Art was an important feature of CANBERRA. Like the deliberate theming of rooms, the art and decoration of public rooms was intended, in the words of Sir Hugh Casson, to:
"a) Engage initial attention b) to hold it through periods of passenger “ennui” and c) to encourage loyalty so that passengers return again”.
Casson and Wright sought to achieve this by concentrating upon “a few objects of great quality or unusual interest rather than the conventional ‘decorative art’".
All the major artworks were commissioned and site specific. Sir Colin Anderson and Sir Hugh Casson both having intimate links to the Royal College of Art selected a list of artists which read like a roll call at the R.C.A. From Edward Bawden to Julian Trevelyan, Ardizzone to the young David Hockney, CANBERRA'S art collection was a slice through a moment in British contemporary Art with all its distinctive layers.
In the First Class Restaurant, art and architecture were fused in an Indian Laurel balustrade crafted by William Mitchell Des R.C.A., A.I.B.D., and inlaid with organic objects on a Polynesian theme, delineating the sunken central area of the room. Elsewhere art provided a backdrop in the form of colourful murals in the Island Room by Robert Buhler R.A. Hons A.R.C.A., shimmering glass mosaics in Alice Springs by Arnold Machin R.A. and decorative fibre glass panels inspired by aboriginal symbols and created by Humphrey Spender, A.R.I.B.A., for the Bonito Club.
In the First Class Meridian and Tourist Class Peacock Room, ceiling sculptures by John H. McCarthy and Robert Adams created focal points. Julian Trevelyan's ‘Representations of the four Continents’, towering wooden panels inlaid with acid-etched zinc, polished and inked, demarcated the decks on the First Class Stairs, whilst Edward Bawden's R.A., A.R.C.A., mosaics took art outside, creating an imaginary landscape surrounding the lido pool.
For the cabins over 300 contemporary lithographs were selected from well known artists, many with Royal College connections.
Whether you travelled First or Tourist Class, art was for all to see.