Category Archives: Exhibitions

C&RE

A modern couple who bought 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)

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introducing our new gallery, Digging Deeper

Written by Simon Murphy, Lead Curator of Digging Deeper

In our new permanent tunnelling history gallery, we set ourselves a number of challenges. At the most basic level we needed to bring the tunnelling story up to date to include the Elizabeth line opening later this year. The main display was ten years old, but a large part of it – a full-size representation of a tunnelling machine from 1890 with three mannequin figures, was first installed more than twenty years ago.

Elizabeth line construction

We also wanted to highlight the individual contribution of the engineer James Henry Greathead to tube tunnelling from 1870 right up to the present. What made the project a challenge was that we wanted to tell the story succinctly in a series of videos and key objects in a new tunnel-shaped space, without the need for traditional text panels.

An additional consideration was that the tunnelling story is only one part of the larger narrative of the growth of tube railways, alongside the development of electricity and lifts/escalators. Whilst these other display elements stayed mostly the same, they were spruced up, and we added floor graphics to help visitors distinguish the different story strands.

To create a more immersive experience we built an enclosed tunnel space, that visitors enter through an arch resembling an arch from the first tunnel under the Thames, dug by Marc Brunel between 1825 and 1843. The new tunnel space extends four metres out from the original period tunnel mock-up, using theatrical lighting effects to first mask and then reveal Greathead’s 1890 tunnelling shield.

Immersive tunnel display

The main narrative video is projected into the circular tunnel shape, with three shorter videos focussing on more specific object-related stories appearing on the sides of the tunnel. Broadly, these cover Greathead’s first shield and the Tower Subway tunnel it built in 1870, the refinement of the shield from 1890 and its use on the expanding tube railway network, and the era of computer-guided integrated Tunnel Boring Machines (or TBMs) used on the extension of the Jubilee line in the 1990s and on an unprecedented scale on the Crossrail project from 2012 to 2015.

www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/year-of-engineering/digging-deeper

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

Prize for Illustration 2017: the winners!

This week, London Transport Museum hosted the ceremony for the Prize for Illustration 2017 awards. The competition was open worldwide, was run in partnership with the Association of Illustrators and the ceremony was attended by a number of the shortlisted artists. I was lucky enough to attend as well.

The artists were invited to respond to the theme of Sounds of the City and capture sounds heard in our UK cities in a single illustration – from loud and frenetic urban noise to the more quiet and relaxing sounds of nature.

100 of the illustrations, which were shortlisted from over 2,000 entries by an independent panel of judges, are now on display at London Transport Museum until 3 September 2017. Each of the illustrations is accompanied by a short description about the inspiration behind their work. I do hope you get to come and see them! Exhibition details.

The winning illustrations will also be displayed on London Underground poster sites during the summer and each winner will be getting a cash prize. The three winners:

• Bronze Prize was awarded to: Paul Garland, for Sound of the Underground
 Find out more about Sounds of the Underground here
• Silver Prize was awarded to: Julia Allum, for Surprise City Sounds  Find out more about Julia’s work.
• Gold Prize was awarded to: Chiara Ghigliazza, for Solo Find out more about the Gold Winner here.

The announcement on 24th May 2017 was relayed live on my Periscope & Twitter account – watch it again.

Paul Garland, Sound of the Underground
Paul Garland, Sound of the Underground
Julia Allum's Surprise City Sounds
Julia Allum’s Surprise City Sounds
Chiara Ghigliazza - Solo
Chiara Ghigliazza – Solo (Gold winner)

London’s transport that never was: Moquette

The journey, it is said, is often as important as the destination. I’m a transport historian, so naturally I agree (and I do enjoy a good diversion): the processes, experiences, pauses, stops and occasional wrong-turns in any journey are crucial in defining where we actually end up.

Deep in London Transport Museum’s archives there are a lot of places where designers, engineers, marketers, operators or technicians paused, noted down their ideas, and then either retreated or took that idea further forward.

These places where people paused are fascinating, because that’s documentary evidence of something that didn’t quite make it in that format, or that style, or in that way. It’s a depiction of something we never saw fulfilled. What might have been is often more interesting than what actually was. The reasons for failure are often more telling than the reasons for success.

A great example of the design process (not necessarily failure, but a different direction that was taken) is on display now in the London Transport Museum Designology exhibition. It’s the “Barman” moquette, where on the wall are examples of London’s Underground moquette that never quite made it into the public realm.

The namesake of this moquette is Christian Barman: as London Transport’s publicity manager he commissioned the first moquette fabrics for London’s Underground in 1936 and it was felt apt to commemorate his impact upon today’s travelling experience. The “Barman” fabric was created in 2010 by textile design studio WallaceSewell, comprising the talents of Emma Sewell and Harriet Wallace-Jones.

Here to enjoy are some of the designers’ pauses, developments and explorations: and of course some of the moquette designs that never quite made it on to the Underground network…

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A draft “Barman” moquette by WallaceSewell
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An alternative draft “Barman” moquette by WallaceSewell
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Developments of the “Barman” moquette by WallaceSewell

If you, like me, enjoy seeing unbuilt, non-constructed, never-was design, then the Designology exhibition is an ace place to start to understand what could have been, and what we now have.

A Driving Force

Alongside the restoration and conservation of Battle Bus (B-type B2737) London Transport Museum is also running an in-depth learning and engagement programme. Throughout the centenaries of the First World War, the programme will work with different groups of volunteers to investigate new perspectives of the Battle Bus and bring to life the stories of those affected by war and the role of transport within it.

In 2015 our focus was the experiences of women. At the outbreak of war in 1914 thousands of men from the transport industry volunteered to take on military roles. The industry lost a significant proportion of its workforce, and it wasn’t long before women were called upon to fill the roles that men had left behind.  In the bus industry, one of the roles undertaken by women was as conductors, ‘clippies’ or ‘conductorettes’ as they were sometimes called. They received mixed reactions from the public, simultaneously a symbol of women’s important contribution to the war effort as well as a target for derision by those who felt that women were not capable of carrying out such responsible jobs.

Working with over 40 female professionals currently employed in the transport industry we explored the stories of these first ‘conductorettes’ in more detail. We looked at the experiences of these women and how they contrast to that of women working in the bus industry today, how the role of women has changed over time, as well as asking if women today still face the same prejudices as counterparts from 100 years ago.

This film is taken from the exhibition. Sarah Liles, a Bus Driver, and Liza Maddocks, an Employee Relations Assistant, talk about their experience of working in the bus industry today. 

The stories all contributed to a final exhibition, ‘A Driving Force: 100 years of women in transport’. As well as the film shown above the exhibition included oral history interviews, artwork and a timeline of key milestones in the story of women in transport from 1915-2015. In the Summer and Autumn the exhibition toured cultural and community venues throughout London, including Catford Bus Garage, London Transport Museum Depot in Acton, Westminster Music Library and Victoria Coach Station.

In the Shadow of War

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How do we, as social historians, attempt to unravel and understand the general mood or atmosphere that existed in a massive city like London at any moment of time? Whilst significant historical events are often extensively recorded and reported often more problematic is our ability to comprehend the atmosphere of day-to-day life in the capital.

As a Museum curator my role is to interpret and make sense of history through visual and material culture and the creation of atmospheric displays.  Similarly my talk at Symposium 1914–1918 from Home Front to Western Front, will attempt to reveal the mood and atmosphere in London prior to the outbreak of World War I.  Using images of objects, photographs and paintings held in the Museum of London and other collections the talk will give both a broad overview of London in 1914 as well as analysing the minutiae of life at street level.

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As the shadow of war began to draw more heavily over the capital what were Londoners getting up to – what was their day-to-day life like, what was happening on the street, what was popular, what were Londoners talking about, were they aware of the impending threat and, more significantly, was the mood on the street being obviously affected by the threat of imminent war?

Written by Beverley Cook, Curator of Social & Working History, Museum of London (Speaker at Symposium 1914–1918 from Home Front to Western Front)

Exhibition and Symposium
If you want to find out more about the First World War you can visit our current exhibition Goodbye Piccadilly: From Home Front to Western Front, on until March 2015, or attend our Symposium 1914–1918 from Home Front to Western Front on Saturday 15 November which explores the themes of the exhibition in more depth.

London’s First Air War, 1915-1918

2006_3534 bus after zeppelin raid 1915
Bus after Zeppelin raid, 1915

Air raids on London by Zeppelin airships were expected from the moment war was declared. Early precautions included a blackout at night and the installation of guns on prominent buildings and in the parks. Even so, raids finally began from the end of May 1915, provoking a mix of responses among the Londoners from sangfroid to blind panic.

2013_8568 zeppelin raid war illustrated April 1915
Zeppelin raid in The War Illustrated, April 1915

When the air cover by fighter aircraft became more effective against Zeppelins during 1916, the Germans switched to the use of heavy bombing planes, which proved generally immune from attack by London’s air defences. The civilian authorities’ response to the air attack was lacklustre throughout the bombing campaign. Scores of thousands of Londoners huddled in the tubes, in the cellars of industrial buildings thought to be safe, or fled the city altogether. The ‘Harvest Moon Raids’ of autumn 1917, marked one of the low points of morale in London during the war.

Written by Professor Jerry White, Birkbeck College, University of London (Speaker at Symposium 1914–1918 from Home Front to Western Front)

Exhibition and Symposium
If you want to find out more about the First World War you can visit our current exhibition Goodbye Piccadilly: From Home Front to Western Front, on until March 2015, or attend our Symposium 1914–1918 from Home Front to Western Front on Saturday 15 November which explores the themes of the exhibition in more depth.