Edward Wadsworth (British, 1889-1949) RMS Queen Mary, First Sketch for Painting at the Forward End of the Main Smoke Room 48 x 33.5 cm. (19 x 13 1/4 in.)
Lot 226
Edward Wadsworth
(British, 1889-1949)
RMS Queen Mary, First Sketch for Painting at the Forward End of the Main Smoke Room 48 x 33.5 cm. (19 x 13 1/4 in.)
Sold for £ 10,800 (US$ 14,350) inc. premium

The Marine Sale

28 Sep 2010, 14:00 BST

London, New Bond Street

Lot Details
Edward Wadsworth (British, 1889-1949)
RMS Queen Mary, First Sketch for Painting at the Forward End of the Main Smoke Room
signed and dated 'E.Wadsworth 1935' (lower right) and inscribed 'To E.C.Leach' (lower left)
pencil and gouache
48 x 33.5 cm. (19 x 13 1/4 in.)


    Private Collection, Ireland

    In 1935, The Board of the Cunard Shipping Line described Wadsworth as "Modern. Intellectual. Man of means" (Jonathan Black, Edward Wadsworth, Form, Feeling and Calculation, Philip Wilson Publishers, London 2005, p.99) as they commissioned him to work on the decoration of their new transatlantic liner RMS Queen Mary.

    He was asked to create two huge (12 x 8 ft and 9 x 6 ft) tempera panels for the First Class Promenade Deck Smoking Room. They were to be 'on a maritime theme'. Following the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and a troubled British economy, Wadsworth was thrilled to be involved in what was such a focus of national pride and optimism at the time.

    He presented two designs that Summer, Arrival and Offing. The first was well received but for some reason, the Board strongly objected to the latter. Wadsworth went back to the drawing board and produced Brigantine Dressed Overall at the Quay, for which the present work is a study. On completion, the overall interior decoration of the ship was largely criticised, however it was thought that "Only Wadsworth...in the Smoking Room has done something really interesting" (Ibid, p.104).

    Built by John Brown and Company, Clydebank, Scotland, and launched on the 26th September 1934, RMS Queen Mary was designed to be the first of Cunard's planned two-ship weekly express service from Southampton to Cherbourg to New York (with RMS Queen Elizabeth). She departed from Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York on 27 May 1936 and continued operating on the North Atlantic route for the Cunard Line until her retirement in 1967.
    In August 1936, she captured the Blue Riband from Normandie, but Normandie was refitted with a new set of propellers in 1937 and reclaimed the honour. In 1938 Queen Mary took back the Blue Riband in both directions with average speeds of 30.99 knots (57.39 km/h) westbound and 31.69 knots eastbound, records which stood until lost to SS United States in 1952.

    On 1st September 1939 she set out for New York but by the time she arrived, World War II had started and she was ordered to remain there. In 1940, she left New York for Sydney, where she was converted into a troopship to carry Australian and New Zealand soldiers to the United Kingdom. In the conversion, six miles of carpet, 220 cases of china, crystal and silver service, tapestries and paintings were removed and stored in warehouses. Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were the largest and fastest troopships involved in the war, often carrying as many as 15,000 men in a single voyage, and often travelling out of convoy and without escort. Their high speed meant that it was difficult for U boats to catch them.

    In December 1942, Queen Mary was carrying 16,082 American troops from New York to Great Britain, a standing record for the most passengers ever transported on one vessel. During a gale 700 miles from the Scottish coast, she was suddenly hit by a rogue wave that may have reached a height of over 90 ft. It was calculated later that the ship tilted 52 degrees, and would have capsized had she rolled another 3 degrees. The incident inspired Paul Gallico to write his story, The Poseidon Adventure, which was later made into a film, using Queen Mary as a stand-in for SS Poseidon. Queen Mary also carried Winston Churchill across the Atlantic for meetings with fellow Allied commanders on several occasions during the war. He insisted that the lifeboat assigned to him be fitted with a .303 machine gun so that he could "resist capture at all costs".

    Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth dominated the transatlantic passenger service through the latter half of the 1940s and well into the 1950s. They proved highly profitable for Cunard, but in 1958 the first transatlantic flight by a jet began a completely new era of competition for the Cunard Queens.

    She is now permanently berthed in Long Beach, California serving as a hotel, restaurant, museum and tourist attraction. Queen Mary opened to tourists in 1971. She celebrated the 70th anniversary of her launch in both Clydebank and Long Beach during 2004, and the 70th anniversary of her maiden voyage in 2006.
Auction information

This sale is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future sales, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this sale, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations


If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first £175,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from £175,001 to £3,000,000 the Hammer Price
12.5% from £3,000,001 of the Hammer Price

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalogue.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Similar Items