THE work of a Wirral artist celebrating the 175th anniversary of Merseyside's world-famous Cunard shipping line has been unveiled today.

Robert Lloyd's painting depicts a fictional meeting on the Mersey between the company's first ship Britannia and today's flagship Queen Mary 2.

It will be displayed during a weekend of celebrations next year when the "Three Queens" - Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria - will sail along the Mersey to Liverpool.

The three-day event will begin on Sunday, May 24, 2015, and will continue over the Bank Holiday.

During his 23-year artistic career, Robert, a former advertising executive from West Kirby, has been commissioned by Cunard to produce several pieces work that are displayed on board Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.

A press conference was held this morning in the Cunard Building at Liverpool's Pier Head to announce the 175th commemorative events.

Robert, who now lives in Wiltshire, told the Globe: "Because of my roots here, it’s been great to be able to depict Three Graces in the background, but it's also nice to return to do something so relevant to Liverpool."

The painting took around 50 hours to create.

Robert, whose parents still live in West Kirby, studied art at Wirral Metropolitan College's former campus in Withens Lane, Wallasey.

He recalled: "I was always interested in art at school. I was enrolled as an officer cadet with a company called Blue Star Line.

"But my careers officer said there's no future in the Merchant Navy and suggested I go to art college. So I went to Withens Lane, which sadly is no longer there."

After graduating, he worked for an advertising agency in Maidenhead designing logos for Virgin.

Among the firm's other customers was P&O Ferries. They knew of his artistic flair and commissioned him to create a painting of one of their vessels.

They were so pleased with the result that he was asked to do two more.

Robert said: "Within two weeks I had eight commissions and a full-time advertising job. So I gave up my job. After 23 years, it's still a success."

On his return to Merseyside, he continued: "I remember growing up that Liverpool was not the place it is today.

"Coming back now, the shopping centre has radically changed and the waterfront has undergone some huge developments."

Cunard was founded in Liverpool and its first ship Britannia set sail from the city in 1840, inaugurating the first-ever regularly scheduled service across the Atlantic.

Every year since, Cunard ships have crossed and re-crossed without fail.

The company’s head office remained in Liverpool for 128 years until 1968.

Its magnificent former HQ forms part of the World Heritage-listed "Three Graces" along with the Royal Liver Building and the Port of Liverpool Building - defining one of the world’s most recognised skylines.

The histories of Liverpool and Cunard are intertwined and the love of company felt by the city was never as evident as when, on July 24, 1990, over a million people lined the banks of the Mersey to welcome the first Cunard Queen, QE2.

Since then, seven of the shipping giant's liners have made a total of 20 visits to Liverpool.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, himself a former Cunard deck hand, said: "This is Cunard’s ancestral home and this building has a great sense of history.

"We are already planning the 175th anniversary of Cunard and there is no better place for the heart of the celebrations.

"We saw more than one million people watch the return of the QEII in 1990 - and I’m expecting next year’s event to exceed this."

Angus Struthers, Cunard director, said: "There was only ever going to be one focal point for the celebration of Cunard’s 175th anniversary and that is here, in its spiritual home.

"I am delighted to have the city play a key role in our celebrations next year.

"Together both have shared so many historic moments, but next year will surely be among the most special.

"They will be days to live long in the memory of those who will be there to witness the events - whether on board our ships or along the Mersey."