Poster Parade: Moments in Time

After finishing my degree in history and archaeology at the University of Liverpool I was lucky enough to have been one of 14 candidates selected for the Strengthening Our Common life HLF funded traineeship programmes with Cultural Co-operation. I have aspired to become a curator for many years and have now been working at London Transport Museum as a trainee curator for the last 5 months. I am having an amazing experience so far and feel incredibly privileged to work with such an outstanding team looking after a fantastic collection. One of my projects was to curate my first exhibition: this month’s Poster Parade, ‘Moments in Time’.

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This fantastic selection of handpicked posters documents the Underground at significant moments in its history: the jubilee year in 1913; the 1963 centenary and the 150th anniversary in 2013.  Included in this display are ten amazing new posters specially commissioned to mark the Tube150 celebrations.

To select only 20 posters from a vast collection of fantastic posters was a very difficult job! However, one of my favourite posters in the display is the newly commissioned RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2013 poster.

Now 150 years old, the London Underground can claim a greater pedigree and is also incredibly enduring and popular enabling over a billion people a year to move around London for work and leisure.

Reviving a great tradition, the Underground in its 150th year publicised the 100th RHS Chelsea Flower Show with a special poster depicting the tube map with its coloured lines as both common and unusual flowers. The poster was devised by the fabulous creative minds at the London Transport Museum’s own Design Studio! A specific flower was chosen to represent each of the different tube lines – a red rose was chosen for the central line and blue tulip for the Piccadilly line.

Come along and visit my first curated exhibition at London Transport Museum and see the other 19 fantastic posters that mark the pivotal moments of the London Underground’s history!

Written by Chloe Eden Winter Taylor, Trainee Curator

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Poster of the Week – Femme Bien Informée

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Femme Bien Informée,
Harry Stevens, 1972

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Happy birthday Picasso!

Echoing the words written on Harry Stevens’ ‘Femme Bien Informée’, this week’s poster is ‘A Tribute to a Master’ – Pablo Picasso, born October 25, 1881.

London Transport published this poster in 1972. It was designed by Harry Stevens to promote London’s many incredible museums and art galleries. The ‘femme bien informée’, who looks as though she has just stepped out of a painting by Picasso, is admiring a selection of famous paintings from the National Gallery Collection such as The Arnolfini Portrait, by Jan van Eyck and The Fighting Temeraire, by J M W Turner.

At the bottom of the poster is an exhibition label reading ‘by Harry Stevens, London Transport Art Collection’. As well as commemorating the art of Picasso, Stevens also pays tribute to the London Transport poster by labelling it as part of an ‘art’ collection.

By this time London Transport had indeed become known as a major patron of the arts. However during the 70s it increasingly contracted publicity out to agencies, meaning that direct commissions with artists and graphic designers such as Stevens were less common.

With no formal art training, Stevens started his design career in the exhibitions and display trade. He went on to become a prolific freelance commercial artist, specialising in poster design, and in 1963 won the Council of Industrial Design Poster Award.

With a succession of bold designs, Stevens maintained the presence of strong graphic art on the Underground.

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Poster of the Week: There is still the country

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T
here is still the country, Dora M. Batty, 1926

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The leaves are starting to fall from the trees, the central heating is on and the chunky knitwear is back…Hello autumn! This week’s striking Poster of the Week epitomises the autumnal season with bright yellow and orange tones contrasted with the cool blue of a woman’s tunic.

The poster, produced in 1926, was designed by one of the most prolific female designers at the time, Dora M Batty. It depicts a woman wearing the latest modern clothes. Like many posters produced during this period, it bears more than a fleeting resemblance to the upmarket fashion illustrations of the time. This was not unintentional as many advertisers and companies, including London Underground, were aware of women’s growing interest in fashion. This interest was exploited by advertisers who wished to attract female customers by seducing them with images of stylish women whose looks and lifestyle they aspired to emulate.

Batty worked in gouache, pen and ink, scraper board engraving and produced numerous book illustrations in the Art deco style. She went on to teach textiles at the Central School in 1932 and later became Head of the department. Her profession meant that she understood the qualities of textiles and this was often reflected in her posters.

The social conditions engendered by the First World War had provided new opportunities for women working in the design industry. The representation of the ‘modern woman’ in Underground publicity had also increased and as a result a staggering number of female artists were designing posters in 1920s-30s. While Victorian women were previously depicted in luxury parlours or in the safety and respectability of their own home the ‘new woman’ was depicted as having a more dominant public presence in society. This poster effectively illustrates the growing independence women had at this time; one which continued to increase throughout the century.

Written by Chloe Taylor, Curatorial Intern

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Volunteer Thank You Event

Regular blog readers will be starting to gain an appreciation of just how much of a contribution the volunteers make to the smooth running of the museum and, more importantly, the quality of the visitor experience at both Covent Garden and the Acton Depot site.

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So, understandably, the museum hosts an annual “thank you” event for all the volunteers who so freely give of their time, knowledge and expertise to help the museum thrive. This year’s event was at the Acton Depot, and featured a diverse agenda covering many aspects of the museum’s operation. Not only did free beer feature, but also a hog roast, so no need to worry – your scribe was at the front of the queue to attend the event. Rumour has it that there was also an alternative for the vegetarians amongst us.

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Before lunch we heard from Sam Mullins, Director of the Museum, who gave us a view of the last year and a taste of what 2014 holds, which I can tell you is exciting!

After this there was the presentation of a number of long service certificates to loyal volunteers (and there are many of them). Next came lunch in the yard, which was excellent and blessed with warm sunshine, followed by the the official opening of the Marble Arch Signal Frame, as featured in my previous posts.

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On then to a number of very informative and entertaining updates from various parts of the museum; a bus pit tour, with an opportunity to see the underside of a GS type bus; an update on progress with the restoration of the second prototype Routemaster and a guided tour of tunnelling ephemera. After all this and more I left after five hours feeling amply rewarded for my paltry efforts, not to mention entertained and informed.

Written by Dave Olney, Volunteer

Tube Station Artist’s First Show Held At Busworks

Last year Caledonian Road station customer services assistant Kim Kalan brightened up the ticket hall at the station with her intricate whiteboard drawings, often with accompanying messages and thoughtful poems. Now the self-taught artist, who has switched from using marker pens to acrylics, is staging her very first solo exhibition.

Station artist Kim Kalan at the opening night of her exhibition at the Busworks
Station artist Kim Kalan at the opening night of her exhibition at the Busworks

It’s being held around the corner from the Piccadilly Line station at the aptly named Busworks complex, the former premises of the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) which has been converted into flexible offices, studios and workshops. As well as inviting fellow station staff – including her mother Sandra, who works in the ticket office – several of her regular customers, with whom she is extremely popular, were asked along to the preview night.

With Kim are fellow Caledonian Road station staff members Terry Rollo (left), also a customer services assistant, and her mother Sandra Lynch
With Kim are fellow Caledonian Road station staff members Terry Rollo (left), also a customer services assistant, and her mother Sandra Lynch

Called ‘Kimistic Origins – The Caledonian Road Station Artist Revealed’, the show features Kim’s very colourful and highly imaginative acrylic paintings.

Kim is also continuing to produce regular whiteboard drawings at the station to, as she says they “make the day better for my customers.”

The show runs until the end of October at The Busworks, 39 North Road, London N7 9DP and is open on weekdays from 9.30am until 5.30pm. Kim’s work can also be seen on www.kimistic.co.uk

Written by Stephen Barry, Volunteer

Station Staff Make Wood Green Open Day A Success

To add to the many special events taking place this year to mark the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, staff at Wood Green station on the Piccadilly Line organised a highly successful Open Day on Saturday, August 31.

The Open Day, the first to be held at the north London station, proved extremely popular with visitors of all ages who were taken by staff on an hourly guided tour covering both the outside and inside of the building.

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Designed by Charles Holden, Wood Green station was opened on September 19, 1932 as part of the first section of the Cockfosters extension from Finsbury Park to Arnos Grove. It is now a Grade II listed building.

After learning about the design features of the exterior facade and the spacious booking hall, visitors went down to the platforms and then into restricted areas not normally open to the public. These included a narrow maintenance tunnel which runs between the Eastbound and Westbound platforms and the machine room housing the vital escalator mechanisms.

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At the end of the tour visitors were treated to coffee and biscuits in an upstairs rest room, where staff had displayed old photographs showing the construction and development of the station. They were also given an illustrated book on the history of the Piccadilly Line extension.

The success of the Open Day was due to all the enthusiasm and hard work shown by the station staff team consisting of supervisor Ombretta Riu-Tubl and customer services assistants Nigel Buckmire and Jane Bennett. They were assisted by Steve Dagsland, supervisor at nearby Manor House station which held its Open Day – believed to be the first on the Underground network – earlier in the year.

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“We decided to hold the Open Day because we wanted to show off all parts of this historic station to our many customers who regularly use it,” said Ombretta. “The staff were very keen on the idea and on the day Nigel turned out to be a first class tour guide despite his initial nervousness.”

Following the popularity of the Wood Green and Manor House Open Days similar events may now be held at other stations along the Piccadilly Line.

Written by Stephen Barry, Volunteer

Poster of the Week: Why wait till later

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Why wait till later, Marc Severin,
1938

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Lights, Camera, Action! The British Film Institute’s annual London Film festival starts rolling this week until the 20th of November. To commemorate the role cinema plays in London life, this week’s poster is Marc Severin’s, Why wait till later,1938 – a poster which perfectly depicts the golden age of cinema while also delivering a key travel demand management message.

Born in Brussels, the son of a poet, Marc Fernand  Severin studied philosophy and letters, then art and archaeology at Gent University. He lived in England from between 1932-40 and 1945-9, first working as art director of R C Casson advertising agency, then as a freelance artist, advertising designer and book illustrator.   He engraved over 100 stamps, winning first prize for his George VI stamps. He taught at the Institut Superieur des Beaux Arts, Antwerp (1949-72), where he became  Professor of Engraving, and at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Typographiques Plantin,  Belgium (from 1956) where he became Professor of Graphic Design.

Marc Severin produced a series of posters for the Underground designed to ease congestion during rush hour. Each poster recommends the enjoyment of leisure activities at peak times to ease the after work rush and uses a clock fashioned out of a roundel to illustrate this activity. This particular poster in the series suggests going to the cinema straight from work instead of making a journey back again later in the evening. The poster neatly ties together illustration and photography; merging Severin’s drawing with a still image from ‘If I were a King’; a popular film from 1938 that featured the well known English actor Ronald Colman. The inclusion of the film in the poster demonstrates the neccesary requirement for these posters to be culturally relevant while also communicating subtle instructional messages.

Severin’s Why wait till later remains a celebration of the Capital as a cultural centre which continues apace through festivals such as the BFI film festival.

Written by Keely Quinn, Marketing & Public Relations Assistant

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Poster of the Week: London Transport at London’s Service

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London Transport at London’s Service, Abram Games, 1947

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As a Londoner who never learnt to drive designer Abram Games travelled everywhere by public transport, sketching poster ideas on every journey.

“I should have paid London Transport rent. I never get disturbed on buses or tube trains; there are no visitors or telephones, but sometimes I’m so busy concentrating that I overshoot my stop.”

Inspired by the posters of Edward McKnight Kauffer, Austin Cooper and Tom Purvis, Games knew that a poster must be noticed quickly and be legible from a distance, formulating his axiom ‘maximum meaning, minimum means’.

Abram Games was 23 in 1937 when Frank Pick, the Chief Executive of the London Passenger Transport Board and Christian Barman, London Transport’s Publicity Officer, commissioned him to produce the poster ‘A train every 90 seconds’. One year later, Games wrote to Barman asking if there might be a possibility of designing more posters, but the Second World War intervened. As Official War Poster Artist, Captain Abram Games designed 100 posters for the army, with Frank Pick’s comment, ‘a good poster explains itself’ uppermost in his thoughts.

After the war Publicity Officer Harold Hutchinson commissioned two ‘London Transport at London’s Service’ posters from Games, who was now working freelance. Britain was still suffering from the effects of war and London Transport considered it essential to convey to passengers that their staff, trains and service were efficient. Hutchinson introduced the ‘pair poster’ to allow artists the freedom to create exciting imagery without concern for the textual information.

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Framed London Transport at London’s Service posters at Trinity Road (now Tooting Bec) Underground station. © Transport for London

In July 1947, Games wrote to Hutchinson:

“I would like to say how very much I appreciate the way in which you have allowed the designer free scope, and guided the work. They were very interesting designs to work on I look forward to seeing the whole series in action. If you could let me know when the time comes to discuss the typography and printing I shall gladly come along.”

Games liked to oversee the final print, often taking colour swatches to the printer. It is not known if Hutchinson allowed a visit to the Baynard Press, being aware that the designer had high standards and might hinder the lithographic printing process.

The ‘Zoo’ poster, published in 1975, would be the last of 18 posters and four typographical ‘pair posters’ Abram Games designed for London Transport.

Written by Naomi Games

www.abramgames.com

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