Poster of the Week – For the Zoo

For the Zoo
For the Zoo, book to Regent’s Park or Camden Town, Charles Paine, 1921
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Along with our Poster Art 150 exhibition, and as part of the Underground’s 150th anniversary, we’re displaying and interpreting our poster collection in all kinds of interesting ways.

This morning we installed our latest Poster Parade display, which this time brings Underground posters to life. Second Year MA Character Animation students from Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design worked in groups to draw inspiration from the Museum’s collection of Underground posters. They’ve created a series of amazing animations that celebrate the theme of ‘London characters’.  From contemporary Tube etiquette to travelling penguins, exploring the humorous through to the poetic, the films are as diverse as the posters on show.

One of the fantastic posters to have inspired students is Charles Paine’s ‘For the Zoo’, commissioned by the Underground Electric Railway Company in 1921. It was included in the first major exhibition of Underground posters, held at Burlington House, Piccadilly in 1928, which celebrated the first 20 years of Underground graphic design. This bold design, typical of Charles Paine’s style, was extremely well-received when first displayed and reproductions continue to be popular. The poster’s theme, London Zoo, features on more Underground posters than any other subject – at least two per year were produced throughout the 1920s.

Do drop in and check out the wonderful animations and Underground posters featured in the ‘London characters’ Poster Parade. Students’ animations will also be shown on the big screen in the Museum’s theatre during our upcoming Friday Late ‘Brightest London’ on 17th May. There’ll be a huge range of activities happening on the night, including an introductory talk by Central Saint Martins staff.

As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is.

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Poster of the Week – Brighter London for Theatreland

Brighter London for theatreland, Harold Sandys Williamson, 1924
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The West End is the home of London’s entertainment scene, filled with theatres, cinemas, clubs and restaurants. A number of posters were created London Underground to encourage people to visit the area at the weekend and after work to help cut congestion during the rush hour. London Transport Museum is based in Covent Garden in the heart of London’s West End, specifically in the area known as Theatreland which is indicated on street signs by featuring a comedy tragedy mask – a classic representation of stage and theatre. This week’s poster of the week is Brighter London for Theatreland by Harold Sandys Williamson in 1924 designed to bring the crowds in to London’s theatres, aided by the Tube of course.

Many of Williamson’s designs feature vibrant and intense colours used to draw the viewer’s attention. The West End has been particularly popular since the early 19th century when it was favoured by the rich because it was located upwind of smoke drifting from the City. This part of the city remains so exciting that it is officially the most expensive place in the world to rent commercial property.

Along with Broadway in New York, the West End is well known for presenting some of the highest quality theatre productions in the world, with many famous film actors treading the boards in recent years to enhance their thespian image!

The first theatre in London was constructed in 1576 and was known to have been used by William Shakespeare’s company. The first theatre to be built in the West End however opened in 1663 on the site of what is now known as the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane, designed by highly celebrated architect Christopher Wren.

The longest running show in the world to date is The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie which has been running since 1952. The second longest runner is the musical Les Misérables which has been showing since 1985.

There are various awards for West End theatre performers but the most coveted is the Laurence Olivier Award which is presented annually by the Society of London Theatre.

Williamson designed posters for the London Underground from 1922-1939. Not all his work was as bright and uplifting as Brighter London for Theatreland. His early works featured scenes based on his experiences in the trenches during World War I where he sustained injury. These works have been displayed at the Royal Academy of Art where he was trained. While producing his more commercial works he became Headmaster of the Chelsea School of Art, employing Henry Moore to run his new sculpture department.


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As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is.

Vote Now

Poster of the Week – The London Transport Collection

The London Transport Collection, Tom Eckersley, 1975
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The bold simplicity and timeless quality of this week’s poster perfectly describes the appeal of steam locomotion. Created in 1975 by the highly acclaimed graphic artist Tom Eckersley, this poster promoted the London Transport collection of historic vehicles, posters, signs and tickets before it was moved to its current location at Covent Garden. The collage on which the design was based is now part of the Museum’s collection of over 700 original poster artworks.

Eckersley frequently used a limited range of strong colours to create designs that were simple to read, appealing directly and effectively to a wide audience. Eckersley developed this technique over a long and successful career as a practitioner and teacher. He graduated from Salford School of Art in 1934 and received his first commission from London Transport in 1935. During WWII he worked as a cartographer for the RAF and also created posters for the Ministry of Information. He was awarded an OBE in 1949 for services to British poster design and went on to create many wonderful posters, not only for London Transport but other significant patrons such as Shell and the BBC.

His skill in translating complex ideas and images into bold graphic elements is manifest in much of his early work as well as his deceptively simple collage-based designs of the seventies and eighties. He died just two years after creating his last poster for London Transport in 1995, having worked with the organisation for nearly 60 years.


What are you doing this weekend?

If this poster has inspired you to see steam in action, then why not join us for our annual spring Open Weekend at the Museum Depot in Acton. The weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday is looking good and the recently renovated Metropolitan Steam locomotive No.1 will be on show and in steam to celebrate the 150th anniversary of London Underground.

Model displays will feature miniatures of the Met No.1, and a Lego representation of Baker Street in 1863. With steam rides on the Acton Miniature Railway, film screenings, hands on workshops, talks, and book signings as well there’s plenty going on down the depot. Come and join the fun!

As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is.

Vote Now

Poster of the Week – Winter Sales

Winter Sales, E. McKnight Kauffer, 1921
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While the hustle and bustle of the New Year sales may now seem like a distant memory, winter appears reluctant to say goodbye. Perhaps the best remedy for such inclement weather (beyond just staying indoors!) is to go out and indulge in some retail therapy. Not such a new solution, as suggested by this 1921 poster by E. McKnight Kauffer.

Guest Blog by Brian Webb, designer and Visiting Professor at the University of the Arts, London

It would be easy to choose almost any of over 100 posters Edward McKnight Kauffer designed for London Transport, but at the top of the list has to be his 1921 ‘Winter Sales are best reached by Underground’.

Edward Kauffer was born in Montana in 1890 and after an unsettled childhood he left home to become a scene painter in a travelling theatre. By 1910 he was in San Francisco, taking art classes by night and working in a bookshop by day. One of the bookshop’s customers, Professor Joseph McKnight, offered to pay for Kauffer to study art in Europe – this was the time of benefactors who expected nothing in exchange. In recognition of his generosity Kauffer added McKnight’s name to that of his own.

En route for Europe, McKnight Kauffer stopped off in Chicago and saw the 1913 Armory show that had caused a sensation in New York, Americans used to realism were confronted with Cubism, Fauvism and Futurism. Arriving in Europe Kauffer visited Munich, seeing posters by Ludwig Hohlwein, and still with the intention of being a fine artist attended classes in Paris. At the outbreak of the First World War, heading back to New York, he stopped off in London and became involved with current art groups – the Vorticists and Omega workshops.

In 1915 Frank Pick commissioned Kauffer’s first London Transport poster. Kauffer quickly gave up the idea of fine art in favour of poster design. Winter Sales, 1921, is McKnight Kauffer’s ‘graduation piece’. It illustrates all he had learned in his travels. The composition has echoes of Duchamp’s ‘Nude descending a staircase’ that he had seen in Chicago. The monochrome figures and umbrellas lean into the diagonal shafts of rain and snow. The only colour, at the very top right of the image, is the welcoming entrance to the Underground, emphasised by the repeat of red in the line of lettering below.

Brian Webb

As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is.

Vote Now