Ocean Liner Posters is a wonderful book telling the story of shipping companies and their ships through the art they produced – their posters. For a century, ocean liners were the only way to travel from one continent to another. Millions of passengers travelled on transatlantic routes: millionaires, occupying luxurious suites with dream decors, signed by the best artists of the time, and emigrants in search of a future, meager savings in hand, huddled in third class – all sharing their journeys with tourists, soldiers and traders on the largest form of transportation ever built. This book charts the evolution of ocean liner posters from the first ship poster reproductions of the latter part of the nineteenth century, when the vessel’s image appeared alongside information about the routes taken, through the Art Nouveau era, when the image of the ship began to take a key role in terms of visual importance. The Art Deco period allowed masters of poster art such as Adolphe Mouron Cassandre to create enduring works for the likes of Normandie or the Atlantique. The book continues tracing the timeline of these posters, through the postwar period until the demise of transatlantic routes, through to the sixties, which saw the poster being modernized.

Gabriele Cadringher was born in Varese, Italy. During some years spent in the port city of Genoa, Gabriele discovered the magnificent ocean liners voyaging from Europe to America, actually near the end of the era of the large ships which had been, for many years, the only way to cross the seas and the oceans from one continent to another. A passion was born! She started to collect and restore memorabilia and furniture from the main ocean liners (Normandie , Queen Mary, Ile de France, Berengaria, etc) and put together one of the largest collection of original posters from the maritime companies. This book has allowed Gabriele to share these great images, and spread knowledge and awareness of the significance of this unique era, complete with its art and memorabilia. Anne Massey is professor of Design History at Kingston University and Deputy Director of the Modern Interiors Research Centre. She is co-editor of ‘Interiors: Design, Architecture, Culture’ and has published widely on the subject of interior design. Her books include ‘Interior Design since 1900’, ‘Designing Liners: Interior Design Afloat’ and ‘Chair’. Television appearances include BBC4’s ‘Glamour’s Golden Age’ and Channel 4’s ‘Titanic: The Mission’.

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Like its companion volume on railway posters from the same publisher, this Ocean Liner Posters features outstanding posters in this area of transportation from their beginnings in the latter 1800s until the post-World War II decades when they died out. As with the fading out of the railway posters, ocean liner posters faded out from the growth of commercial air travel and the movement of advertising to TV and print media. But the demise of the ocean liner posters is a boon for collectors. Such posters now automatically have an antiquarian value kept up by scarcity, artistic quality and uniqueness, and continual interest; and the posters are one vein of the history of artistic styles and consumer interests as reflected in commercial and advertising art.

The ocean liner posters differ from the railway posters in that oceans and wharves do not offer the variations in background scenery, as do the landscapes and destinations for the railway posters. Thus distinctive and striking ocean liner posters required more imagination on the part of an artist. Especially, the perspective on a particular ship makes the difference in the overall conception and effect of a poster. Front view, full and partial side views, stern view in some cases, above, below, or alongside, and angled views particularly forty-five degrees but others too are all bases for surrounding, complementary composition. There are a few posters where steam funnels along with flags and lettering achieve the desired effect. Unpredictable color, shadings, typestyles, and imagery ranging from dreamy to exotic to realistic make each poster distinctive. One of the most striking posters is Cassandre’s !935 “Normandie”. Simple yet imposing yet elegant, it has become an icon of 20th-century graphic art. As notes on the “Poster Designers” say, “Cassandre…was without doubt the greatest poster designer of the twentieth century.”

Artistic ideas first found in ocean liner posters are reflected in much of today’s music concert posters, magazine advertising, cartoon and comic art, book covers, and design of consumer products. The variety of the pictured posters through the decades of their evolution with succinct introductions to the major periods offers an exceptional introduction along with an incomparable visual treat.

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