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Poster Art 150: London Underground's Greatest Designs

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 46 months ago
Poster Art 150: London Underground's Greatest Designs
"London 2026 AD; this is all in the air", Montague Black, 1926
"London 2026 AD; this is all in the air", Montague Black, 1926
"Quickly away, thanks to Pneumatic Doors", László Moholy-Nagy, 1937
"Quickly away, thanks to Pneumatic Doors", László Moholy-Nagy, 1937
"In Watford", Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1915
"In Watford", Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1915
"Tate Gallery by Tube", David Booth, 1986.
"Tate Gallery by Tube", David Booth, 1986.
"The Quickest Way To The Dogs", Alfred Leete, 1927
"The Quickest Way To The Dogs", Alfred Leete, 1927
"Power: The Nerve Centre of London's Underground" (1930) by E. McKnight Kauffer. The red building is Lots Road power station, source of the Tube's energy until 2003.
"Power: The Nerve Centre of London's Underground" (1930) by E. McKnight Kauffer. The red building is Lots Road power station, source of the Tube's energy until 2003.

As part of the year-long celebration of the Tube's 150th birthday, the London Transport Museum's new exhibition brings together 150 of the finest Underground poster designs.

Selected from the Museum's collection of over 3,000, the exhibition represents a timeline not only of London's history, showing the city's growth and changing mores through posters, but of the fast-paced nature of artistic movements in the 20th century. The influence of Vorticism, Modernism, Abstract Expressionism and more is clear; the Bauhaus graphic designer László Moholy-Nagy contributes two to the exhibition, both of them enthused with the inter-war zeal for all things modern.

The laxity given to early poster artists is also striking. In an era before brand consultants ruled and inviolable diktats for font and logo placement were established, each design is a distinct piece of art in its own right, richly and idiosyncratically detailed with the artist's signature style.

As the museum's director, Sam Mullins, noted at the launch event, one of the great things about the Tube is how it has driven London's development; the great swathes of Metro-land were built only when the railway arrived. It's fascinating to see how posters were used to 'sell' previously unknown parts of the growing capital to leery commuters; one may wonder about the particular joys of  Watford, but the Arcadian glory depicted in the poster makes it seem worthy of a visit. Much like this exhibition, in fact.

Poster Art 150 - London Underground's Greatest Designs is at the London Transport Museum from 15 February until October 2013. A year-long pass to the museum, which allows unlimited entry and includes access to the exhibition, costs £15, and is well worth the money.

Last Updated 15 February 2013