Frank Pick was the man who commissioned some of the most recognisable icons of London Underground’s identity; the Johnston typeface, Charles Holden stations, the roundel and Harry Beck’s Tube map, to name but a few. 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of his death and to commemorate his legacy we hosted a series of talks and a crowdfunding campaign to support the new permanent art installation by artists Langlands & Bell that was unveiled at Piccadilly Circus Tube station on 7 November 2016.
About Frank Pick
As Managing Director of London Underground in the 1920s and the first Chief Executive of London Transport, Frank Pick (1878-1941) had more influence on the look of twentieth-century London than any other individual. Renowned art historian Nikolaus Pevsner, described Pick as “the greatest patron of the arts whom this century has so far produced in England, and indeed the ideal patron of our age.”
Frank Pick oversaw what is widely acknowledged to be transport design’s golden age. He commissioned some of the most recognisable icons of London Underground’s identity such as the distinctive red, blue and white roundel Tube logo, the original Johnston typeface and the art deco architecture of many Underground stations designed by Charles Holden. Pick also commissioned striking advertising posters in a variety of styles, often working with famous artists of the day such as surrealist Man Ray.
Through his vision and determination, the Underground witnessed the birth of commercial art and advertising as well as the emergence of graphic design, wayfinding systems, corporate identities and integrated brand design.
Langlands & Bell artwork
To celebrate Pick’s life and work and mark the 75th anniversary of his death on 7 November 1941 a new artwork, created by Turner Prize nominated and BAFTA award-winning artists Langlands & Bell, has been installed in the circular concourse at Piccadilly Circus station. The striking wall installation, entitled Beauty < Immortality, is made of bronze, vitreous enamel, LEDs and marble, is a permanent addition to the station’s unique architecture. The artwork is 9.5m long and 2m high and features a 1.37m diameter roundel and a 1.98m high text of solid bronze letters in New Johnston typeface.
The artists were inspired by Frank Pick’s own handwritten notes, which are part of London Transport Museum’s unique collection. The text relates to Frank Pick’s philosophy about beauty, utility, goodness and truth, and underlines Langlands & Bell’s shared conviction that the quality of our surroundings contributes decisively to our quality of life.
Beauty < Immortality was launched by Mike Brown MVO, London’s Transport Commissioner on 7 November 2016. It was commissioned by London Transport Museum and Art on the Underground in partnership with London-born gift and interiors retailer www.Bouf.com