My favourite posters by Claire Dobbin
As a curator, I have worked with this collection for over 3 years. Picking just 10 is not easy. There are over 6,000 posters and artworks, spanning 100 years of inspired commissioning. The phenomenal range of artists reads like a who's who of 20th century art and design in Britain. Although only scratching the surface, I hope my selection goes some way to introducing this outstanding collection, and will encourage you to explore further to find your own favourites.
Claire Dobbin's favourite posters
No need to ask a p'liceman, by John Hassall, 1908.
This is the Underground's first modern graphic poster. It promotes their new map showing all Underground railways as a complete system. The bold design is reinforced by Hassall's robust cockney humour. Later that year he produced iconic railway poster, 'Skegness is so bracing'. In a similar way, the jolly fisherman skipping down the beach used comedy to communicate with the public.
London 2026 AD; This is all in the air, by Montague B Black, 1926.
Designed in 1926, this poster presents a fanciful vision of London in the future. There is an Underground line to Scotland and public transport has taken to the air, with an airport at London Bridge. To a contemporary public, the idea of skyscrapers towering above London would have seemed just as futuristic as the planes.
Power; the nerve centre of London's Underground, by Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1931.
This iconic poster unites man and machine as the driving force behind London's Underground. The power and modernity of electric rail travel is cleverly underlined by that of Kauffer's design. His use of colour, streamlined forms and dynamic impressions of speed pay reference to Futurism and Art Deco, whilst the typography alludes to developments in Bauhaus design.
London Transport, by Man Ray, 1938.
This classic poster design, by the Surrealist artist Man Ray, has become one of the most iconic and valuable transport posters in history. The artist used an experimental process to create the image, which involved placing objects directly onto photographic paper and exposing them to light.
London Transport at London's service, by Misha Black and John Barker, 1947.
This poster epitomises London Transport's approach to publicity after the Second World War. The distinctive roundel logo had come to signify every aspect of London Transport's activities. Depicted here as a three-dimensional planet, it projects light and hope onto the war-torn City. This is also a fine example of the pair poster format and of early photomontage techniques.
London's fairs, by William Roberts, 1951.
After training to be a poster artist, William Roberts went on to become one of Britain’s most influential Modernist painters. Late in his career, this poster demonstrated his distinctive painting style and enduring commitment to good design. Coolly contained within the balanced composition, his expressive figures revel in the delights of a trip to the fair.
The Tate Gallery By tube, by David Booth of Fine White Line, 1986.
Sophisticated yet simple, witty yet accessible, this clever adaptation of the tube map is one of our best loved posters. Each Underground line is represented by coloured paint and the 'tube' stands in place of the Tate Gallery. Model makers Malcolm and Nancy Fowler assisted Booth in creating the artwork, which is actually made from plastic.
London Zoo, by Abram Games, 1976.
This was the last of 19 striking posters that Games produced for London Transport. The tiger is cleverly constructed out of bars and circles, the components of London Transport's roundel. Tiny Hebrew symbols are hidden in the vertical sections of the tail; together they spell out the name of his first granddaughter, Revital.
Highgate Ponds, by Howard Hodgkin, 1989.
Hodgkin's bold compositions are never quite abstract, identifiable textures and colours often hint at subjects or emotions. He painted over the frame and similarly this poster takes the image right to the borders. As a poster, this work was exposed to a vast audience. It is fascinating to contemplate the possible range of interpretations; from an arbitrary mass of colours to a nostalgic vision of the British outdoors.
Tube map, by David Shrigley, 2006.
This chaotic tangle of lines, immediately referenced by their distinctive colours, represents the latest witty pastiche of the Underground map. Shrigley's design primarily appeared on pocket Underground maps, but is an equally effective poster. It makes its point at a single glance, but continues to make you smile, key ingredients both to great art and great publicity.