On October 11, 2010, Queen Elizabeth II will christen Cunard’s new ocean liner “Queen Elizabeth.” Among the artworks on board are the two murals created by English born, Los Angeles-based, Oscar® winning documentary film director and graphic designer Arnold Schwartzman.
Flanking the Queen Elizabeth’s Grand Lobby are these two graphite rendered murals, drawn on 113 separate 9”x 12” sheets and then assembled digitally by the artist’s wife Isolde. Schwartzman has named the reception desk mural, “GMT,” Greenwich Mean Time (below), which references London’s iconic Art Deco clocks from The Shell Mex and The Daily Telegraph buildings, BBC Broadcasting House and Selfridges department store.
The theme of the tour desk mural opposite (above) is “The Golden Age of Transportation,” featuring the former Ocean Terminal at Southampton, the “RMS Queen Elizabeth,” the Hindenburg airship, New York’s former Airlines Terminal, and the Chrysler Building.
I asked Schwartzman, who is also the author of a number of photographic books on Art Deco architecture, about the process of making art for her Majesty:
Ocean liner murals don’t come about every day. How did you get this job? Cunard’s art consultant had admired my several books on Art Deco architecture and contacted me to have enlargements of a number of my Deco photographs that I had taken around the world displayed throughout the Art Deco themed ship. On meeting me, however, she learned that I was a graphic designer and illustrator and was impressed by my work. So she offered me the assignment of designing the two murals. I did not confess that I had not drawn for well over 30 years!
Did you do many iterations? Yes, there were many iterations. It was agreed that the theme for both of the murals would explore the rich history of Cunard. However, after some months of research and presentations, it was decided to concentrate on an Art Deco theme. I came up with the two present concepts. One of London’s Art Deco clocks, “GMT,” for the grand lobby’s reception desk, and “The Golden Age of Transportation” for the tour desk—both of which Cunard immediately embraced.
Are you an ocean liner expert? Despite the fact that I have now been a guest lecturer on board seven cruise ships, I don’t think that I could claim to be an expert on the subject. However, I now have learned much through my considerable research for these murals.
So, what do you think of the Queen? Are you referring to her Majesty, or the ship? When I was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire at Buckingham Palace, the Queen was out of town and so Prince Charles invested me. On the one occasion that I had met the Queen, it was on the 50th Anniversary of the British Film Academy in London, of which I was their L.A. Chairman. After the screening of a very fast cutting nine-minute film celebrating the 100th anniversary of British cinema, I was presented to the Queen as its producer. She responded, “How very taxing.” Nevertheless I remain a royalist!