Posters of the London Underground

June 8, 2019

Did you know that the Art Institute of Chicago has a treasure trove of posters never before exhibited until now?  “Everyone’s Art Gallery:  Posters of the London Underground” is a must-see.  Graphic designers and those with a fascination of imagery, color and typography — or any combination thereof — are certain to enjoy.  Transportation enthusiasts and historians will be pleased, too.

Collected between 1919 and 1939, the posters in the show were curated by Teri J. Edelstein.  Honoring the 100 years since the receipt of the first poster, Edelstein selected 100 pieces from the museum’s collection of more than 300.

These colorful combinations of graphics and type were created to encourage the use of London’s commercial transportation system, both underground trains and buses.  The majority of the posters are light-hearted in nature.  However, one poster features a haunting depiction of the London cityscape during WWII.  The poster encourages shopping between the hours of 10 and 4 as barrage balloons appear in the sky.  Another poster pays homage to the products of the era — now iconic brands – as they await to board an underground train.

Frank Pick, an executive with London’s Underground, was responsible for orchestrating the poster campaign.  Posters by Edward McKnight Kauffer, a prolific poster artist of the 20th century, who studied at The School of the Art Institute before moving to Europe, are featured.  Also represented in this impressive collection are Charles Paine, Frederick Herrick, Mary Koop and others.

Whether the sole purpose of your visit to The Art Institute or not, “Everyone’s Art Gallery” should not be missed.  The mission behind the posters are as relevant today as they were when originally created.  And, let us know if you notice one poster that seems to have been the inspiration for the logo and tagline of a recent brand of today.  The exhibit runs through September 5th, 2019.