Tag Archives: Posters

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 Similarly, Doris’ unpublished poster of female theatre goers (1939) depicts a group of young women enjoying a night out without an obvious male chaperon (shown above).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


The Day Before the War

image 1
Underground Day, Charles Sharland, 1914

The brightly coloured poster above by Charles Sharland was issued to promote the August bank holiday of 1914. It declares 3 August as ‘Underground day’ and encourages passengers to make their choice of what to do and where to go from the many destinations available by tube and bus.

However, when the day came, festivities were overshadowed by the threat of Britain becoming involved in the war on the Continent. By the end of the following day, on 4 August 1914, Britain had declared war on Germany.

image 2
Bank Holiday, artist unknown, 1919

The poster for the 1919 bank holiday reflects on the changed circumstances. The ‘short’ war had turned into a four year conflict with millions of lives lost, and many more changed forever. For the first time there had been a home front, with Londoners at risk from aerial bombardment.

The subdued design gently invites passengers to enjoy holidays once more. The emphasis of the trains, buses and trams being at the service of Londoners reminds us of the important role that London transport staff and vehicles played in the war.

Did you know: Originally the bank holiday in August was the first Monday of the month, as dictated by the Bank Holiday Act (1871). This was until the Banking and Financial Dealings Act (1971) decreed a century later that it would fall, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, on the last Monday of the month. Why? One suggestion was that as the latter half of August is cooler the roads would be less busy with the crowds that thronged to the seaside, getting drunk and causing all sorts of mid-Summer mischief!

Find out more about London and World War 1 at London Transport Museum’s current exhibition Goodbye Piccadilly: From Homefront to Western Front

Posters and Propaganda

To tie in with our First World War Exhibition Goodbye Piccadilly we’ve focused our current Poster Parade on the use of Propaganda in posters, specifically those used on the Homefront. The 20 posters featured reflect advertising campaigns during both the First and Second World Wars.

The term ‘propaganda’ is not easy to define and all of the posters featured can be interpreted differently. Propaganda messages during this time were included, often surreptitiously, in advertising and other public messages.. At the beginning of the First World War, we can identify an emphasis on encouraging leisure travel and shopping. During the Second World War, we see greater use of patriotic and politically charged imagery. Posters also served to boost morale and provide safety information to the general public. However propaganda is defined, the posters produced in wartime were designed to influence thoughts and promote specific action.

they shout for joy
They shout for joy, they also sing – Flags of Allied Nations, 1944, Austin Cooper

Austin Cooper, a Canadian born artist, moved to London in 1922 and began producing posters for London Transport. Cooper is mainly known for his colourful, abstract style and in the pre-war years produced posters promoting travel by underground to places of heritage and the museums in South Kensington (http://tinyurl.com/cnspj9)

The poster‘They shout for joy, they also sing – Flags of Allied Nations’ (1944) is strikingly different to his other works. The central flags of The Republic of China, The United States of America, The Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) and Great Britain represent the super powers of the time. The white star and blue background at the top of the poster is reminiscent of the League of Nations, which was formed after the First World War. Is its inclusion intended as a symbol of unity?


We had difficulty identifying all of the flags, but fortunately Cooper designed a key to illustrate them!

If you want to learn more about propaganda posters during the First World War, why not attend the talk by David Bownes, Assistant Director of Collections at the National Army Museum, at London Transport Museum on Tuesday 2 September.

Written by Hayley Jedrzejewski, Collections Assistant

Poster Art 150: And the Winner is…

Brightest London is best reached by Underground, Horace Taylor, 1924

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The results are in and the public have decided that the best London Underground poster of all time is Brightest London is best reached by Underground, designed by Horace Taylor in 1924.

Over 42,000 people voted in the Siemens Poster Vote, choosing from 150 posters that featured in our exhibition Poster Art 150 – London Underground’s Greatest Designs.

Brightest London drew 1752 of the votes with London Zoo by Abram Games (1976) and Underground – the way for all by Alfred France (1911) – securing 1614 and 1342 votes respectively.

London Zoo, Abram Games, 1976 © Estate of Abram Games
4-Underground; the way for all
Underground – the way for all, Alfred France, 1911










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The winning poster was created when cinemas still showed black and white films; vibrant posters like this splashed colour into 1920s London. The Underground is presented as bright, popular and extremely fashionable with a very smart crowd heading out for a night on the town. Still vibrant almost 90 years after it first brightened Underground stations, it is easy to imagine how effective it must have been at the time. The artist’s granddaughter once explained that Taylor often liked to paint himself into his posters. In this one he is the gentleman with the top hat and the beard on the middle escalator.

The Poster Art 150 exhibition opened on 15 February 2013 and was due to close in October but was extended until 5 January 2014 due to popular demand. It formed part of the 150th anniversary of the London Underground celebrations and featured posters by many famous artists including Edward McKnight Kauffer, Man Ray and Paul Nash, and designs from each decade over the last 100 years. Information about some of the posters featured in the exhibition can be found on this blog.

The posters were selected from the Museum’s archive of over 3,300 Underground posters by a panel of experts; the 150 that appeared in the exhibition show the range and depth of the Museum’s collection.

Director of London Transport Museum, Sam Mullins, said “The number of votes for Brightest London is impressive given the public had a large selection from which to choose.  We’re delighted that so many people participated in the Siemens Poster Vote which reinforces the view that our poster collection is one of the best loved collections of graphic art in the world.”

Siemens Rail Systems UK Managing Director, Steve Scrimshaw, said “We were proud to be part of the 150th anniversary of London Underground, and have been delighted by the success of the Siemens Poster Vote, it has really captured people’s imaginations.  It is fascinating to see how design has changed over the last 150 years – we have many engineers who are passionate about design, maybe Poster Art 150 has given them some new ideas!”

Poster of the Week: Theatre – go by Underground

Theatre – go by Underground, Barnett Freedman, 1936

Vote for your Favourite Poster

As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is. Is it this one? Let us know by voting now!

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Have you been to a pantomime this festive season? Or perhaps you have been to see a play. This lovely pair of posters by Barnett Freedman would have encouraged Underground passengers from the 1930s to head to the theatre for entertainment.

Each poster works just as effectively on its own as it does in a pair, with the Underground roundel logo on the left poster enough to indicate that the Underground is the best way to get to the theatre. The posters were sometimes displayed together, and sometimes separately, as the two photos below show.

Putney Bridge Station, January 1937
Putney Bridge Station, 1937

Westminster station
Westminster Station, 1936

Up close, the posters show Freedman’s mastery as an auto-lithographer. Auto-lithography is when an artist draws directly onto the lithographic plates or stones themselves, rather than let the litho-craftsmen at the printers adapt their original artwork. This poster shows Freedman’s innovative use of this technique to create unique textures in the poster. Barnett Freedman was a pioneer in the revival of colour lithography and he illustrated numerous literary works as well as designing publicity for Shell, the BBC and the General Post Office and Ealing Films.

It’s almost the final week of our Poster Art 150 exhibition – so come along and marvel at Freedman’s craftsmanship before 5 January. And don’t forget to vote for your favourite!

Have you voted for your favourite poster yet?

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Poster of the Week: Keep Warm:Travel Underground

Keep Warm:Travel Underground, Kathleen Stenning, 1925

Vote for your Favourite Poster

As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is. Is it this one? Let us know by voting now!

Vote Now

With Christmas just around the corner and the weather suitably chilly, it can be with some relief when you descend into the warmth of your local Underground station.

The Underground Group’s publicity department often promoted the Tube as the best way to travel, whatever the unpredictable British weather. In 1925, Kathleen Stenning was commissioned to design a set of four posters presenting the Underground as a refuge from extreme weather conditions and the most appropriate way to navigate the Capital. In this version of Stenning’s series, the Underground is portrayed as warm, vibrant and festive, encouraging people to get out and about despite the winter cold.

In the same way that the red house stands out as a beacon of warmth and comfort against the snow, so does the Underground train. It is alive with activity, with one woman selling flowers and a glamorous couple alighting. While there are no people to be seen above ground– all presumably huddled up in their homes (or travelling Underground)  – the train is full of people.

Promoting the capacity to provide refuge in inclement weather was a popular concept for the Underground Group during the 1920s. It was a theme that had been used in the Group’s publicity since its inception, with a number of posters emphasising the warmth and brightness of the system. 1926 and 1927 saw a duo of celebrated posters, a variation on a set by Austin Cooper in 1924, produced by Frederick Charles Herrick which similarly stressed the protective nature of the Tube.

Although the image in the poster is inevitably idealised, it is still true that when the snow is falling and the roads are impassable, the Underground can act as a source of comfort to Londoners enjoying the festive period.

Have you voted for your favourite poster yet?

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Toyland Mobilizing for Christmas in 1914

Tony Sarg, In Toyland, 1913 © TfL

Throughout 1913, Tony Sarg produced a series of 12 posters called ‘Humours of London’ for the Underground Electric Railways Company of London. They were issued monthly and depicted humorous scenes of London’s famous places and activities.

For Christmas 1913, Sarg produced a poster called ‘In Toyland’ representing a scene of gift-buying frenzy. Children clamber on the floor with toys in hand, and rotund gentlemen struggle to carry their spoils. Despite Sarg’s gentle mockery of London’s materialism, there is a festive, joyful exuberance to the poster.

The 1913 poster was due to be the last in the ‘Humours’ series but 12 months later, the country was at war. In 1914 Sarg duly produced a topical version of his ‘In Toyland’ poster of the previous Christmas. The image in the top half was identical to the original, but the text and characters in the lower half were altered.

Tony Sarg, Toyland mobilizing for Christmas, 1914 © TfL

Now the text read ‘Toyland mobilizing for Christmas. By Underground to the children’s recruiting depots’. The present-laden family group which originally occupied the space is replaced by toy soldiers in khaki, horse-drawn guns and ambulances. There is even a rather graphic depiction of an allied toy soldier standing on top of a vanquished, decapitated German combatant.

The poster was issued for Christmas 1914 and this patriotic version of the original would have been seen as a popular alternative to the usual Christmas poster. There was some initial optimism after the declaration of war that it would ‘all be over by Christmas’ but by the time December arrived it was obvious that it wouldn’t be.

Interestingly, Sarg actually originated from Germany. He entered a military academy when he was 14 years old and received a commission as lieutenant at the age of 17. However, in 1905 Sarg gave up his commission to the German military and moved to the United Kingdom, before finally moving to the United States in 1915.

Poster of the Week: Where it is warm and bright

Where it is warm and bright, Verney L Danvers, 1924

Vote for your Favourite Poster

As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is. Is it this one? Let us know by voting now!

Vote Now

One of the best things about winter celebrations is the abundance of lights, and so it seems fitting to focus this week on a poster that exudes ideas of warmth and illumination – not only in its design but also in it’s title.

A perfect example of ‘soft sell’ advertising from the heyday of the Underground, this evocative image of the City by Verney L Danvers depicts a London street scene at night, thick with winter fog. The bright red Underground symbol – representing a familiar beacon in the gloom – invities the blurred figures into a haven of warmth and brightness.

The poster shows workers heading home in the evening after a day of toil. Many of these people would have been heading off into the suburbs of London which, at the time this poster was designed, were rapidly developing – very much as a result of the expansion of the Underground.

This poster is one of many examples in London Transport Museum’s archive of a lifestyle, or subliminal, approach to promoting travel on the Underground network. Perhaps though, it is more interesting in that it is also highlights the promotion of a brand identity that is now recognised as one of the most enduring symbols in the world.

Written by Wendy Neville, Marketing and Communications Manager

Have you voted for your favourite poster yet?

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Poster of the Week: Go out into the country

Go out into the country, Graham Sutherland, 1938

Vote for your Favourite Poster

As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is. Is it this one? Let us know by voting now!

Vote Now

Graham Sutherland (1903-1980) started his career as a railway engineer but soon realised that his future lay in the arts. He studied engraving at Goldsmiths’ School of Art from between 1920–1925 and worked as a graphic artist and designer throughout that decade.  In the 1930’s he began to experiment with oil painting and took on a number of poster commissions and applied art projects to fund this new artistic direction. This poster, created towards the end of this period of transition, was the last of five posters designed by Sutherland for London Transport. It represents an exploration of the relationship between the real and the imagined that he went on to express in his surrealist landscapes.  Sutherland contrasts the grey office with the delights of the countryside.  An imaginary river flows colourfully into a lifeless interior; the static typewriter evokes the story-teller’s past presence, replaced by a small bright butterfly fluttering by an open window.

Created in 1938, ‘Go out into the country‘ encouraged leisure travel as an antidote to winter and the uncertain future that faced the country. A cutting from the Daily Express incorporated in the image urges the reader to take advantage of ‘pleasant winter days’ and ‘go out into the country’. Dated January 21st, the message seems optimistic rather than realistic although the image may have served as a reassuring metaphor for brighter times ahead.

Have you voted for your favourite poster yet?

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Poster Art 150: Top 10 posters…so far!

As part of our blockbuster Poster Art 150 exhibition we asked you the public to vote for your favourite poster in the Siemens Poster Vote. With only weeks left until the exhibition closes on 5 January 2014, we thought we’d reveal the current top 10 posters. We’ve mixed up the order a little bit here so the leading poster is not revealed quite yet…so, in no particular order;

4-Underground; the way for all
Underground – the way for all (1911) rosetteVote Now

112-Or take the Tube
Or take the Tube (1987) rosetteVote Now

29-The Tate Gallery by tube
The Tate Gallery by Tube (1986) rosetteVote Now

61-For the zoo book to Regent's Park
For the Zoo (1921) rosetteVote Now

2-Brightest London is best reached by Underground
Brightest London is best reached by Underground (1924) rosetteVote Now

27-Map of the Underground
Map of the Underground (1933) rosetteVote Now

144-London 2026 AD; this is all in the air
London 2026 AD (1926) rosetteVote Now

21-The lure of the Underground
The lure of the Underground (1927) rosetteVote Now

58-London Zoo
London Zoo (1976) rosetteVote Now

33-The quickest way to the dogs
The quickest way to the dogs (1927) rosetteVote Now


Are you surprised by any of the posters in this Top 10? Disappointed that your favourite hasn’t made the grade? Well you can change the Top 10 by voting for your favourite, or any of the other 140 posters in the exhibition, now…before it’s too late!

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