“Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed, and Style” at the Peabody Essex Museum

 

F. Earl for Henri Fichon, Paris, Design for a poster for the White Star Line and Moet & Chandon, about 1912, oil on canvas. Museum purchase, 2014.13.1. Photo by Kathy Tarantola.

Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed, and Style, the latest exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum, details the design and technical sides of these grand vessels while also placing them into an international cultural narrative. In collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (V&A), this event is the first of its kind as previous exhibits have focused on ocean liners, but none have taken into consideration their legacy across different nations.

PEM was founded by sea captains and merchant traders in 1799, and in addition to the various pieces brought to Salem during the 18th and 19th centuries, the museum has been collecting works related to ocean liners since the 1870s. Continuing in this maritime tradition, Ocean Liners: Glamour Speed, and Style takes guests on a voyage from the elegant ocean liners to contemporary cruise ships and everything in between.

Among the pieces shown in the exhibit, guests may expect to see brightly colored posters originally used during advertising campaigns in the early 20th century to change public beliefs that ocean travel was luxurious and elegant rather than grimy and unsafe. Other pieces include models of well-known ocean liners like the Queen Elizabeth (pictured below), and decorative elements from a variety of ocean liner models and time periods.

Basset-Lowke Ltd., Model of Queen Elizabeth, 1947-48, white mahogany, gunmetal, and brass. Gift of Cunard Line Ltd., 1970, M14220. © 2016 Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Kathy Tarantola.

Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed, and Style gives insight into the rising the rise of ocean travel as an opulent pastime while also showing open models, paperwork, and pieces of engines to portray what took place behind the scenes to make such grand travel possible. Despite companies having the technological abilities to design even faster ships, displayed in the exhibit by portions of engines and mechanical frameworks, speed was often sacrificed for comfort to further entice guests to come aboard for the ultimate leisure travel experience.

The exhibit goes on to show how other artistic elements produced onboard impacted their counterparts on land, concepts that are particularly evident when viewing cruise-wear, elegant high fashion dresses and tuxedos, and up and coming interior design ideas.

PEM hosts the Opening Day Deep Dive event to kick off the exhibit on May 20, 2017 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. During this event guests may view vintage trunks and additional models in the museum’s atrium, create their own luggage stickers, play shuffleboard, and more: Click here to view the complete event schedule. Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed, and Style will be on view at PEM through October 9, 2017, and more information about the exhibit is available at PEM.org.

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