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The Art of the Tube: the 150th Anniversary of the London Underground

  • 2 min read

On 10th January 1863 the first London underground line, The Metropolitan opened. The iconic designs that evolved from the underground and the trains and stations themselves have proved a lasting inspiration for artists from its inception to the present day.

Here are some of the works we have at artrepublic that have been inspired by the London Underground.

Cyril Power was fascinated by the Underground, and he depicted various aspects: from stairs and cascading escalators to the technologically advanced curves of the tunnels and electrical signage announcing arrival of the trains. When Power was making his images the Underground was one of the most potent symbols of the new industrial age. His image of Bank Road Tube Station beautifully captures the movement of the train as well as Bank’s unique curved platform.

Miroslav Sasek’s 1959 ‘This is London’ series show how iconic the tube continued to be and how the people on the tube many change over the years the basics of is design and atmosphere have remained the same.

Printmaker Brad Faine uses a range of elements from the London Underground in his grid based work ‘Down the Tube’. The chequerboard squares each contain a London underground station, and each station is circled in the colour of the primary tube-line that runs through it, the circle contains image that is representative of the character, location, name or culture of that station. Text is layered over the grid with consecutive letters spelling an A-Z of London localities, and on top of this is a larger spiral of letters and numbers representing London postcodes.

In 1931, Henry Charles Beck designed the London Underground map based around a series of simple, horizontal lines. The map was initially rejected for being too radical. However two years later it was accepted and its format has been imitated by subway, bus and transit companies around the globe. It has also proved an iconic image to be manipulated by artists. Simon Patterson’s work The Great Bear replaces the station names on the map with names of philosophers, engineers, footballers, saints, and comedians. Sean Sims used the style of the map to create The Brighton Line with iconic Brighton locations listed on a tube style map.

These are just a few of the works that have been inspired by the London underground and we are sure it will continue inspire artists for the next 150 years.

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