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Posters on the Underground at London Transport Museum

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by Sandra Lawson (subscribe)
To paraphrase Dorothy: 'There is no place like London.' I hope I can convince you of that here. Also check out my blog at and my theatre reviews at
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Posters on the Underground from the 1900s to the 2000s
Poster Art 150
Poster Art 150

By now you must be aware that the London Tube system celebrated its 150th birthday earlier this year. As part of the commemorations, the London Transport Museum is exhibiting 150 posters chosen from the many that have appeared over the years. As they have evolved, many of these have become works of art in their own right and have been used for several different purposes. In the early days these just included showing train timetables and fare prices, as well as reassuring the travelling public. Over the years they were also used to promote destinations in and around London.

Poster Art 150
1886 Railway Fare Chart

Poster Art 150
Take the Twopenny Tube and Avoid All Anxiety. This was a way of reassuring and educating the travelling public. (Image Courtesy of the London Transport Museum Poster Collection)

Poster Art 150
Into the Heart of the Shopping Centres 1908 (Image Courtesy of the London Transport Museum's Poster Collection)

When you visit the museum you are also aware of certain kinds of styles and iconographies, and of how the posters are a reflection of their own periods and artistic styles. If you're of a certain age you will also be reminded of posters you thought had may have forgotten, and will also see ones that you don't even remember.

You can also plot the changes in the posters over the decades. After the 1900s and 1910s, established artists, such as Mabel Lucie Attwell and Frank Brangwyn were commissioned; whilst through the next ten years posters became much brighter, many of them reflecting the modernism of contemporary art, with artists like Paul Nash and Man Ray coming into the stable. The 1940s and the war years saw posters used for propaganda purposes, whilst the 1950s showed an awareness of their advertising uses. By the 1960s the traditional lithography was superceded by photography and this continued into the 1970s and 1980s when the posters were mainly commissioned from agencies. In the 1990s London Transport Advertising was privatised, whilst still retaining a couple of important artists. At the turn of the millenium digital technology techniques were employed by the newly formed TfL.

Poster Art 150
Mabel Lucie Attwell: We're Off to the Pantomime - 1913 (Image Courtesy of the London Transport Museum Poster Collection)

Poster Art 150
Speed by Alan Rogers from 1930 Drawn with Typical Art Deco Shapes

Poster Art 150
Cup Final by Eric George Fraser from 1928

Poster Art 150
London Pride from 1940 (Image Courtesy of the London Transport Museum Poster Collection)

Poster Art 150
London After Dark by Fred Millett in 1968

Poster Art 150
Femme Bien Informee by Harry Stevens in 1972

Poster Art 150
Keep Your Personal Stereo Person from the 1990s - before the iPod had been invented

Poster Art 150
Vision of a Roundel by Lothar Gotz, Commissioned by Art on the Underground 2008 (Image Courtesy of the London Transport Museum's Poster Collection)

You could spend hours browsing the online collection, or you could visit the museum and study the 150 posters that make up the exhibition.
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Why? To see 150 posters that represent a minority of the London Transport's Collection of poster art
When: Monday - Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 10.00-18.00, Friday 11.00-18.00
Where: London Transport Museum
Cost: 15, but concessions are available and your entry ticket is valid for one year
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