We are thrilled to have discovered one of the most delightful poster series ever created for the London Underground – the rare, 4-part series by Mark Severin, an accomplished Belgian artist who spent the Thirties in London. Severin cleverly used the Underground logo as a moving clock dial to mark the evening’s activities.
Severin’s designs are a highlight in what is considered the greatest single company poster series ever. Some 5,000 posters were created, many during the 32 year reign of Frank Pick, its legendary head til 1940. London was by 1900 the biggest city in the world, and Pick wanted to use posters to build traffic on the new system’s underused lines, especially during off-peak hours, in a handsome and friendly way.
Pick primarily focused on leisure destinations to increase nonessential, off-peak journeys. Early on his team created the world famous logo and design system that is still in use today. His fine eye and endless creativity led to his discovery of top artists such as McKnight Kauffer and commissions for world famous designers such as John Hassall, Abram Games, Andre Marty, Andrew Power, Zero, and Man Ray.
In the late Thirties, with war tensions simmering, Pick wanted to promote ways to get Londoners to extend their work day in the city before traveling home. Severin’s series, showing the activities hour by hour on a clock made of the Underground logo became an instant classic.
Vibrant scenes of restaurants (for after work snacks and later for supper) and crowded movie theatre (Ronald Coleman in If I were King) were followed by The Way Home, one of the best late night city scenes to be found in poster art. Severin’s incisive caricature of Londoners heading to “the tube” perfectly evokes the rich tableau of big city life.