Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Naive Savoir Faire at Dinner!

I hope that All Savoir Faires had a wonderful New Year and that 2011 will be filled with much happiness.

After a very relaxing week away filled with perfect weather we are back to the grind tomorrow!

Even though Cunard had touted themselves as "the Only Way to Cross" the Atlantic by liner in the late 60's, Savoir Faire knows that the only way to cross was via the French Line. With their paqueboats deluxe if you wanted a bit of French joie de vie and savour faire then this was the way to go. The dining rooms on all the French Line Liners were continuously rated as being the best French Restaurants in the world. So when you put superb food and superb illustrators together you get a savour faire match made in heaven!

One particular illustrator who had a long and prolific association with the French Line was Jean-Adrien Mercier. A graduate Fine Arts student Mercier had a very popular career designing movie posters during the 1920's and 1930's, with his work being recognized by Contreau, by becoming artistic director for the company. In the late 1930's he began illustrating children's stories which no doubt influenced his work for the French Line.

One particular series of menus that were used on liners as diverse as the Liberte, Ile de France and the France, featured illustrations of well known folk songs or nursery rhymes with the actual music and songs lyrics printed on the back of the menu. So much did the French Line think of Mercier's work, was that they still used his essentially classic and naive designs on the the ultra modern almost space age France of 1962.

Primarily in watercolours, his illustrations are populated with fairytale figures in various scenarios, which are romantic and melancholy at the same time. He manipulates colour and technique for a highly recognizable style, that is evocative of illustrations of the early 19th century. Usually watercolours can be bland and insipid, however those of Mercier are outstanding in their depth and also transparency.

These are menu covers and illustrations that you would not expect to find in some of the finest French Restaurants in the world, being perused over by the wealthy of the day. This is what makes them special. One would expect a fantastic art deco or modernist design in keeping with French line Aesthetics, however we get rather fun naive illustrations perhaps reminding our sophisticates of a lost childhood.
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