Category Archives: Exhibitions

Poster Prize for Illustration – Bringing London stories to life

Artist Julia Allum, winner of the Silver Award  in 2017 Prize for Illustration, reveals how she brought London stories to life in her stunning promotional image for this year’s Poster Prize for Illustration exhibition.

Mid-century poster design has always been one of my biggest influences and sources of inspiration, therefore I was delighted when London Transport Museum approached me to illustrate their marketing image for this year’s Poster Prize for Illustration: London Stories exhibition.

I was told that the image would need to be multi-layered and encompass many narratives and stories. The task in hand seemed rather overwhelming at first, where to start? The list of stories that could be included was infinite. Luckily, I also work in a library, the perfect place to begin. I borrowed a pile of books, made lots of lists and began scribbling ideas.

Julia Allum’s promotional image for 2019’s Poster Prize for Illustration: London Stories

I wanted the various elements and stories to be interwoven with one another, and thought pages of an open book would be a way of linking everything together. The design developed organically, the patterns and shapes created from the pages dictated the direction it took. The final image includes about thirty different stories, narratives, myths, landmarks and references to film and literature, plus a parakeet from my award-winning illustration for 2017’s Prize for Illustration: Sounds of the City.

‘Surprise City Sounds’, winner of the Silver Award in 2017’s Prize for Illustration competition

The majority of my illustrations continue to be simple geometric designs, so it was good to push myself out of my comfort zone with this brief for London Transport Museum. Not only has it encouraged me to experiment more and introduce a few more detailed pieces into my portfolio, it has also led directly to new commissions.

Artist Julia Allum.

I’m really looking forward to visiting the upcoming Poster Prize for Illustration exhibition to find out how other artists responded to the London Stories brief, and see their amazing work on display.

Visit Julia’s website to check out her work.

Our new exhibition Poster Prize for Illustration: London Stories, organised in partnership with the AOI, launches on 8 February at our Friday Late. Join us to find out who the winners of this year’s competition are, and immerse yourself in an evening of exciting talks, workshops, and activities to celebrate the many stories of our beautiful city.

Prize for Illustration: Notes from a winner – by Julia Allum

Julia Allum, winner of the Silver Award  in 2017 Prize for Illustration, and the artist behind this year’s promotional image, shares how her winning artwork was created, what it was like to take part in the competition and how her career benefited from it.

The AOI’s Poster Prize for Illustration was a competition I had been meaning to enter for quite a few years, but for some reason or another never got round to until 2016. When the call for entries was announced, a commission I was expecting had just fallen through and so I decided to put the extra time to good use.

The theme of the competition was ‘Sounds of the City’, and I wanted to tackle the brief from a different angle and produce something that wasn’t too obvious. After brainstorming several ideas, and being inspired by a visit to Kew Gardens, I decided to focus on wildlife living and thriving in the city. Parakeets seemed the ideal choice: not only do they have a distinctive, incredibly noisy sound, they also bring a little piece of the tropics to urban London.

‘Surprise City Sounds’

The final poster design was a long way from where it began. The image initially developed through scribbles. I then spent a lot of time moving shapes around, and  the design evolved from birds featuring within a cityscape to them being the main focus. I am fascinated by pattern, symmetry and repetition and enjoy exploring shapes and how they fit together to create images. What began as trees, slowly morphed into Transport for London’s roundel, and the final design began to take shape. Influenced by my love of Art Deco posters, my work has changed substantially over the years, it has gradually become more simplified and stylised.

When working on this design I was still in the early stages of this new style and a little unsure about it. In fact I was so unsure about my entry – thinking it was too simple to count as ‘proper’ illustration – that I didn’t tell anyone I had submitted it. It therefore came as a great surprise when I heard that my piece had been shortlisted; never in a million years did I think I would go on to win one of the awards!

In the eighteen months since, I have concentrated on producing work as much as I can; work I enjoy doing, and forging a style that is uniquely mine. In turn this has led to more enquiries and collaborations, including commissions for interior vinyl graphics, travel posters, editorial illustrations, a shopping bag for a national US chain and of course the marketing image for this year’s Poster Prize for Illustration. Furthermore, towards the end of last year I was in discussion with some dream clients, so I am looking forward to what 2019 may bring.

The Poster Prize for Illustration is such a wonderful platform for illustrators to showcase their work and further their career, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in organising it.

Besides receiving enquiries and commissions, the most important thing I took from the award was confidence and self-belief. This opportunity gave me the push I needed to take my career to the next level. Having my work acknowledged and praised by industry professionals, plus seeing my poster on the London underground gave me such a boost.

Visit Julia’s website to check out her work.

Our new exhibition Poster Prize for Illustration: London Stories, organised in partnership with the AOI, opens at London Transport Museum on 8 February 2019. On the same date, we invite you to join us at our Friday Late launch event, where you can find out who the winners are, and join us as we bring London’s stories to life, engaging the senses through captivating talks, workshops, and activities.

Picking up speed in 2019

by Sam Mullins OBE, London Transport Museum’s Director

With Santa’s hideaway and all our Christmas decorations packed away for another year – not to mention all those festive jumpers – our thoughts at London Transport Museum turn to a packed programme in the year ahead.

London Stories by artist Julia Allum

With our Poster Girls exhibition now closed, the Exterion Gallery will stage The Poster Prize for Illustration: London Stories, brought to you in partnership with The Association of Illustrators. Opening on 8 February 2019, London Stories will bring together 100 remarkable and personal illustrations, each capturing a different story inspired by life in, and love of, London. Uncover some of London’s more unusual historic tales, learn about voyages of travel and romance, and unearth the secret signs that can be discovered across this great city. On the opening day of the exhibition, we will also be hosting one of our popular Friday Lates where we keep the doors open until 10pm. With music, bars, hot food, talks, quizzes, and craft activities, a Friday Late is a great way to discover the Museum as well as get an early preview of our newest exhibition.

Hidden London – Clapham South deep-level shelter

Following on from London Stories, our next major exhibition, Hidden London, opens in October 2019. We will open up the hidden world of disused stations in a series of immersive experiences based on film, sounds, photos and objects. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fabulous illustrated book containing new photography and fresh research into the ghost stations and tunnels of Hidden London. This exhibition will complement our already popular Hidden London tour programme which we will continue to enhance and expand.

family Open Weekend at Acton Depot, July 2018

We will open our Depot at Acton three times this year in April, July and September, allowing you to go behind the scenes at the Museum’s ‘Aladdin’s Cave’. The London Transport Miniature Railway will once more be in action, take a ride on a historic bus, children can enjoy various craft and play activities as well as short talks and tours. Each weekend is themed, with our first weekend in April called ‘Love Your Line’ celebrating the District, Victoria, Jubilee and Overground lines. Staying with Acton, the restoration of three 1920/30s ‘Q’ stock cars is well under way, while the 1914 charabanc is being prepared for an active year.

As always, I would like to extend my thanks to all the staff and volunteers whose never ending passion and drive help us to deliver such an extraordinary programme of events and experiences at the Museum in Covent Garden and beyond. We look forward to you joining us for some, or all, of these fantastic events in 2019.

Spiral escalator: An engineering wonder ahead of its time

Spiral escalator – An engineering wonder ahead of its time

Written by Laura Sleath, Senior Curator

In 1988, the rusty remains of an engineering experiment were found buried at the bottom of a lift shaft at Holloway Road station. The remains were of a spiral escalator which had been installed in 1906, but abandoned shortly after – probably due to safety concerns.

Construction of the spiral escalator at Holloway Road station, 1906
Construction of the spiral escalator at Holloway Road station, 1906

The spiral escalator was designed by inventor Jesse Reno, who had unveiled the world’s first ‘inclined elevator’ in New York in 1896. His ambitious design at Holloway Road consisted of a double spiral which would have allowed a steady stream of passengers to ascend and descend at the same time with no waiting, unlike a lift. The two spirals encircled a central core – an outer spiral for the descent, and an inner one for the ascent. It ran continuously in a clockwise direction, travelling at a speed of 100 feet (30 metres) a minute. The journey to street level took approximately 45 seconds

It seems that the complex design was flawed and there is no evidence that the escalator ever entered passenger service. It was dismantled in 1911 and only found later during maintenance work.

Conserved section of spiral escalator installed at Holloway Road station, 1906
Conserved section of spiral escalator installed at Holloway Road station, 1906

In 1993, London Transport Museum rescued the surviving parts of the escalator from the lift shaft and later restored a large section, which can be seen at our Acton Depot. A smaller section will soon be going on display in our new Future Engineers gallery, opening in October 2018.

‘There is no doubt that walking upstairs is very fatiguing’ The Engineer, 10 August 1900

Just five years after Reno’s failed attempt, the Underground’s first escalators were installed at Earl’s Court station in 1911.  To allay any fears, a disabled man – William ‘Bumper’ Harris who had lost a leg in an accident – was invited to ride the escalators and demonstrate the safety of the new machines.

The escalators were so successful that they began replacing lifts on the network, which up until then had been the main way of getting passengers from deep level tunnels to the surface (and vice versa).

In 1913, the Underground Group commissioned a poster to celebrate the opening of the new Bakerloo line extension to Paddington station. Featuring prominently in the poster was the exciting ‘moving staircase subway connection’ – obviously considered a strong selling point for passengers tired of taking the stairs.

Paddington New Station, by Charles Sharland, 1913
Paddington New Station, by Charles Sharland, 1913

There are 440 passenger escalators on the Underground network today, and in its 40-year lifespan, an escalator will travel the equivalent distance of a trip to the moon and back. Reno’s dream of a spiral escalator has also become a reality – Mitsubishi Electric have been designing and installing spiral escalators around the world since the 1980s.

Mabel Lucie Attwell

Mabel Lucie Attwell (1879-1964)

Children’s book illustrator and publishing phenomenon

Mabel Lucie Attwell was one of the most successful female illustrators of the twentieth century, whose trademark chubby toddlers remain as popular now as they were 100 years ago. Although not well known as a poster artist, the success of her children’s books, postcards and (later) annuals, made her an obvious choice for London Underground’s emerging publicity campaign. Her immediately familiar style struck a reassuring note with passengers and, by implication, suggested that the new Tube railway was a safe and reliable system.

Country fairCountry fair, 1912

Trained at Heatherlys and Saint Martin’s School of Art, Attwell’s first commission for the Underground came in 1912. More followed in 1913, and it seems likely that she continued to work for the Underground after the First World War. A Pathe newsreel from about 1920, for example, shows Attwell sketching a new Tube poster, Christmas in Fairyland, in her garden using her three children as models. Sadly, no copy has survived in the London Transport Museum collection, although one exists in the Pushkin State Museum (Moscow). By this time Attwell was a best-selling publishing phenomenon. Her already extensive range of books and cards was expanded to include nursery ceramics, textiles, calendars, dolls and figurines – all eagerly collected today. But it was her immensely popular illustrations for children’s classics such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm that bought her a devoted worldwide following.

Attwell continued to work into old age, assisted by her daughter Peggy who took on the management of Attwell’s estate after her mother’s death.

Examples of Attwell’s rarely seen Underground posters are included in London Transport Museum’s current Poster Girls show, together with vintage film footage of the artist at work. Behind the scenes tours of the main poster collection are available to book online.

In keeping with the theme of Attwell’s delightful posters, the next Acton Depot Open weekend (7/8 July) features a variety of special family events to entertain the little ones in your life www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/museum-depot/open-weekends 

We're off to the pantomime

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

The Travel Queen

Dorrit Dekk (1917-2014) was probably the most successful female poster designer working in Britain during the 1950s and 60s. Known as ‘The Travel Queen’, her joyful images for Air France, the Orient Line, P&O and the Post Office earned her a worldwide following. Yet surprisingly, given London Transport’s reputation as a patron of outstanding design, she produced only one poster for the Underground, We Londoners (1961), which can be seen in the Museum’s current Poster Girls exhibition.

The commission was the idea of Harold Hutchison, London Transport’s Publicity Officer, who wanted a poster showing various London ‘types’ wearing distinctive, or ceremonial, dress. His suggestions included well-known figures, like Chelsea Pensioners and market porters, alongside more obscure ‘occupations’, such as a Royal Mace Bearer and a Swan Upper. Quite what the Czech born Dekk made of these suggestions is not recorded, but she set about the task in May 1960. The final design, for which she was paid 120 guineas, was published in June the following year. Dekk was evidently very pleased with the result, telling Hutchison that the poster “looks quite gay and just right for the foreign invasion of tourists”. She had the design reprinted as her personal Christmas card, while London Transport reissued it under licence to Cunard and even as a headscarf pattern in 1969.

Doritt Dekk

To find out more about the women who designed posters for the Underground in the 1960s and throughout the last century, visit our Poster Girls exhibition during our ‘Swinging Sixties’ Friday Late, which takes place this Friday evening 18 May. As well as the exhibition, you can enjoy curated lectures, tours, workshops and there will be bars and 60s sounds played by the Museum’s resident DJ – The Museum of Vinyl.

www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/events-calendar/friday-lates#swinging-sixties

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

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)

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