E. McKnight Kauffer

(1890—1954) artist and graphic designer

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American designer and painter, active mainly in England. After studying in San Francisco, Chicago, and Paris, he settled in London in 1914. He was a member of Group X, but he virtually abandoned easel painting in 1921 and is best known for brilliant and witty poster designs, notably for the London Transport Board and the Great Western Railway; he created posters for London Underground from 1915 to 1940, under the patronage of its commercial manager Frank Pick (1878–1941), who was the mastermind behind the modern image that the company created in the interwar years through employing some of the best artistic talent of the day. Writing in The Evening Standard in 1928, Arnold Bennett said that Kauffer had ‘changed the face of London streets’ and that his success ‘proves that popular taste is on the up-grade’. Kauffer was also a successful textile designer and book illustrator, and in 1935 Paul Nash wrote that he considered him ‘responsible, above anyone else, for the change in attitude towards commercial design in this country…his influence as an applied draughtsman has been immensely important’. In 1940 Kauffer returned to the USA and settled in New York. His work in America included posters (for government agencies during the Second World War and afterwards for American Airlines) and also book jackets and illustrations.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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