The lure of the Travel Poster of the 20th century – for Americans it was sun-washed depictions of the Southwest; the sun-and-fun lifestyle so far removed from the grey drudgery of the Industrial East. It was probably the catalyst for the mass exodus to the West Coast after World War 2.
And it was the same throughout much of the world. Probably the most prolific and memorable of the travel poster-generating countries was Britain; where sun-drenched depictions of seaside bathers, bucolic landscapes and rustic cottages beamed down from cold and damp subways, or plastered on billboards facing bomb-damaged buildings as a reminder that life was returning to normal and there were surely better days ahead.
In this episode of London Letter, which was a weekly program broadcast to North America by the BBC World Service, author and commentator John Connell talks about a recent exhibition in April of 1949 of travel posters and previews of new travel posters about to grace London streets, buses and Tubes.
Connell revisits the favorite posters of his youth – the feelings and spirit those landscapes and portraits held for him, and no doubt many millions of others who gazed at the visions of impossible sun and tropical warmth and fell into daydreams.
It was part of the continuing adjustment Britain and Europe were undergoing, rebuilding and recovering from the war – a war that, even in 1949 where VE and VJ Days were only four years earlier – the recovery was ongoing and the morale was on the slow but steady mend.
We all hear about the bold strokes, the major moves in the Post War World. The encroaching Cold War and the political struggles which most European countries faced – but we don’t really hear about the human aspects – how the people were reacting and how they were recovering – how those scars and emotional wounds were healing.
So this broadcast from April 6, 1949 may not resonate with many, or even most – it does offer an insight into what the average Briton was dealing with and working on, overcoming after a devastating war and a rapidly changing world.