A couple of weeks ago one of our star posters went out on loan to the Yale Centre for British Art at Yale University in America.
The poster by Edward McKnight Kauffer was made for the Great Western Railway in 1933 and was one of a series used to advertise Devon and Cornwall. Kauffer was an American artist who began working in the UK in 1915, where he stayed for the next 25 years. He became one of our foremost designers in a time when graphic design as we know it today was really only in its infancy.
Kauffer was greatly influenced by the European avant-garde, having seen the Armory Show in America in 1913 and later studying at the Académie Moderne in Paris. His early work shows the influence of Van Gogh and Toulouse-Latrec, while this poster has a touch of Magritte about it with its slightly surreal abstracted landscape. At the time Kauffer and other designers like him were applauded for introducing modernism to the public through well designed posters displayed in public places.
Prior to this, in 1923, Kauffer had been commissioned by the London Underground to produce a series of posters advertising the city’s key museums. Among them was the Science Museum, and the poster showed an image of Stephenson and his Rocket. Today Rocket can still be seen at the Science Museum, while if you’re lucky you can catch a ride on replica Rocket at the National Railway Museum.