Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed and Style at Peabody Essex Museum, through October 9, 2017

“The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) presents Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed and Style, the first exhibition to fully assess the design and cultural impact of the ocean liner. As showcases of opulence, technology and social sophistication, these floating cities captured the imagination of artists, engineers, and architects. This groundbreaking, international exhibition co-organized with the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (V&A), brings together nearly 200 works from the mid-19th century through the late-20th century, including paintings, sculpture, models, furniture, lighting, wall panels, textiles, fashion, photographs, posters and film to explore the distinct design, elegant engineering and cultural dynamics of an era when ocean liners ruled the sea and the popular imagination.

The rich collections and curatorial perspectives of PEM and the V&A dovetail harmoniously for this exhibition. Founded in 1799 by sea captains and merchant traders, PEM has been actively collecting art and design related to ocean liners since at least 1870, building holdings of paintings, prints, posters and models that today number in the thousands. The V&A, one of the world’s leading institutions of art and design, began collecting ship models and technology patents to improve Britain’s commercial and manufacturing advantage in the 19th century, when it was known as the South Kensington Museum. In the 20th century, the V&A acquired ocean liner posters and ephemera, ceramics, textiles, metalwork and furniture, all with the aim of representing good design.” — PEM

Bassett-Lowke LTD, Model of Queen Elizabeth, 1947–1948. White mahogany, gunmetal, brass. Peabody Essex Museum, Gift of Cunard Line Ltd., 1970, M14220. © 2016 Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Kathy Tarantola.

Goyard, Goyard luggage, Duchess of Windsor, about 1950. Miottel Museum, Berkeley, California. © 2016 Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Luke Abiol.

Kay of Austria, New York, New York, The Big 3 to France and England. Cunard tourist office sign depicting Berengaria, Aquitania and Mauretania, about 1925. Painted wood. Collection of Stephen S. Lash. © 2016 Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Stephen Petegorsky.

F. Earl Christy, Design for a poster for the White Star Line and Moet & Chandon, about 1912. Oil on canvas. Peabody Essex Museum, Museum purchase, 2014.13.1.

‘Cunard Line USA’ poster featuring Berengaria, about 1925. Color lithograph. Collection of Stephen S. Lash. Courtesy of Cunard. Photo by Stephen Petegorsky.

Rene Herbst. 1st class cabin design from Cabines en acier de paquebots, 1935. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, LIBVM382-.C335-1935. © Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Jarrod Staples.

Charles Demuth, Paquebot Paris, 1921–22. Oil on canvas. Columbus Art Museum, Gift of Ferdinand Howald. © Columbus Art Museum.

Jean -Maurice Rothschild, Side chair from the Grand Salon on board the S.S. Normandie, 1934. Gilt wood, patinated metal, and wool tapestry upholstery. Peabody Essex Museum, Museum purchase, 2015.10.1. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Walter Silver.

Bremen Europe Norddeutscher Lloyd-Bremen “Die Kommenden Grossbauten…”, about 1928. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Gift of Mr. Frederick Reinert, HE945.N6-B7-1928. © Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Allison White.

Kenneth Shoesmith, Cunard Line, Europe, America, 1929, color lithograph. Gift of the estate of Francis B. C. Bradlee, 1928, M11215. Peabody Essex Museum. Courtesy of Cunard. Photo by Bob Packert.

Jenny of Paris, Emilie Grigsby evening dress, about 1926. Textile. Peabody Essex Museum, Gift of Mrs. Sanford S. Clark, 1971, 132655. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Walter Silver.

Bassett-Lowke LTD, Model of Queen Elizabeth, 1947–1948. White mahogany, gunmetal, brass. Peabody Essex Museum, Gift of Cunard Line Ltd., 1970, M14220. © 2016 Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Kathy Tarantola.

Bremen, 1:144 illuminated waterline model, about 1931–3. Peabody Essex Museum, Gift of Leon Lawrence Sidell, 1969, M13662. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Walter Silver.

“The great age of ocean travel has long since passed, but ocean liners remain one of the most powerful and admired symbols of 20th century modernity,” said Dan Finamore, PEM’s Russell W. Knight Curator of Maritime Art and History. “No form of transport was as romantic, remarkable or contested as the ocean liner and their design became a matter of national prestige as well as a microcosm of global dynamics and competition.”

Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed and Style is co-organized by the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Images courtesy Peabody Essex Museum.