Museum launches a new exhibition of stunning railway advertising posters of the 20th Century

Nothing is more evocative of the golden age of travel than the railway poster, and Dorset County Museum is thrilled to be staging an exhibition featuring over 50 famous examples that opens on 19th March. These beautiful works of art were created between 1916 and the 1970s with one aim in mind: to encourage holiday makers to escape the humdrum of every day life and travel by train to the resorts, towns, countryside and special places of Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.

A truly classic railyway poster advertising the trip to come: GWR poster from 1938 by Charles H. J. Mayo

A truly classic railyway poster advertising the trip to come: GWR poster from 1938 by Charles H. J. Mayo

The posters conjure up a bygone age of steam engines and old fashioned bathing suits, sunny beaches and the gentle clinking of boats in harbours. There are stunning and iconic landscapes too, immediately recognisable, painted in wonderful colours and promising days out filled with sunshine and relaxation. Town and city views are populated with elegant people, a streamlined locomotive heads a Pullman train – these images bring together the excitement, spectacle and nostalgia of the age.

On display alongside the wide range of posters are some 21st century items that use classic poster design principles, locomotive nameplates, old station totem signs and diverse railway publicity materials and ephemera celebrating the great holiday routes in the West of England. Together they will, without doubt, provoke many nostalgic travel memories.

Speed to the West has been curated by Antiques Roadshow expert and writer Paul Atterbury and Richard Furness, collector, writer and publisher of the Poster to Poster series that have become the definitive books on the subject, supported by the staff of Dorset County Museum.

Paul Atterbury said “During the interwar years the ‘Big Four’ railway companies found that art sold tickets, and between them commissioned an astonishing range of posters from the leading artists and designers of the day. This tradition was maintained, even expanded, in the 1950s and 1960s by the newly nationalised British Railways, whose legacy is a second golden age of posters. This is a wonderful collection that is well worth coming to see, and I’m very pleased to be involved with this exhibition.”

Richard Furness said “Dorset is a beautiful county whose coastline is the subject for some wonderful artwork. Having been studying, collecting and writing about railway art for many years, I am delighted to be playing a part in bringing this unique collection to Dorchester. This exhibition brings together posters spanning a century, and is rounded off with the latest GWR poster which demonstrates that the slogan ‘Speed to the West’ is still actively in use today. Visitors should have a lot to see and reminisce over. Do come and see us!”

Dr Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum said “I’m really excited about this exhibition. The posters and railway memorabilia we’re exhibiting are within living memory for many people, forming a direct link to the past. Added to that, the posters are, of course, things of beauty in their own right and it’s great that they will be here in Dorset for people to see all year.”

A book, illustrating in colour the posters in the exhibition plus others that enrich the story, will be on sale throughout the exhibition priced at £9.95.

  • The exhibition ‘Speed to the West’ A Nostalgic Journey opens at Dorset County Museum on Saturday 19th March 2016 to Saturday 7th January 2017

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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