The R.M.S. Queen Mary

Heralded by King George V as "the stateliest ship now in being," the R.M.S. Queen Mary was a luxurious transatlantic ocean liner that made 1001 trips across the Atlantic between 1936 and 1967. The liner was a favorite among Hollywood actors, royalty and politicians—not only for the record-breaking speed at which it crossed the Atlantic (just four days), but also for its luxe, of-the-moment Art Deco furnishings. 

This tea set was made especially for the R.M.S. Queen Mary and is a testament to the refined atmosphere one could expect when aboard the ship. The motif— two thin orange stripes above a single grey band—is meant to evoke the sun rising over the grey Atlantic. Initially produced by Grosvenor, Foley took over production of the set around 1940. The sets were used until the ship took its final voyage in 1967. The R.M.S. Queen Mary now permanently resides in Long Beach, California, where it is an active hotel.

Advertisement by Grosvenor China; Passengers aboard the R.M.S. Queen Mary, enjoying tea time, with the set pictured; 
Breakfast menu aboard the R.M.S. Queen Mary in 1936. "Beef Tea will be served at 11. o'clock"

The Collection of John M. Hall

John M. Hall was an architectural photographer for publications including New York Times Magazine, Elle Decor and Architectural Digest; he saw his work as "telling the story" of what architects built and his process was to "go from the overall to the the details," with a keen eye for the subtleties of line, form, light and shadow. Hall lived with art and design that reflected his refined sensibilities: simple, livable furniture by Eames, Knoll and Aalto, the clean lines and smooth surfaces of 1930s streamlined moderne lamps, china and glassware and minimalist works on paper by Robert Mangold and Richard Serra. Tucked into a small Manhattan apartment, Hall's collection shows the ease with which iconic 20th century designs were meant to be lived with.

John M. Hall photographed his apartment in the Flatiron district for an article highlighting
his collection in the June 1999 issue of House Beautiful

Hall grew up in North Carolina and studied architecture at North Carolina State University; he was also a ballet dancer and moved to New York in the mid-1970s to study at the American Ballet Theater School. In 1977, Hall relocated to Paris and worked as a model. It was during this time that he developed an interest in black and white photography. 

Thank God I missed post-modernism. I guess I'm just a classicist at heart. 
—John M. Hall

His structural, classical style was informed by photographers such as André Kertész and Walker Evans. Hall returned to New York in 1981 and began his career as an architectural photographer, with a particular interest in private gardens, Greek Revival and Biedermeier. He approached capturing these spaces as making "something that is more than just a document, [but] something that is visually exciting." 

The same is true of Hall's personal collection, with its attention to and exuberance for designs that are "clean and clear and simple as possible," while also still captivating. After Hall's passing in 2019, significant contributions from his collection were gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery and his alma mater's Gregg Museum of Art and Design; the present selection of works celebrates Hall's sophisticated and gracious eye for design.

I'm not a design historian. I'm attracted to objects because I find them interesting and, yes, beautiful. And that's where this 20th-century sensibility started for me. There's just something so right about it.

John M. Hall

An Interview with John M. Hall

An interview with Hall from the 1980s shows him on location photographing a home and sharing his philosophies on design, architecture and photography.