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LMS A Map of the Lake District

  • Author: WATTS, Arthur George (artist)
  • Publisher: London Midland & Scottish Railways Ltd (LMS)
  • Engraver: The Benson Group (Printers)
  • Date: 1934
  • Dimensions: sheet: 127 x 102 cms


A Map of The Lake District [1934]: Stunning pictorial poster designed for LMS by “Punch” cartoonist, Arthur Watts [1883-1935]

About this piece:

LMS A Map of the Lake District

Colour-printed lithographed quad royal poster, professionally backed with museum-quality archival tissue for better presentation & conservation. Two or three marginal nicks and tears, one in upper right just touching map border, all expertly & invisibly closed and reinforced on verso. With all a very nicely presented example.

This spectacular large-scale pictorial map poster was commissioned in 1934 by the London Midland & Scottish (LMS) Railways to promote rail tourism to the English Lake District.

Its designer was the renowned contemporary cartoonist and illustrator, Arthur George Watts [1883-1935], probably best-known for his prolific twenty year contribution to the satirical magazine, Punch.

In an amusing & decorative style highly reminiscent of friend & contemporary, MacDonald Gill, Watts provides the viewer with an entertaining panoramic vision of the Lake District. A superb bird’s eye pictorial map extends from the walls of the city of Lancaster, the new LMS hotel on Morecambe pier & the Carnforth rail junction (of Brief Encounter fame) to the precipitous slopes of Skiddaw & Saddleback mountains. Attention is given to the principal rail routes which snake their way along the valleys of its eastern and northern fringes linking important centres such as Penrith & Keswick, whilst around the south & west the main coastal line connects Kendal, Barrow & Whitehaven, with branch lines penetrating the southern Lakeland interior reaching such well-known tourist destinations as Coniston, Newby Bridge and Windermere.

In a superbly crafted vignette, a Ransome-esque family of summer tourists – husband & wife and two teenage children with white dog – are carried effortlessly aloft on gossamer angel wings across the southern Lakeland skies towards their much-anticipated holiday destination. They are led by the “Holiday Spirit” angel who directs the way ahead, as youthful putti broadcast the comfortable ease & convenience of LMS rail travel with its “restaurant cars” and “luggage sent on in advance”.

The distictive topopgraphy of the Lake District is shown in three-dimensional perspective, the great Lakes coloured in wonderfully translucent blue whilst the surrounding mountains appear in conical profile, reminiscent of the work of Watt’s great 16th Century predecessor, Christopher Saxton. Peaks such as Great Gable, Scafell, Langdale Pikes and Helvellyn are differentiated from their less challenging & lower green-toned neighbours by their distinctive sandy brown hues.

Across the map, Watts fills the landscape with vignettes of local villages & hamlets as well as  miniature portraits of the area’s tourist attractions and recreational activities, all accompanied by historical & literary notes and oft-amusing speech bubbles.  In the waters of the Irish Sea, a relative of the Loch Ness monster seeks directions to Lake Windermere; the men of the Selker Lightship espy a stranded tourist marooned on nearby Rocks; the crowned figure of Neptune suggests that a solitary female rower (“Miss Fortescue”) off the coasts of Barrow might like to “come down and visit…sometime”  whilst a nearby mermaid bemoans her as yet unfulfilled dream of staying at Morecambe’s new LMS Hotel, built in sleek-lined Art Deco style and opened just a few months earlier, in July 1933!

In the top corners of the map, Watts completes the picture with decorative coats of arms of the Cumberland & Westmoreland. The lower left corner is embellished with an attractive title cartouche surmounted by putti supporting the official emblem of the LMS, whilst the lower right corner includes the arms of the neighbouring county of Lancashire and the adjacent North Riding of Yorkshire.  The map is signed in the lower left “Arthur Watts ’34”.

Arthur George Watts [1883-1935] was a native of Rochester Kent. He was the son of Joseph Watts, at one time Indian Deputy Surgeon General and his wife Alice. For much of his childhood the family resided in South London, where he was educated at Dulwich College. An immensely talented artist & cartoonist, he trained at the Slade School of Art from about 1900 and later at other art schools on the European Continent.  He served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve during World War I, attaining the rank of Commander and winning the DSO for bravery as a result of his actions during the 1918 Zebrugge Raid. He worked as an illustrator for many of London’s leading illustrated magazines in both the pre & post-war periods as well as receiving regular commissions as a book illustrator and as a poster designer for London Underground. Married twice, his life was brought to a tragically premature end just a year after the publication of this poster, when he was killed in an aircrash in the Italian Alps in July 1935.