Art of the Poster
A terrific selection of original artwork for posters commissioned by the London Underground and its successor, London Transport, is on exhibit at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex in Grand Central Station through July 8. Never before shown in the United States, the works are on loan from the venerable London Transport Museum, whose collection includes over 700 maquettes and 5,000 vintage posters.
Charged with expanding use of public transit beyond weekday commuting, Frank Pick, publicity officer for the Underground Group in the first decade of the 20th century, applied the new concept of travel posters to promoting local attractions and handpicked artists to submit designs.
In the course of his lengthy career, he enriched the urban environment by setting high artistic standards while being receptive to diverse styles of expression. The unifying factor was a distinctive typeface designed in 1917 by Edward Johnston.
The 51 works on view in New York range from the very first pictorial poster commissioned by Pick, John Hassall’s comical 1908 gouache, “No Need to Ask a P’liceman,” to Paul Catherall’s 2007 color linocut, “Primrose Hill,” and include examples by famous artists and unfamiliar names alike.
All but four works in the show were approved for production. Thumbnail photos of the printed posters enable comparison between the model and the final version— often colors were heightened or simplified and lettering added.
Anyone in a hurry can enjoy the exhibit purely for the visual pleasure it affords. With a bit of time, the simple, clear wall labels and unobtrusive thematic installation will make you aware of the variety of media, artistic styles, production requirements and processes and criteria for acceptance involved in the long-running endeavor.
The New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex is located adjacent to the station master’s office on the main level of Grand Central Station. Admission is free and the museum is open daily, except major holidays.
If you like the Annex, why not pay a visit to the Transit Museum itself? Located on Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn Heights, it is one of the major institutions of its kind in the world, offering numerous exhibitions and special programs. For more information, visit www. mta.info/museum.