Now that you’ve gotten a tour of the Queen Mary as she originally appeared in 1936 (see previous post), here are some photo prints of the people making the art deco wonder.
“You can get a sitting room and a servants room too”
Kenneth Shoesmith was in love with ships from childhood, and also had a knack for drawing or painting from this time. As a ship’s officer with the Royal Mail Line, he painted every ship he worked on and those they passed. He worked his way all the way up to Chief Officer, but retired when he found he had no time to paint the ships anymore. In 1918, he started painting trans-Atlantic liners like the Queen Mary for tourism posters, for which he’s most known.
The Queen Mary made a point of flexibly catering to passengers’ religions. For instance, it was the first ocean liner to have special dishes, separate kitchen sinks, etc. for kosher dining. Catholics, meanwhile, had the beautiful Madonna of the Atlantic as a chapel altar. When services weren’t being held, a lovely painted screen (a harbor scene by Shoesmith) covered the Madonna so the space could go back to being the Cabin Class drawing room!
Hailing from Scotland (where the Queen Mary was built), painters and designers Doris and Anna Zinkeisen were sisters. Anna was most known for her murals and portraits, and Doris made her mark as a stage and costume designer, although they both worked prolifically.
Doris (1898-1991) does seem theatrical personally. In the early 1920’s, she and film director James Whale (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein,The Invisible Man, All Quiet on the Western Front, Showboat) were quite the couple about town, and nearly married, despite Whale being openly gay. A perfectly ’20s beauty, Doris was modeling for Vanity Fair, House & Garden and other magazines by the end of the decade.
Doris Zinkeisen: New Idea portrait with leaf background
By Harold Cazneaux, 1929
This image became Australian magazine The Home‘s first photograph cover
Doris married a naval officer at this time, and had a son and twin daughters, Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone, who went on to become collaborative children’s book illustrators. They illustrated Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and OneDalmatians!
As well as painting the entertainment-themed mural at the Verandah Grill (some sources spell it with an “h,” some don’t), Doris helped plan the interior, with parquet dance floor, black carpet, red velvet curtains with stars, and a sweeping balustrade with lights that changed to the music!
By Anna Zinkeisen, 1934
By Doris Zinkeisen, 1935
In 1940, the Zinkeisen sisters created murals for the Queen Mary’s sister ship, the Queen Elizabeth.
When WWII struck, the artists “did their bit,” serving at St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. Anna worked as a medical artist, drawing war-related injuries for the Royal College of Surgeons. One of her paintings in the National Portrait Gallery in London is from this period, a portrait of plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe. Her other in the Gallery is a self-portrait. Both circa 1944.
Doris trained as a nurse in the First World War, so as well as volunteering at the hospital, she joined the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade, responding to casualties during the Blitz.
In 1945, Doris was assigned to be a war artist for the British Red Cross as the relief organization moved into newly liberated areas in Northwest Europe. She sketched wherever the crew went, then created paintings from her sketches back at headquarters in Brussels. Her grim painting from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp shows German orderlies forced to wash the people they’d interned before the British Red Cross took them to hospitals. Human Laundry, Belsen is now at the Imperial War Museum in London.
The Queen Mary, meanwhile, had been painted gray and converted into an Allied vessel nicknamed “The Gray Ghost” for her speed. Gunnery officers covered Doris’ Veranda Grill mural with poster board on which to tack charts. Doris repainted it after the war. It’s said that she added a mouse somewhere, so there would always be a mouse aboard the Queen Mary–a little joke since Cunard White Star Line prided itself on being rodent-free.