where it all began. Vicki Pipe, who is our Family and Community Learning Manager, describes the projects in more detail.

Focus on Tottenham
In 1914 Emily Lee Graves married William Ely. During the war years Emily worked as a Clippie (a female bus conductor) on London’s B-Type buses. It was the first time women were allowed to work on the buses, and Emily was one of 3,500 females who took up the role. In May 1917 William was tragically killed fighting in France. Emily continued to work as a Clippie, raising a small child at the same time and later marrying a local tram driver Hubert Pearson.

Students from Northumberland Park Community School in Tottenham who learnt about Emily’s story visited the grave of William Ely during a trip to Fosse No. 10 Communal Cemetery in France. Maggie Bonfield, William and Emily’s granddaughter who grew up in Tottenham, met with student Serkan Ahmed after their journey to find out more about the group’s experience and to thank them for sharing William and Emily’s story with others.

Focus on Camberwell
When war broke out in 1914 1,000 buses were requisitioned by the War Office from across London, including Camberwell Bus Garage.  Life on the home front in Camberwell, as with all parts of the country, was challenging. Everyone was expected to contribute to the war effort including children, who were even encouraged to give up their pocket money to help. Young people worked hard during the war knitting scarfs and socks for soldiers, with some as young as 12 taking jobs in factories or on farms. Approximately 600,000 children went to work instead of going to school.

Young people from Lyndhurst Primary School in Camberwell worked with an artist, actors and the Battle Bus Learning Team to discover what life was like growing up as a young person during the First World War. They shared the stories they discovered through the creation of  artwork inspired by children’s comic books from the time. Their work is now on display in Camberwell library, where more young people will learn about the ‘Home Front Heroes’ of London from 100 years ago.

Young people from Camberwell

Young people from Camberwell get up close to the Battle Bus whilst finding out about their Homefront Heroes

You can find out more about the Battle Bus project, and where and when it can be seen via the link below
https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/learning/community-learning/battle-bus

A new discovery

One of the major strands of our new display Digging Deeper, supported by Biffa Award, is to celebrate the contribution of the Victorian engineer James Henry Greathead to the development of tube tunnelling worldwide. New research during exhibition work sometimes presents opportunities to find out more about objects in our care, and can reveal exciting new information. I’m happy to say this is one of those times.

We have had this demonstration model of the first circular tunnelling shield in the world in the collection for many years, but we didn’t know much about it. We know that Greathead designed and built the shield that it represents – the one that built the Tower Subway in 1870 – but we couldn’t be sure of a link between this model and the inventor, until now. By looking into the history of the donor I have discovered that the model had been passed down through the family of another engineer who worked with Greathead in the 1880s, establishing a direct link to the great man himself. Now it is not just a model, it’s a part of world tunnelling history, and will be on display for the first time, when the gallery re-opens in March 2018.

Shield Model

Here we see the shield’s six screw-operated rams and representation of two complete tunnel lining rings, which workmen would construct one at a time as the shield moves forward.

Shield in use

In this picture the men are turning the screws which force the tubular shield forward by the width of a tunnel lining ring.

Simon Murphy, Lead Curator, Digging Deeper project 2017