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The Hidden Women Behind London’s Beloved Modernist Transit Posters

Poster Girls, the London Transport Museum exhibit, recalls a London where female artists were quietly shaping the way the city saw itself, its pleasures, and its future.
From left to right: "Take Cover - Travel Underground" by Kathleen Stenning (1925), "Victoria Embankment" by Monica Rawlins (1926), "Travel Underground" by Miss Bowden (1917)
From left to right: "Take Cover - Travel Underground" by Kathleen Stenning (1925), "Victoria Embankment" by Monica Rawlins (1926), "Travel Underground" by Miss Bowden (1917)London Transport Museum

With their mix of Modernist experimentation and now bygone charm, London Underground’s 20th century publicity posters have long been popular in Britain. What is less well-known, however, is just how central a role women artists played in their creation.

Since 1910, at least 170 known female artists have been commissioned to make work for London’s public transit network, creating instantly recognizable images in near anonymity. Over the past year, an exhibition at the London Transport Museum, entitled Poster Girls, has been highlighting this unsung contribution to the British capital’s visual identity. Due to close this Sunday, visitors have a last chance to view what is both a document of social change and a treasure trove of invention.