Over the course of the 20th century, Transport for London created vivid examples of top-notch art and typography to introduce Britons to the wonders of the Underground. But despite the organization’s reputation within the design world, the contributions of the women who worked for TfL have gone mostly unacknowledged—until now. Thankfully, a new exhibit set to debut at the London Transport Museum is dedicated to the subject.
Dubbed “Poster Girls—A Century of Art and Design,” the exhibition consists of 150-plus posters and other art pieces that tell the story of the female graphic designers who shaped the visual legacy of the London Underground. “Women played a really significant role during the 20th century in developing poster art,” says exhibition curator David Bownes. “If this exhibition can highlight that fact, which has been neglected and forgotten, that would be my goal.”
In addition to emphasizing the works and career trajectories of female artists like Mabel Lucie Attwell, Laura Knight, Enid Marx, and Zandra Rhodes, “Poster Girls” serves as a historical survey of 20th-century design. From the whimsical Arts & Crafts movement that inspired London Underground managing director Frank Pick to hire female children’s book illustrators for poster design in the 1920’s through art deco, illustrative postwar pieces, and even psychedelia, the exhibition reveals how female graphic artists both responded to and actively shaped stylistic trends over the years.
Of course, what Bownes finds most revealing is that a number of the posters in Transport for London’s possession went unsigned, suggesting that some women might never truly receive proper recognition for their contributions. Regardless, “Poster Girls” should offer an unprecedented window into the lives and work of England’s trailblazing female graphic designers, hopefully inspiring the next generation in the process. The exhibition will be on display in the London Transport Museum at Covent Garden Piazza through January 2019. Read more