Tom Purvis (12 June 1888 – 27 August 1959) was a British painter and commercial poster artist.
Purvis was born in Bristol, the son of sailor and marine artist T G Purvis. He studied at Camberwell School of Art and worked for six years at the advertising firm of Mather and Crowther before becoming a freelance designer. Purvis developed a bold, two-dimensional style using large blocks of vivid flat colour and eliminating detail. He fought in the First World War in the Artists Rifles
London and North Eastern Railway (LNER)
From 1923 to 1945 Purvis worked for the LNER under the direction of Advertising Manager William Teasdale and then his successor Charles Dandridge, who both allowed him considerable freedom in his designs. During his time at the LNER Purvis produced over 100 posters, around 5-6 per year or one every two months. He enjoyed a very high status in the LNER's advertising department as he was one of the major designers involved in the recognisable bold and graphic LNER poster style. He was so important to the LNER that he was paid a retainer of approximately £450 per annum to carry out his work.
His posters for the LNER largely avoided depictions of the trains themselves but rather concentrated on portraying the resorts that were the holiday destinations of travelers and the leisure pursuits that could be enjoyed there. Sex appeal was quite a strong element of Purvis's work, with many posters portraying women in bathing costumes with bare arms and legs—quite risqué in 1930's Britain! As well as individual posters, Purvis also produced two sets of six posters for the LNER that could either stand alone or be joined together to produce a single, overall image. The ... by LNER series portrays six seaside resorts, each shown at an unusual angle, to form a continuous landscape in the background as the posters, like the trains themselves, travel up the east coast of Britain from Essex to Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and finally Northumberland. The East Coast Joys set, depicting various leisure activities, has a relaxed, simplified style and the warm colours give it an almost Mediterranean feel, emphasising that the east coast is 'the drier side of Britain'.
As well as his work for the LNER, Purvis also designed posters for the Gentlemans' outfitters Austin Reed and for the 1932 British Industries Fair. In 1930 he joined the Society of Industrial Artists, a group which put pressure on industry to improve standards of training for graphic designers and provide a wider range of employment for them. In 1936 Purvis became one of the first Royal Designers for Industry. He gave up poster design after the Second World War to paint portraits and religious pictures.
Like many artists and designers of the period, Purvis was profiled as an 'Artist of Note' in The Artist magazine, Volume VIII No. 2, in October 1934.
- Appointed 2nd Lt, 28 Nov 1917, invalided out 1 Mar 1919 (London Gazette)
- Introduction to Poster Progress, Published by The Studio Ltd, 1937.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tom Purvis.|
- The Science and Society Picture Library contains many images of Tom Purvis's posters from the collections of the National Railway Museum, York.
- Posters by Purvis from the London Transport Museum Collection
- Portraits of Tom Purvis in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London