They are vivid, colourful and strikingly creative, composed of bold images and tipped with sharp text. They meet their purpose beautifully – to engage London visitors in feeling passionate about what the capital has to offer. The London zoo, Natural History museum, Covent gardens, a steam boat tour… the list is an endless supply of fun opportunities. So what better way, than to sit gloriously bold and elegant in the depth of the underground, plastered across the walls of whisking stairs or welcoming you at the nearest entrance – bringing colour and geometric abstracts to the train tracks.

Image Credits: London Transport Museum – Museum of Natural History, by Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1923

With thousands of users relying on the underground daily, these posters had to be sharp and attractive, luring people in to the beauties of London. Imagine the rush of the morning – men and women both hurrying in a fluster, with shiny shoes and prepared work faces rushing on and off trains that sliced through the underground. Imagine, the littered platforms of people, waiting anxiously and excitedly for their carriage to turn up and whisk them away on to their next journey.  But all around them, sit posters, dazzling brightly, and can only be caught in snippets, in-between the nooks and crannies of gaps between waiting heads – and it brings stimulation. It allows the residents of London to visualise the alternative unique places that London has to offer –certainly a nice change from the London working life. Imagine the children in their large hats and square suitcases, tugging on their mothers dresses and pointing at the brightly coloured poster of painted exotic animals of the zoo.

It’s clear how important these posters were – they provided a free exhibition of remarkable artwork, advertising new places to be discovered.

The collection diverts back to the 1920’s – known as the “Golden age” of posters. They are stylish and in their time were regarded as leading patrons in the art world. The artists of the work engaged in emphasis and wildness, but always made sure that the subject remained clear. Exposing the unfamiliar to the public allowed them to taste adventure and pleasure.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s designing a poster for the London Underground became an honour among aspiring and influential artists. Since the population of such elegant designs rocketed, the competition of artist’s works being displayed on the underground was higher than any other single company or organisation.

Image Credits: London Transport MuseumZoo; chameleon, by Oleg Zinger, 1935

Image Credits: London Transport Museum – Boat Race, by Walter Goetz, 1936

Image Credits: London Transport Museum - Aero Exhibition; Olympia, by C D C, 1912

Image Credits: London Transport MuseumNatural History Museum, by Edwin Tatum, 1956

Image Credits: London Transport Museum -From country to the heart of town; for theatres, by Dora M Batty, 1925

Image Credits: London Transport Museum - For the zoo book to Regent’s Park, byCharles Paine, 1921

Image Credits: London Transport Museum -Hampstead fair, by Fred Taylor, 1914

Image Credits: London Transport MuseumKew Gardens, by Charles Sharland, 1910

Image Credits: London Transport Museum -Covent Garden by Tube, by Elizabeth Baranov, 1987

Image Credits: London Transport Museum – A new design inspired by the locals, byAdam Willis, 1989

Image Credits: London Transport Museum – Zoo nights, by Harry Blacker, 1939

Image Credits: London Transport Museum -Natural history of London; no. 6, woodland beauties, by Edwin Noble, 1916

Image Credits: London Transport Museum – Summer’s joy, by Laura Knight, 1921

Image Credits: London Transport Museum -Merry-go-round, by Anna Katrina Zinkeisen, 1935

Image Credits: London Transport Museum- Steamer cruises, by Esme Roberts, 1935

Image Credits: London Transport Museum - Trooping the Colour, byBernard Leslie Kearley andKate M Burrell, 1924

Image Credits: London Transport Museum - We’re at the zoo, by Kraber, circa 1938

Image Credits: London Transport Museum – Rugby at Twickenham, by Laura Knight, 1921

Image Credits: London Transport Museum -The children’s London, byRichard T Cooper, 1930

Image Credits: London Transport Museum -Natural History Museum; lepidoptera, byAustin Cooper, 1928

Image Credits: London Transport Museum – A day on the river, by John Burningham, 1965

Image Credits: London Transport Museum -Bertram Mills circus and fun fair, by Brian Robb, 1937

Image Credits: London Transport Museum -Fresh things not canned, by Mary Adshead, 1937

Image Credits: London Transport Museum -Sightseeing bus tours, by Victor Galbraith, 1960


Image Credits: London Transport Museum -Bertram Mills Circus, by Herry Perry, 1938

Image Credits: London Transport Museum – Richard the Lion-Heart, by John Finnie, 1963

Image Credits: London Transport Museum -Pantomimes and circuses, byJillian Richards, 1956

Image Credits: London Transport Museum -London Transport wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, byMaurice Wilson, 1951

Image Credits: London Transport Museum -Giant panda, by Clifford Ellisand Rosemary Ellis, 1939

Image Credits: London Transport MuseumGo to Kew, by Maxwell Ashby Armfield, 1915

Image Credits: London Transport MuseumTo the country, by L Blanch, 1933

Furthermore, you would have seen a few posters of advertisement from the more recent years in this collection. Dating from the 1950’s and 1980’s and it’s rather nice to sit back and see the transition in design and colour. Texts become fancier, thinner and wavy, and the illustrations become softer, more detailed and realistic. Nevertheless both designs are visually admiring, it’s rather a shame to have seen these disappear over the years.

I say, lets bring back vintage posters for London.

Let’s return advertisements and art from the 1920’s and create an historical feel to the London underground.

  • JP

    Some lovely classic posters used here, they sure don’t make them like this anymore, they are so simplistic and inviting. Great article written brilliantly and again something new for green buzz from Miss W.

  • Marzipan_yellow

    A very impressive collection, nice summary.