The Ile de France, elegant ocean liner

The exhibition “L’Art déco, un art de vivre à la Française : the ocean liner Ile de France” looks back on the story of this elegant ship, born during the Roaring Twenties which was a Franco-American link making the crossing from Le Havre to New York. The ship was the symbol of an unrivaled French art de vivre, the epitome of French elegance and the exhibition shows us the history of a society and of the art of travel. Models, photos, paintings, advertising posters, Ruhlmann armchairs, Christofle silverware, Haviland porcelain, vintage menus (including the children’s and dog’s menus that will make you smile), matches and ashtrays and a vintage publicity film are all presented. A fascinating view of a world of luxury. This was not the biggest or the fastest ship, but it had the longest life of all ships in the French fleet (1927-1961) and exuded the French Touch as seen on the brochure from 1949.

Ile de France

“What is the French Touch? Is it the breakfast you have served in bed… is it a wonder afternoon at the Pool Bar… is it a gay evening of dancing in the Café de Paris… is it a moonlight promenade or a morning dip.. is it bridge in the afternoon, tea and petit fours… is it the magnificent kitchen and still more magnificent cookery… is it the staff (seemingly always at the right place, at the right time, with a match, cocktail, lap robe, book, chair – so perfect is the service)… is it the seamanship from Captain to seaman? Who can put a finger on the the French Touch? It’s a feeling you get when your foot touches the deck of the Ile de France. ”

-brochure from 1949
Ile de France
Lighting vase and chairs from the salon de thé. Sculpture “La Seine”.

The greatest French artists of the day all participated in the decoration of this ship which was built in the French city of Saint Nazaire. Jean Dunand, René Lalique, Paul Landowski, … The boat was named Ile de France because it was the theme of the decoration. There are images and references to all the jewels of the Ile de France for example Notre-Dame de Paris, the Château de Fontainebleau or the Château de Compiègne. There were also sculptures that are allegories of the rivers in the region.

Ile de France

But this legendary ship, was also a hero of wartime, transporting troups, military materials and repatriating people. She also rescued people from sinking ships. And was awarded medals for her good works. Her multiple nicknames express her various lives: “rue de la Paix of the Atlantic”, “Saint Bernard of the Seas”, “Knight of the seas”…

Ile de France

It is said that the first French bries and camemberts imported to the United States in 1936 was via the Ile de France. Some even sported her name.

All the many lives of the ocean liner are told, the building and design, famous passengers, sea rescues, it’s final use as a movie set for the disaster film “The Last Voyage” (the ship was partially destroyed to make the film) and then its end … dismantled for scrap.

The expo runs until 10 février 2020 at the Musée des années 30 in Boulogne-Billancourt, a city bordering Paris graced with much Art Deco heritage. When you visit leave yourself at least 2 hours so that you can enjoy the film and then there is the whole of the Musée des Années 30 as well at the rooms dedicated to Paul Landowski also well worth the visit (and never crowded, a welcome relief from the masses).

Musée des Années 30 Espace Landowski

28, avenue André Morizet

92100 Boulogne-Billancourt