London Transport Museum pays homage to female poster designers

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Poster Girls for TFL

London Transport Museum pays homage to female poster designers from the last century

To celebrate 100 years since women won the right to vote in the UK, the London Transport Museum has opened a major exhibition showcasing posters created by female graphic designers, illustrators and artists.

The Poster Girls exhibition traces transport adverts created by women over the past century. Over 150 posters and original artworks are on display, ranging from those by well-known designers such as Mabel Lucie Attwell, to lesser-known artists.

poster girls for tfl
This 1925 poster by Dora Batty is one of three that promotes leisure pursuits made easier by travelling using the Underground

"The aim of the exhibition is to shine the torch on the contribution of women to Transport for London," explained curator David Bownes.

"There is undoubtedly an interest in female design history that hasn't been there for some years," he told Dezeen. "Some of these women's stories have been neglected in the history of design, but were actually quite well regarded in their time."

poster girls for tfl
Mabel Lucie Attwell's 1913 poster We're Off To The Pantomime has a cartoon-like style

"The exhibition has a hopeful, inspirational undertone that recognises that women have achieved great design in the past and that we're not just starting from ground zero today."

The exhibition is arranged into six sections. The first showcases the earliest pieces – created between 1910 and 1920 – and includes the first female-designed poster to appear on London's transport networks.

poster girls for tfl
A cascade of umbrellas feature in Mary Koop's Summer Sales poster from 1925

The second section is named The Golden Age, and celebrates a rise in the amount of women commissioned by Transport for London (TfL) in the 1920s and 30s.

This period saw a rejection of this cartoon style of the previous decade, and instead featured prominent use of flat colour, graphic abstraction and bold geometric shapes.

poster girls for tfl
Sheila Stratton's 1954 poster design encouraged Londoners to use conducted bus and coach tours

In the third section, visitors pass through an area filled with pieces from the 40s and 50s, which are mostly public information posters relating to the second world war.

The Artists and Agencies section, relating to the 60s and 70s, showcases the rise of works created by big advertising agencies, and how these took more of an illustrative approach.

poster girls for tfl
Dorothy Dix's 1922 poster promotes travel to the country by bus

Transport for London introduced a fine-art commissioning programme in the late 80s, to fill free advertising space, and the results this are shown in an area titled Reviving the Tradition. It also includes the commercial posters of the 90s, which featured a "go places – do things" approach.

The final area begins in the early 2000s and continues up until present day.

poster girls for tfl
Children's author and illustrator Carol Barker designed this poster in 1973 to encourage people to travel to the city for entertainment

"We wanted to get a good representation of all of the periods, from 1910 to the present day," said Brown. "We wanted to make sure that every decade is represented."

"Ideally, there would be a clear arrow of upward progress from 1910 to 2017. But what you have is a very steep rise in the 20s and 30s and then a significant decline in the number of women designing posters in the 40s and early 50s," he added.

Poster Girls is on show at the London Transport Museum until January 2019.

More images

Poster Girls for TFL
Epping Forest by Nancy Smith, 1922
Poster Girls for TFL
Foxgloves, Kew Gardens, by Dora Batty, 1924
Poster Girls for TFL
QED by Margaret Calkin James, 1929
Poster Girls for TFL
We Londoners by Dorrit Dekk, 1961
Poster Girls for TFL
At the Theatre by Doris Zinkeisen, 1939
Poster Girls for TFL
Merry-Go-Round by Anna Zinkeisen, 1935
Poster Girls for TFL
Regents Park Zoo by Arnrid Banniza Johnston, 1930
Poster Girls for TFL
Royal Tournament, Olympia, by Anna Katrina Zinkeisen, 1934
Poster Girls for TFL
Cup Final, April 28th, Wembley, by Anna Zinkeisen, 1934
Poster Girls for TFL
Come Out To Play by Clifford and Rosemary Ellis, 1936
Poster Girls for TFL
Pantomimes and Circuses by Joan Beales, 1954
Poster Girls for TFL
Boat Races, Head of the River, by Anne Hickmott, 1959
Poster Girls for TFL
The New Kew by Tube, by Jennie Tuffs, 1987
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Epping Forest by Ruth Hydes, 2015
Poster Girls for TFL
Winter Fun by Anna Hymas 2016
Poster Girls for TFL
St James's Park by Tube and Bus by Jennie Tuffs, 1997
Poster Girls for TFL
Simply Food and Fresh Air by Tube and Bus, by Louisa St Pierre, 2001