Theatre poster for The Only Way: A Tale of Two Cities
Lyceum Theatre, London
16 February, 1899
Illustration by John Hassall (1868-1948
Printed by David Allen & Sons Ltd
Museum no. S.15-1983
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This poster for The Only Way, a version of Charles Dickens’ story A Tale of Two Cities, produced at the Lyceum Theatre in 1899, was designed by the prolific poster artist John Hassall. Hassall's work was appealing and commercial; he worked fast and by 1899 had designed over 600 posters as well as producing illustrations for nursery rhymes and fairy stories. He was convinced that two dimensional poster could be one of the most dramatic forms of art. He admired the posters of the French artist Toulouse Lautrec, and Japanese woodcut prints. That influence can be seen here, in the dramatic horizontal and vertical lines of the scaffold, and the stark white areas of Sidney Carton’s coat. The blades in the foreground force him on to meet the blade of the scaffold; the red cap thrust high suggests dripping blood, while the dramatic sunset emphasises the dark mood and foreshadows the execution which ends the play.