Luring Londoners Underground

London, The Arts

The above poster, ‘No Wet, No Cold’, is by Frederick Schneider Manner and dates from 1929.

With the possible exceptions of the art nouveau Parisienne metro posters and JC Leyendecker’s Arrow Collar ads, the London Underground posters represent one of the most astonishing collections of advertising art ever assembled. But what they also do is provide, in mosaic form, a complete image of a city.

In 1927, Frank Pick had this to say about them; “It may be supposed that their purpose is immediately directed to securing passengers. In some instances this has been the case, but in as many instances the purpose has been the establishment of goodwill and good understanding between the passengers and the companies… Even when the purpose has been to secure passengers it has been the practice to proceed by indirect means. To create a feeling of restlessness, a distaste for the immediate surroundings, to revive that desire for change, which all inherit from their barbarian ancestors.”

Now Christie’s Auction House is hosting a huge sale of the posters, and for some weird reason I just got sent the catalogue. Many of the posters are in sets of four or more. There’s one for the five senses, another for the four seasons and so on.

A lot of my favourites are here, such as the Oxford Circus winter poster featuring an ice-cherub on the roof of the station blowing snow over brightly coloured coats, but I have a feeling they’ll go for prices way beyond their reserve, because these rarely seem to come up in auction.

What’s nice is that the collection continues from time to time; London Transport adds new tube art posters every year.

6 comments on “Luring Londoners Underground”

  1. Cid says:

    Found the catalogue here (as a PDF) if anyone’s interested.

  2. Jez Winship says:

    Some major artists were commissioned to do these posters, and there were some pretty avant garde designs produced in the 30s in particular. Man Ray’s 1939 depiction of the London Underground sign as a moon circling a ringed planet is particularly striking. I like Alfred Leete’s dreamlike The Lure of the Underground from 1927, too, with people floating off the top of omnibuses towards an underground entrance. Oliver Green’s book Underground Art is a good and profusely illustrated collection.

  3. jan says:

    To see some of the old London rolling stock which inspired this artwork its Amersham train fest this weekend and the Sarah Siddons a 1920s met line steam ( i think its steam check) will be running from Harrow -on-the-Hill through to Amersham during sunday.

    right thats it nearly there letting people know about trainspotting stuff now time to rest

  4. Dan Terrell says:

    Wow, really terrific posters!!! Love the old posters.
    Based on a limited viewing of Antiques Roadshow, I’d say: “In good condition and, if that slightly-rolled upper-right-hand corner were fixed, and with the still bold artist’s autograph, your poster would probably bring, if it ever came up at auction,…..about $230,524… Producer! Producer! We need a MedEvac over here, fast! The lady’s taken faint!”
    Hummm… from above text: “…for some weird reason I just got the catalogue.” Well, I wonder why that is? Such modesty doesn’t wash with your constant readers.
    Aren’t you the Londoner who, standing before his roof-top picture window, can always find a complete strangers’ misplaced mobile by simply shading his eyes with a hand and focusing? Although, I’m sure Alan is a fair hand at such devining as well.”
    Christe’s sent you the catalogue because your place is listed as Arthur’s last address.

  5. John Howard says:

    Following on from Dan, I suspect that you have been sent the catalogue because you are a Deep Londoner.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    We’ve got a period auto display this weekend, Lotuses (loti?) Ferrari, Bentleys and such in the Botanical Garden, but period Underground trains, especially steam ones, would be even better.

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