Meet The Monet Of Cruise-Ship Art
Ever since ships first crossed the oceans, superstitious sailors have decorated the hulls with figureheads intended to bestow good fortune on their vessels.
Egyptians fixed holy birds on the prow. Romans mounted wooden centurions. British galleons carried ornate carvings of winged angels and heavily bosomed mermaids.
But the ancient mariners would gaze in wonder at the most recent incarnation of this nautical tradition, writ large on the world’s newest cruise ship.
Norwegian Escape, a 20-deck leviathan designed to carry 4,200 passengers, will set sail next month with a hull that appears to have netted the most vibrant fish from the deep, captured in dynamic action amid rainbow colours.
Billowing sailfish 46 metres long, dorsal fins splayed like a senorita’s fan, their sword-sharp bills chasing iridescent flying fish, are painted on each side of the bow.
In the wake of this gigantic motif, as high as a house, are blue-black bar jacks, shiny-shelled hawksbill turtles, a mottled whale shark (the biggest of all fish species), menacingly winged manta rays, schools of tropical fish and brilliantly hued butterfly fish – all reds, yellows and turquoise – emerging from coral.
Above the fish, as if riding the thermals, frigatebirds look down on this surreal montage of underwater life that not only imprints picturesque gaiety onto Norwegian Escape but also ferments the feeling that all marine life has somehow conspired to speed the ship across the water.
Telling A Story
The man behind this watery tableau, whose brilliant audacity made me burst out laughing when he gave me a preview at the German shipyard where Norwegian Escape was built, is Guy Harvey.
He had just been lowered from his lofty perch by cherry picker after painting the eye of the sailfish, four feet wide, and was now standing amid the heat and thunder of construction with welding sparks cascading in fiery showers all around.
“I didn’t just want to paint a big fish, I wanted to tell a story too,” he said. “The sailfish is the iconic fish of Miami, which will be the ship’s home port. It’s not only beautiful but is also the fastest fish in the ocean, with a top speed of 109 kilometres per hour, so I created it chasing flying fish, which are jumping out of the water to escape.
“We’ve given the painting a 3D effect to blend in with the curve of the ship, so it looks as if the fish are swimming, and we managed that with innovative technology. My sketches were fed into a computer that beams the exact shape and dimensions onto the ship’s hull, so we were able to paint with complete accuracy of scale and colour.”
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Harvey’s steel 'canvas', framed on each side of the ship, is 325 metres long, and his artwork extends to the stern, seamlessly linking bow and aft in a painterly aquarium.
“It was vital that the fish were represented in detail, exactly as nature created them, and not ‘Disneyfied’,” he told me. I hope they will excite the public and raise awareness to help protect endangered species.
Harvey, 60, is the son of a wealthy white Jamaican cattle farmer, who took him diving almost before he could walk. His natural talent for portraying the world beneath the waves has made him a multi-millionaire; his oil paintings sell for up to $425,000 and have been reproduced on polo shirts, posters and jewellery.
He lives in an ocean-front villa in the Cayman Islands with his wife Gillian (who, he says laughing, “hates” boats) and their two children.
Norwegian Escape is the 14th ship in Norwegian Cruise Line’s fleet.
It contains so many distractions for both adults and children that many passengers may never leave the ship on its voyages around the Caribbean.
Rope-climbing challenges that span three decks will encourage the daring to soar through the air over the ocean. Thrill-seekers can also test their nerves by walking 'pirate planks' extending over the side of the ship.
Personally, after spending a day in the sun I might prefer to chill in the ice-crusted snow room, which pumps out freezing flurries. This is a ship where, during any day, passengers can have their teeth whitened, book in for a Botox infill, get physical in a cardio boxing class or just plunge into an open-air bubbling hot tub.
Despite all these pampering opportunities, I have a feeling that Norwegian Escape will be defined more by its ship art, because, like a painting that is always on tour around the world, Harvey’s masterpiece will be viewed by a far greater audience than the works of most other artists.
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This article was written by Roderick Gilchrist from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.