Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Art of the London Underground

The Google Doodle commemorating
150 years of the London Underground

You can just make out the letters in the stops
(Mine's in the 'e')
150 years ago today, the London Underground started.  Today it gets its very own Google Doodle 

However the Art on the London Underground is one of the very best parts of "the tube" for me.

My small contribution to the birthday party is below.  It covers:
  • events for the 150th anniversary
  • The Art on the Underground - website, mission and project for the 150th
  • The Poster Art 150 Exhibition
  • poster art from the past
150th anniversary

Today 9th January 2013 is the 150th anniversary since the very first Tube journey took place between Paddington and Farringdon on the Metropolitan Railway.

There are a number of events taking place including a steam train running on part of the line next Sunday as part of the heritage steam train trips to commemorate the anniversary.  This is a particularly helpful blog post for anybody who wants to see it for themselves.
The first Tube passenger journey will be recreated on Sunday 13 January 2013, with a series of specially restored trains including the Metropolitan Steam Locomotive No.1 and the Metropolitan Railway Jubilee Carriage No 353 - the oldest operational underground carriage in existence - which is being restored with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund
Art on the Underground - the website

The art on the underground is so well known and so revered that it even has its own website!  See

It also has a mission statement!
The Art on the Underground mission:

Provide a world-class programme of contemporary art that enriches the Tube environment and our customers’ journey experience; and continues the long-standing tradition that excellent art and design is at the core of London Underground's identity and services.

The programme aims to:
  • Present the best international contemporary art for our unique audience : our customers, staff and the diverse communities of London
  • Strengthen the Tube’s links with the people it serves through a programme that engages our audiences, encourages their participation in, and increases their knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of, contemporary art
  • Champion contemporary art by offering the Tube as a unique opportunity to an international range of artists; from those with an established reputation to those at the beginning of promising careers
  • Contribute to LU’s artistic and design legacy and the cultural landscape of London through a diverse programme of temporary and permanent art projects
  • Grow our reputation and recognition as an important art programme with all our audiences and stakeholders in London, the UK and internationally
There are various projects and events in 2013 to commemorate the 150th anniversary.  (Here are some of the projects from the recent past)

One of these includes some new artworks for the Underground.  Unlike the posters these are intended to be a lasting legacy.  They will join artwork by artists such as Eduardo Paolozzi who designed the mosaic patterned walls of the Tottenham Court Road tube station

Original art by Eduardo Paolozzi. (Own work)
CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], Photo by Sunil060902 via Wikimedia Commons
In 2013 Art on the Underground will present a programme that will include: a major commission by an acclaimed, high profile British artist bringing artworks into every station on the Tube network; a commission with 15 leading contemporary artists to create an image as one in a set of 15 artworks that will be a lasting visual legacy for the Tube’s 150th year
Poster Art 150

Poster Art 150: London's greatest Designs is an exhibition at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden which opens in February (no specific date as yet on the website) and continues until October.  Its aim is to focus on the iconic poster art that has been a feature of London Underground for much of its history
Since its first graphic poster commission in 1908, London Underground has developed a worldwide reputation for commissioning outstanding poster designs, becoming a pioneering patron of poster art - a legacy that continues today. Poster Art 150 will showcase 150 of the best designs which have been chosen by an independent panel. Visitors will be invited to vote for their favourites and the most popular poster will be revealed at the end of the exhibition.
The Museum also has a shop which sells the posters - and this new one designed specifically for the 150th anniversary.  Bound to become a collector's item!

You can browse the posters by theme and by colour.  Here are the themes

Here are more posters from ones I've found online in the Wikimedia Commons.  I have to confess I'm particularly fond of the ones from the first decades of the 20th century - but also like the more contemporary ones too.

This one makes me think illustrators must have been influenced by the artwork about London - by artists such as Whistler.  This one could have been called Blue Nocturne at Battersea!

"Underground; the moving spirit of London",
by Thomas Robert Way

Published by Underground Electric Railway Company Ltd, 1910,
Printed by T R Way and Company Ltd, 1910
This one is of visitors to an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts and was illustrated by a German American illustrator called Tony Sarg

The Humours of London No. 5 (1913)
by Tony Sarg (an American German illustrator)
Caption: All truly great art is refreshing. At the R.A. with the Underground.
Poster for the London Underground includes
a drawing of patrons of the Royal Academy of Arts.
via Wikimedia Commons
Poster in LT shop
The message hasn't changed much over the years even if the dress standards have.  I don't think I can ever remember seeing a top hat on the tube - although I've seen a fair few people dressed up and on their way to black tie events - and have done the same myself!

By Horace Taylor 1881–1934.
Print by The Dangerfield Printing Co. Ltd., London.
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
This next one is a bit out of the ordinary - and ranks in the same category as a poem by Rupert Brooke

World War I poster by English painter George Clausen (1852-1944).
Poster showing an idyllic English village scene with the caption:
"The Underground Railway of London, knowing how many of their passengers are now engaged in important business in France and other parts of the world, send out this reminder of home. Thanks are due to George Clausen RA for the drawing."

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1 comment:

  1. Amazing to think that 150 years ago, they had an underground train system up and running. I love all the art you've shared and I really wish I could visit and see all of this with my own eyes. Thank you so much for bringing to me via your blog.


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