Holland America Line is one of the cruise lines known for investing in art for its ships. The line attracts well-educated passengers who appreciate culture and a sophisticated atmosphere. Consistent with this, the Holland America ships feature museum quality art collections.
The art is not presented as in a museum or a gallery. Although there are plaques next to each work giving information about the artists and the work, the works mix in with the overall décor of the ships' public areas.
Recently, I sailed on Holland America's Oosterdam. As discussed below, that ship's collection can be divided into three categories.
First, the ship has quite a few works by contemporary artists. Chief among these is a series of maritime paintings by Stephen Card. On each landing of the ship's forward staircase is a large oil on canvas depicting ships that have sailed for Holland America line. The style is traditional and understated. Although accurate, these are not mechanical drawings but rather scenes of the ships in various locations under various weather conditions. They evoke the spirit of the sea and invite the viewer to enter into the scene. Card is clearly the leading contemporary maritime painter.
Holland America has an arrangement under which musicians are supplied to Holland America's ships by the late BB King's organization. Just outside where the BB King All-Stars play on Oosterdam are a series of sketches by Wil van der Laan depicting Mr. King and other musicians. The style here is free and loose capturing visually the energy of the musical performances.
The second category in the Oosterdam's collection are contemporary works inspired by or done in styles of the past. For example on the landings of the midships stairway are a series of large medallions by Lebigre & Roger that are essentially enlargements of coins issued by the Dutch East India Company between 1600 and 1800. The same artists also created a set of traditional bronze Commedia dell' Arte figures, which are also in Oosterdam's collection.
Each of the Holland America ships has a large maritime painting done in traditional Dutch style. On Oosterdam, this monumental work is an oil on aluminum called “Maritime Relations” by Cees Muller. It depicts a Baroque era city with numerous sailing ships in the waters surrounding the city.
The final category of works is antiques. Most of these works are European sculptures. Although by lesser
known (or unknown) artists, these works are of good quality and help to create a more refined atmosphere aboard the ship. I particularly liked the charming small marble bust of a woman by Henri Weigele from 19th century France.
Rich Wagner is a writer, photographer and artist.