SS NORMANDIE, An Art-Deco Dream
Normandie is generally regarded as the greatest passenger liner ever created. The French ocean liner SS Normandie, launched in 1935, was the largest and fastest passenger vessel of its day, majority of her passenger space was devoted solely to first class. World-class French food would be served aboard her and her cellars stocked with the best French wines. If you could reduce everything glamorous and positive about France in the 1930s to a single object, Normandie was that object. And she was stunningly beautiful: the whole ship was a work of art.
The beginnings of Normandie can be traced to the Roaring Twenties, When the U.S. closed the door on most immigration in the early 1920s, steamship companies ordered vessels built to serve upper-class tourists instead, particularly Americans who traveled to Europe for alcohol-fueled fun during Prohibition. The French Line was approached by Vladimir Yourkevitch, a former ship architect for the Imperial Russian Navy, who had emigrated to France after the revolution. His ideas included a slanting clipper-like bow and a bulbous forefoot beneath the waterline, in combination with a slim hydrodynamic hull. Yourkevitch's concepts worked wonderfully in scale models, confirming his design's performance advantages. The French engineers were impressed and asked Yourkevitch to join their project. He also approached Cunard with his ideas, but was rejected because the bow was deemed too radical.
The French declaration of war on Germany in September 1939 found the Normandie in New York, tied up alongside of pier 88, New York. In spite of the loss of 28 American lives when a German u-boat torpedoed the Athenia on the first day of hostilities, the United States remained neutral. Authorities immediately put Coast Guard troops on board the Normandie and interned her in accordance with international maritime law. Though the French crew would remain aboard maintaining the vessel, she would remain motionless beside the pier, guarded by the Coast Guard, languishing until American entry into the war two years later into the spring of 1940.
When the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) became a part of the Navy on 1 November 1941, Normandie's USCG detail remained intact, mainly observing while the French crew maintained the vessel's boilers, machinery, and other equipment, including the fire-watch system. On 12 December 1941, five days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Coast Guard removed Captain Lehuédé and his crew and took possession of the Normandie under the right of angary, maintaining steam in the boilers and other activities on the idled vessel. However, the elaborate fire-watch system which ensured that any fire would be suppressed before it became a danger was abandoned. In 1942, the liner caught fire, capsized onto her port side and came to rest on the mud of the Hudson River. Although salvaged at great expense, restoration was deemed too costly and she was scrapped in October 1946.
Yacht Sweet Escape has an Art-Deco influence within her elegant interiors. Art-Deco signatures are throughout from the etched wine wall, art, and down to the carpet weave and inlayed floors. The geometrics in the fabrics and accessories share the vibrancy of the era. The swivel chairs in the salon are covered in an Osborne and Little fabric with the luxury liners namesake Normandie; wallpapers include “Lempicka” and drawings of natural materials like agate, and Fornasetti’s Sole. Alongside the linear decorations and geometric motifs, Art-Deco interiors featured indulgent exotic materials, often with decadent, polished, high-shine finishes much of which can be found onboard. Iconic elements of Art-Deco throughout Yacht Sweet Escape include the starburst mirror, animal prints in the sky lounge, and Capiz tiles in the VIP stateroom.
When the Normandie was designed, she was to facilitate the first class passenger in mind. Onboard Yacht Sweet Escape, our guests are beyond first class.
One cannot pay homage to Art-Deco without knowing the name Erté. Romain de Tirtoff (23 November 1892 – 21 April 1990) was a Russian-born French artist and designer known by the pseudonym Erté, from the French pronunciation of his initials. He was a 20th-century artist and designer in an array of fields, including fashion, jewellery, graphic arts, costume and set design for film, theatre, and opera, and interior decor. He used his pseudo name to protect his family from any disgrace of him being an artist having rejected the family traditional of being a naval officer.
His work influenced an entire art movement that was to become known as “Art Deco.” Throughout this period, Erte also created original costume and fashion designs for many of the era’s renowned screen actresses, including Joan Crawford, Lillian Gish, Marion Davies, Norma Shearer. His creations for the stage included extravagant designs for productions at such venues as New York’s Radio City Music Hall, the Casino de Paris and the Paris Opera, as well as for the Folies-Bergères and George White’s Scandals.
LYRIC OPERA 68
Erte began his career in stage designs in Paris in the ‘30s. He had a major rejuvenation and much lauded interest in his career during the 1960s with the Art Deco revival. By 1968 he was a living icon of the deco era. In this poster he returns to his roots in theatre. Using his signature Art-Deco style, Erte bridges the tradition of a great deco poster design while at the same time making it very contemporary with the almost-psychedelic colors of the swinging – sixties.
Lyric Opera-1968 hangs in the salon onboard Yacht Sweet Escape. The colours contrast the neutral tones of the furnishings. Erte rarely made posters (3 that we know of) and it is a fine example of his amazing talent.
1981. Erté is perhaps most famous for his elegant fashion designs which capture the Art Deco period in which he worked. His delicate figures and sophisticated, glamorous designs are instantly recognisable, and his ideas and art still influence fashion into the 21st century.
Arctic Sea is displayed in Chalet Sweet Escape’s Master Suite. The detail in the metallic embellishment is superb, offering reflections and refraction, much as it’s glacial counterpart.