Monday, August 21, 2017

OCEAN LINERS, FLOATING PALACES at the Peabody Essex Musuem: Review by Polly Guerin

Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed, and Style at PEM
Let's take a vicarious trip on the floating palaces of yesteryear when glamour and Art Deco elegance graced the salons of the Campagnie Generale Transatlantic, commonly known as The French Line and the interiors of other world ship competitors. It was the Golden Age of the great Atlantic express in the late nineteenth and the twentieth century connecting the old wold with the new.
      They were splendid glittering ships in a race in time and a race by shipping lines to design the most luxurious interiors to attract wealthy patrons who were accustomed to luxurious hotels that emulated aristocratic homes  The prerequisite for these luxuries interiors was the fact that one had to accompany the trip with a trunk load of attire, including evening gowns to make the Grand Descent on the spectacular main dining room staircase where women would descend whilst emulating movie star elegance and diners already seated could view who was who aboard the ship.
      Your nostalgic ship experience, freeze framed in time, welcomes you at OCEAN LINERS: GLAMOUR, SPEED, AND STYLE, an exhibition organized by PEM, the Peabody Essex Museum in Essex, Massachusetts and London's Victoria and Albert Museum on view at the Peabody through October 9, 2017. www.pem.org.
       The exhibit explores the world shipping liners---their fabulous interiors, the artists' who created art treasures, and the amenities that the late maritime raconteur and author, John Maxtone Graham, Mr. Ocean liner himself, declared in his book was, "The Only Way to Cross!"  
The Dining Room,  from REX, firs class 1932
       The S.S. Ile de France, for example, was The French Line's floating palace of modernity. It showcased the height of Art Deco interiors, and featured a "street of shops" aptly named "The Rue de la Paix of the Atlantique."  The ship featured a sixty car garage, a gym and tennis court and other amenities of haute luxury that made ocean liner travel the only way to go.

     This exclusivity of bygone elegance stands as a testament to time when passengers traveled first class in an atmosphere when the most esteemed craftsmen and artists of the era produced works of splendor, never to be seen again. French artists, sculptors and architects included Rene Lalique, Edgar Brandt, Henri Navarre and Jules Leleu to name a few---all had participated and showcased their works in the l925 International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris, which gave the world the term "Art Deco," and inspired the ship's contemporary style. It evoked the craftsmen and artists' Art Deco concept of beauty that swayed the refined taste of the world.    
First Class Salon on The Normandie
  The quintessential of the Art Deco designed liners was The French Liner's NORMANDIE with its opulent display of artistic genius.  The interiors glittered with gilded-glass panels, The History of Navigation cycle,  designed by Jean Dupas, once exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and most recently auctioned off to a wealthy tycoon. The legend of the Normandy still is revered with artifacts currently on display on the, 2,500 
passenger cruise ship, Celebrity Summit. On the third deck find a display that includes nostalgic photographs of shipboard scenes and famous passengers such as Greta Garbo and the fashion designer, Colette, a showcase of the  the first class dining room dinner setting and a video tour with John Maxtone Graham commentary. 
      In its day, traveling first class with its physical allure, was a dream-like magical experience, it transported style and elegance, it evoked music of the era and the setting of romantic encounters.  The luxury of these memories are unlikely to ever be repeated again, but you can vicariously experience their grandeur at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA where you will transported to that bygone maritime era of unrivaled splendor.
      Ta Ta Darlings!!! I'm evoking memories of my tour of the Normandie, so little did I realize then how remarkable it was.  Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit Polly's Blogs at www.pollytalk.com, click on the links in the left-hand column on fashion, visionary men, remarkable women and poetry.  


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