We've been big fans of London Transport Museum since it reopened in November last year and now there's an additional incentive for you to go and visit. As well as their excellent permanent exhibition about the history of London Transport and fine examples of trains, tubes, buses and trams to play with the first special exhibition opens today in the CBS Outdoor Gallery. The Art of the Poster - a century of design displays 60 original artworks produced to be transformed into tube posters. We had a sneak preview last night and can confirm that the artworks without the promotional text are rather glorious and hang alongside designs that never got used, including a brooding rural scene by high profile artist, John Nash, that just wouldn't cut it on platform walls.
The selection, picked from an archive of around 5000 posters, provides not only a history of graphic art over the last century but of changing times and fashion. Early posters were intended to demystify travelling by tube and encourage wary passengers underground - one, presumably from winter 1924, entices customers saying "it's warmer down below". Earlier still, in 1908, portly older passengers are told that the tube map and system is so simple, "There's no need to ask a policeman". A poster for the Lord Mayor's Show 1936 bears a cross section of a gun and in the forties, female transport workers appear. Many posters feature beautifully rendered scenes or snapshots; an impressionistic Highgate Ponds from 1990, a mosaic fish to advertise the Zoo Aquarium in 1983, a pastoral picnic in Kingston, 1916 and colourful swingboats at Hampstead fairs from the fifties. The collection is diverse but unified by function and the commissioning body behind them all. London Transport's message is always paramount and the posters designed to deliver maximum impact on the transient traveller.
The cost of the exhibition is included in admission to the Museum but if you've recently been and don't fancy shelling out again you can also view the entire collection online. The museum is also running a fascinating series of evening talks and events to complement the exhibition which will be on show till March 2009.
For opening times, admission prices and more information visit the website.
"Brightest London is best reached by Underground" by Horace Taylor, 1924 courtest of the London Transport Museum.