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Underground Art: London Transport Posters, 1908 to the Present [Paperback]

Oliver Green
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Nov 2001
Since 1908, with the appointment of the enlightened Frank Pick as publicity officer, London Transport has been a major patron of art in Britain, commissioning posters and other artworks from such notable artists as Edward McKnight Kauffer, Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland, Man Ray and others. These posters did not merely promote travel by tube, but also encouraged people to go to plays and concerts, visit the zoo or the countryside, or move to Metroland. The resulting art collection is one of stunning diversity, comprising over 3000 original posters. The distinguished tradition of art patronage has been vigorously continued since the early years, particularly in recent times, with new works being commissioned from David Hockney among others. This second edition brings the story right up to date with an additional chapter covering the years 1989-2000, as well as an updated introduction and biographies of the artists.

Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Laurence King Publishing; 2nd Revised edition edition (5 Nov 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1856692426
  • ISBN-13: 978-1856692427
  • Product Dimensions: 28.7 x 21.3 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 669,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

The title contains an obvious irony: the posters on the London Underground have always been an excellent example of public art, free and accessible to the lumpen proletariat who, as art critic Anthony Blunt pointed out, "are lured into liking the poster before they realise that it is just the kind of thing which they loathe in the exhibition gallery…" Sugaring the medicine came to be a defining characteristic of Underground advertising, the pictorial history of which is traced in this excellent volume, from its beginnings in 1908 until 1989. The selection is made by Oliver Green, the first curator of the London Transport Museum, whose love of his subject irrigates the potentially dry textuality of his admirably brief introduction. Green shows how the advertising focus quickly shifted from the mode of transport to the destination in a bid to capture the lucrative leisure hours of Londoners, and how there was also a desire to simply establish goodwill, a concept baffling to a modern business sensibility inured to the idea of profit uber alles.

The posters were the brainchild of Frank Pick, a "benevolent style dictator", responsible for establishing the corporate identity still used by London Underground today. Over 200 of them are reproduced here in colour, embracing a diversity of styles including Cubism, Modernism, Vorticism and Futurism, and inviting us to all corners of the metropolis and its surrounds, but most commonly London Zoo (which of course is nowhere near a tube). Well-known artists such as Man Ray and Graham Sutherland contributed designs, as did a to-be-well-known spy novelist Len Deighton, but the stars were artists such as Edward McKnight Kauffer, whose work over many years showed an unsurpassed understanding of the medium. The most recognisable design, though, was Henry C. Beck's diagrammatic map of the tube network, introduced in 1933 and still iconically ubiquitous today. It is a pity Green does not reproduce it to a greater scale (likewise its interesting geographically faithful antecedent), but that is not enough to detract from what is a highly pleasurable travelcard-of- a-trip down memory lane, and a valuable piece of social history.--David Vincent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Oliver Green was the first curator of the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, and is the author of several books on London Transport, including Designed for London. He is currently Head of Museum Services for Buckinghamshire County Council.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure! 1 July 2000
By A Customer
I bought this book in London 10 years ago, and it's never left my "at-hand" reading. Beautifully designed, with thorough (if a bit dry) commentary, its whimsy and graphic design are inspiring. I've recommended this book many times to both graphic artists and Anglophiles.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book on LT posters 5 Aug 2005
By A Customer
This book is delightful, reproducing many of the posters that have adorned the walls of underground stations over the past 100 years. The art itself is frequently of a very high quality and it is interesting to see how the style and representation has changed over time, particularly in the change of emphasis from getting Londoners to visit the beautiful countryside at the end of many of the outer lines, to more recent focus on major attractions, shopping in the capital etc. The wartime posters are particularly interesting. Excellent value.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure! 2 July 2000
By A Customer - Published on
I bought this book in London 10 years ago and it's never left my "at-hand" reading. Beautifully designed with thorough (if a bit dry) commentary, its variety of styles and graphic whimsy and innovation is inspiring. I've recommended this book to both designers and Anglophiles.
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