Sunday, March 15, 2009

Deviation Posting – A Celebration of LT 's Artwork

Another in an occasional series of deviation postings that have absolutely nothing to do with China. This time it's about the art commissioned by London Underground between the wars which is currently enjoying an exhibition and a man who did more than most to influence the city - Frank Pick - the man who introduced the famous roundel logo of the Tube.

The artwork that was commissioned and used by London Transport – both the tube, the train and the buses, between the wars was quite stunning. It’s good to see that the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden is having an exhibition of some of the best artwork commissioned by LT and that there’s an accompanying book London Transport Posters: A Century of Art and Design. There’s also an excellent web site with a lot of history and art around LT’s famous posters and Frank Pick (left)

The hero of the whole story of these posters designed to boost use of the capital’s public transport and also show the wonders of London and the Home Counties (wonders I admit me and many other Londoners invariably need reminding of) were the brainchild of a great man – Frank Pick (1878-1941). Pick’s contribution to London was immense as Managing Director of the London Underground Group from 1928 and Chief Executive of the London Passenger Transport Board from its creation in 1933 until 1940. In these days of decline, the dreaded PPP schemes and so on it’s impossible to imagine a visionary and a cultured man like Pick even getting an interview at LT. He created LT’s strong visual style.

As well as the posters Pick was central to other wonderful gifts to London from LT – the extension of the Piccadilly Line northwards which gave us a series of wonderful art-deco stations, such as Southgate (my closest tube station when growing up and very influential personally on my tastes) and the HQ building for LT at 55 Broadway, St. James’s, completed in 1929 and for my money still one of the best buildings in London.

Do look at the posters (click here) and if you’re in London do go to the exhibition and if you’ve never wandered around 55 Broadway do go look at it. And then thank Frank Pick.


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