Sea History 073 - Spring 1995

Page 28

"Richard Hakluyt Recording the Voyages of the Elizabethan Sailors, " oil on canvas, painted f or the tourist class Writing Room on the Queen Mary. "Madonna of the Tall Ships," oil on canvas , painted fo r the / st Class Drawing Room on the Queen Mary. Pictures on th is page courtesy of the Trustees of the Ulster Museum.

mant1me pas t-"Ri chard Hak luyt The crowning point of Shoesrnith' s ca- his days at sea. He was always conscious of the fac t that his figure drawrecording the voyages of the Eli zareer came in 1936--he w as commis- ing was defi cient, and continued to bethan sa ilors" and "Samue l Pepys sioned to paint murals for the new attend life classes at the Royal Instiat the Roya l Dockyard , Deptfo rd ." tute almost until his death. Both were aimed , in hi s own words, Cunarder, the Queen Mary. He had no time, however, for art "at interesting the passe ngers in the school practice or for modern critics. romanti c evo luti on of seafaring, of Indeed, when a bitter dispute arose over which the Queen Mary is the latest magC unard ' s rejection of Duncan Grant ' s nificent development. " mu rals fo r the Queen Mary' s I st class The Ist class altarpiece " Madonna of lounge, Shoesmith entered the fray on the Atlantic," was Shoesmith 's own idea: Cunard 's side. Cunard chairman Sir Percy " I was in the company's offices when they Bates, on viewing Grant 's commission, offered me the opportunity and I got the had brusquely commanded: " Well , you rough design out in one night. I rather know what you can do with those-give feared that the innovation of giving the them to the blind school! " In Grant 's Madonna and Child a seafaring interest defense, the critic Clive Bell wrote an might not be approved, but as it happened article in The Listener attacking the decothey we re de li ghted ." The altarpi ece rati o ns th a t had bee n acce pte d. presented some difficulties. It was painted Shoesmith ' s response to Bell was a letter on a can vas 5 by 7 feet which had to be criticizing Bell "and the little world of covered with gold leaf by the " mosaic" incompetence fo r whom , apparentl y, he process which was known to only a handful speaks," published in The Listener on 6 of gilders. Onl y real gold leaf would May 1936. Shoesmith 's comments perwithstand the atmosphere of the sea, but haps reflect a loya lty to his first profession painting onto the gold leaf requi red that no as much as they did his personal tastes.!, Bil! . detail be altered. The Madonna 's halo was Shoesmith in his studio with the "Main the fo rm ofa huge compass incorporatdonna of the Atlantic" f or rhe Queen Mary, ing the Papal tiara and keys, while at the 1936. Martyn Anglesea is Keeper of Fine Art at feet of the Madonna ranged a complete set of nav igating instruments, sextant, tele- one of the unique acquisitions of the Ul- the Ulster Museum in Belfast, and the scope, charts, dividers, chronometer, and ster Museum in the last thirty years, re- curator of the museum' s 1977 exhibit of a globe. " Familiar as I am with navigating markable as much in its completeness as Shoesmith work that toured museums in instruments," said Shoesmith , " I never its richness. It cannot be denied that Li verpoo l, Hull , So uthampton and draw them from memory. Seamen and old Shoesmith was a successful arti st, but he Glasgow. travelers are the severest critics of technical can be remembered fo r the modest regard details in maritime matters; they would be he held fo r himself. " He struck no atti- The U Isler Museum has a limited number spec ially hard on inaccuracies committed tudes, and adopted no poses" and was of calendar-sized prints of Shoesmith' s by an ex-sailor. " content to paint what he was interested in, work a vailable-write Ulster Mu seum , The Shoesmith collection is certainl y and thi s was unquestionably a legacy of Botan ic Gardens, Belfast BT9 5A B UK.