A profile of Giancarlo Impiglia
who was commissioned to do
works for three of the Cunard
Richard H. Wagner
(Originally published in The
Porthole, World Ship Society,
Port of New York Branch,
Artist Giancarlo Impiglia onboard QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 in 1995.
Prominent amongst the maritime art, portraits of the royal family
and other works in the art collection on QUEEN ELIZABETH 2
are three large murals. They feature bold, bright colors and depict
scenes of people mingling on an imaginary cruise ship and at other
nautical events. The figures are not realistic but rather are flat,
geometric shapes, devoid of facial features. The paintings are
striking and lively but at the same time, give one pause.
On QUEEN MARY 2, passengers come across similar works.
Again, the colors are bright and the scenes depicted festive. Again,
one wonders why the figures in the painting are shown as glamorous
but faceless. The works are beautiful yet challenging.
These are the works of Giancarlo Impiglia. They were
commissioned by Cunard for QE2 and QM2. His works will also be
seen on the forthcoming QUEEN VICTORIA. "We commissioned
it on Queen Victoria, as we like the style of his work and it adds a
good contrast to the other work we have planned for this ship.
Regarding QE2 and QUEEN MARY 2, again, the style of his work
was liked, as it is stylish and different in its approach," explains
Carol Marlow, President of Cunard Line.
Mr. Impiglia is a New York-based artist, born in Rome, Italy.
He studied at the Liceo Artistico, and at the Accademia di Belle Arti
di Roma, where he specialized in murals and mosaics, under the
direction of Italian postwar artists auch as Giuseppe Capogrossi,
Giuho Turcato, Umberfo Mastroianni and Mario Mafai. He then
expanded into photography and cinema, receiving degrees from the
Technical School of Photography and the Italian Center of
Cinematography of Rome.
A commission for the Great American Insurance Building in
lower Manhattan launched his American art career. Other
commissions include Fortunoff's "Revisiting 5th Avenue," and "The
Flight" for USAir Club in LaGuardia Airport. However, what first
brought him to widespread public attention was probably "Absolut
Impiglia," an Absolut Vodka advertisement that ran in 1992.
In late 1994, a $45 million refurbishment of the interior of
QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 was undertaken. Over the years, the
interior of QE2 had been altered in a piecemeal fashion and a
number of different styles were now competing in different areas of
the ship. Accordingly, in addition to expanding the Yacht Club,
replacing the Magradome and Upper Deck pool area with the Lido
buffet, adding the Pavilion and the Crystal Bar as well as upgrading
many of the passenger cabins, Cunard sought to unify the interior.
This included adding wood veneer paneling to many areas and
redecorating the Queens Room, the Chart Room (until then the
Midships Bar), the Golden Lion (until then the Theater Bar), and
the Midships Lobby - - in short, making a consistent style
An important part of this de-fragmentation was enhancing the
ship's art collection. "It was during the refurbishing that I was
commissioned," Impiglia said when I spoke with him recently
onboard QM2. "The Lifestyle Murals" were placed in the
promenade areas leading from the Queens Room to the new Lido
and "The Henley Regatta" was displayed in the new Pavilion light
fare restaurant, which overlooks the One Deck pool. Mr. Impiglia
came onboard to lecture about his works during QE2's 1000th
voyage in June 1995.
Following the acquisition of Cunard by Carnival Corporation in
1997, work began on designing a new ocean liner. "When the
QUEEN MARY 2 was still a project on paper, the architects and
the designers were aiming to re-create in some way a form of
re-make of the great ocean liners of the past like the glorious
NORMANDIE of 1935, the first QUEEN MARY in 1936, the
QUEEN ELIZABETH and all the other ocean liners that became
part of history for their beauty. These ships sleek design and
opulent interiors were the finest examples of Art Deco. The desire
for the QUEEN MARY 2 was to offer the passengers, like in the
past, the most elegant, luxurious, comfortable and fastest way to
cross the ocean."
"Since the late sixties and seventies, as an artist, I have been
working to develop a very personal style containing elements of the
Art Deco style. By use of the dramatic language of the Cubists
combined with the sense of motion of the Futurists and the
stylization of the neo-classic period, [his style gives viewers] the
feeling of the past." Accordingly, "I [wanted] to be part of this
revival of Art Deco on the ship because my style has always been
part this Art Deco. Actually, I was the first artist since the war to
paint in this revival of the Art Deco. So, I created my work, I
proposed it and they accepted it."
"Walking around the QUEEN MARY 2, we feel like we have
stepped back in time. The Britannia room is breathtaking, with its
stained glass ceiling, giant tapestry, the elegant interior decorated
with the works of prominent contemporary artists and artisans. The
Royal Court Theater is one of the most beautiful theaters on the
ocean today, in many cases, comparable to any of the Broadway
theaters in New York. The Planetarium, the Queens Room and all
the public space on this ship appeal to the elements of and are
reminiscent of the Art Deco era."
"And, there is a return to the formal time that carries the
extraordinary eclectics of Art Deco. It was not a single type of
style. It was eclectic, anything that carried on a certain set of values
that was born between the two world wars is included in this style,
this formal Art Deco. So, there is not really a specific image that
can define Art Deco, it is very eclectic."
"Architects, designers, artists, and builders worked side by side to
build this amazing ship, offering to all of us the opportunity to cross
the ocean in a very elegant and comfortable environment very
reminiscent of the elegant ships of the past but with a difference.
Here, the décor [contrasts] sharply with the technology of the 21st
century with which the ship was built."
As noted earlier, Mr. Impiglia's work is not merely decorative. "I
am essentially an artist questioning existing artistic and societal
values. My work is based on my observation that costumes reflect
culture, and occidental costumes reflect the influence of western
values throughout the world in general," he has written. "My
representational paintings are more than merely symbolic statements
about social values - they underlie our preoccupation to hide reality
behind our superficial appearance."
Consequently, there are three reasons why the figures in
Impiglia's works are devoid of features. "First of all, I am not
painting portraits, I am painting situations so there is no need for
physical features. Also, the images are very stylized and flat. Also,
they reflect the idea that we live in a society that is faceless. We do
not pay much attention to faces, we pay more attention to other
Yet, he has departed from his normal style for his centerpiece
work for the QUEEN VICTORIA -- a portrait of the 19th century
Queen-Empress as a young woman. As such, it depicts her before
the age of photography. Therefore, Imiglia studied contemporary
portraits of Victoria in order to derive a new image of her. The
work's realistic style is a return to Mr. Impiglia's early roots when
he was studying art in Rome.
Mr. Impiglia discussing his work with passengers on QUEEN ELIZABETH 2.
Mr. Impiglia's works on
QUEEN MARY 2 are located
near the Royal Court
Cruise ship interview - - Cunard - - Queen Mary 2 - - Artist Giancarlo Impiglia