Upcoming Events

Ocean Liners in Interwar London: Art and Performance

Research Seminar – Faye Hammill, Bruce Peter

  • 22 May 2024
  • 5:00 – 7:00 pm
  • This talk is part of a series entitled 'Out to Sea', which will focus on the influence of oceans and their coasts, in relation to Britain and its global empire, on visual and architectural imagination and production.
  • Paul Mellon Centre and Online

Ocean liners fascinated the artists and writers of the 1920s and 1930s: as machines they were awe-inspiring and even terrifying; as designed spaces, they were innovative, glamorous and visually compelling; as social environments, they enabled new encounters and personal transformation. Yet passenger steamships are also associated with inequality and oppression, with danger and death. They were agents of empire and industrialisation, and could symbolise everything that was wrong with the culture of modernity. Drawing on research for her project "Ocean Modern", Faye Hammill explores the multifaceted representation of ocean liners in the creative arts. Focusing on the theatres of interwar London, she will discuss plays set on shipboard as well as ballets and musical entertainments featuring liners. Among those involved as designers, writers or composers were the Sitwells, Constant Lambert, Cecil Beaton, Edmund Dulac, Edward Burra, John Banting, Vanessa Bell, Sutton Vane, Noël Coward and Gladys Calthrop, all of whom were connected with one another through social and professional networks. The talk will shed light on relationships between visual, performance and print cultures through attention to scripts and stage directions, sets and costumes, and cover designs for published and recorded materials.

Respondent: Professor Bruce Peter, Professor of Design History, The Glasgow School of Art.

About the speakers

  • Faye Hammill is Professor of English Literature at the University of Glasgow. Her research focuses on transatlantic literature and culture in the early twentieth century. She is particularly interested in themes of social and geographical mobility, and also has expertise in print culture and periodical history. Her current project, Ocean Modern (https://oceanmodern.gla.ac.uk), explores the meanings of the ocean liner in the literary imagination and is funded by an AHRC Research, Development and Engagement Fellowship (2023–24). Faye is author or co-author of six books, most recently Modernism's Print Cultures (2016), with Mark Hussey; Magazines, Travel, and Middlebrow Culture (2015), with Michelle Smith; and Sophistication: A Literary and Cultural History (2010). She is a board member at several maritime heritage organisations and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

  • Bruce Peter is the Professor of Design History in the Glasgow School of Art’s School of Design. He is a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, the Royal College of Art and the University of Glasgow. He has researched and published extensively on modern architecture and design for transport, pleasure and hospitality and is also internationally known as a maritime historian, specialising in the design history of modern merchant ships.

    He acted as an advisor for the V&A Ocean Liners: Speed and Style exhibition of 2017–2019. His recent publications include Jet Age Hotels and the International Style (2020), Danish Design at Sea: Ship Interior Architecture and Furnishing (2021) and Denmark in Britain: Architecture, Design and Lifestyle 1945–1970 (2023). A forthcoming work, Art Deco in Scotland, will be published by Historic Environment Scotland in 2025 and includes a chapter on the design of the interiors of Clyde-built ships of the 1920s and 30s.