Thursday 30 October 2008

Tony Sarg

Between 1912 and 1914 Tony Sarg (1880 – 1942) designed over 30 posters for London Transport, more than half were based on birds-eye views of crowd scenes in which a vast number of tiny animated figures were observed and recorded enjoying the pleasures of city life. When war broke out he relocated to the USA and developed a new career as a master puppeteer while continuing to illustrate the occasional book for children. In the mid 1920’s he produced a series of drawings in which he applied the visual idiom of his London studies to the city of New York. In 1927 twenty-four such drawings were published in picture book format with the title Up & Down New York.

This book was reissued last year in a facsimile edition and could serve as a master-class in the art of portraying the modern city. Sarg’s artfully chosen city landmarks are populated by turbulent teeming crowds that surge to and fro in frenzied motion. A happy combination of a gestural drawing style and a precise spatial framework conveys to perfection the energy and dynamism of the world’s first great metropolis. These images bring the city to life in the same way that the covers of The New Yorker (launched 2 years earlier in 1925) so often do. A small selection here with a focus on transport and outdoor advertising plus a timely observation of stock market panic.

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