One of the highlights of the Liverpool Biennial is always the announcement of the winner of the prestigious John Moores Painting Prize competition.
Here at the Maritime Museum though we’ve been focusing on the man who founded the Painting Prize. Sir John Moores was a local businessman and founder of the Littlewoods Pools; by the mid 1930s he had made his fortune and could easily afford one of the great luxuries of the age, seeing the world on the magnificent passenger liners.
In 1935 he and his family embarked on a 6 month round the world tour, travelling first to New Zealand where they then joined the Cunard liner Franconia. This photograph shows the family attending a fancy dress party on board. They sailed on the Franconia to the southern coast of Asia, followed by Africa and South America, visiting many different countries, before spending time in New York, Boston, Washington, and Chicago, and returning six months later aboard the Berengaria.
As part of the Maritime’s Sail Away exhibition, showing the beautiful and exotic shipping posters over a century of pleasure cruising, you can now see on display one of the trunks that accompanied the Moores family on their long voyage and was recently donated by them to the Maritime Museum. On display along with it are examples of the fascinating souvenirs they picked up on their trip, also kindly loaned to the museum by the Moores family. These include a ceremonial sword from South East Asia and an Ancestral Spirit Board from Papua New Guinea.
The posters in the exhibition show many of the places the Moores family visited and help give a flavour of what travel was like in an age where these great ships were a passport to the exotic, all seen from the confines of elegant comfort and decadence. The posters are works of art in themselves and each one tempts the viewer with the promise of adventure.
Sir John Moores himself was a keen amateur painter, perhaps he found some inspiration not only from the places he visited but from the fantastic artwork produced by the shipping lines. Who knows, perhaps one of the many people enjoying the display may even be a budding John Moores artist themselves seeking inspiration.