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Rebecca Savage.
Rebecca Savage.

Rebecca Savage, Teaching Fellow in Art History, research looks into the artistic legacy of travel posters and how many of the designers were actually women. 

Unusually, women poster artist designers achieved the same level of fame as their male counterparts and were discussed in newspapers for recognition of their work. One example of these female designers, was poster artist designer Dora Batty, who worked across poster production throughout the 1920's and 30's for the railways. She also produced a number of London Underground posters and was hailed in the press as the 'Poster Queen.' Another example is Freda Lingstrom, who went on to become Head of children's programming at the BBC, the creator of famous programmes such as 'Andy Pandy' and 'Bill and Ben.' She also started her career off in railway poster production in England and then abroad in Norway.

"There was an unusual number of women involved in the production of travel posters at a time when women could not make art. 197 women worked on poster design between 1910 - 1939 and were paid the same as their male colleagues" says Rebecca Savage.

Appearing on Radio 3's Free Thinking was a great opportunity to bring my research to a new audience. Many of the women poster artists I discuss in my research were once household names so talking about them on a national radio show seems like a fitting way of showcasing their success and considering the importance of their legacies.

Rebecca Savage - Teaching Fellow in History of Art and the University of Birmingham.
Underground poster for Kew Gardens by Artist Dora Batty in 1924 commissioned by Underground and London Transport.
Underground poster for Kew Gardens by Artist Dora Batty in 1924 commissioned by Underground and London Transport.

The iconic images of country picnics and modernist landscapes used in railway poster art evoked a sense of rural Britain lost in time. As Railways in England began to develop they needed more money and therefore there was a need to start advertising themselves.

Great Western Railway offered a more Middle class option of travel showing the 'English Rivera' with idyllic scenes done in a modernist style using bold and bright colours. A 'bathing belle' was often shown on the front, a woman in her swimwear beckoning an audience to come and join her. Northern Line railway posters tended to focus on speed, to show how quickly you could reach Yorkshire or Scotland from London. Using landscape scenes focused on the machinery of the railway with images of the big modern train engines to demonstrate mechanical power.

To create the posters, landscape art would be produced by the artist and then the poster would be produced by a different person in a lithographic studio where they would carefully re-create this image into the final design. The Lithographic technique was an expensive process and required someone knowledgeable to produce the final outcome.

Listen to the full Radio 3 episode with Rebecca Savage.