The ‘Flight and the Artistic Imagination’ exhibition taking place at Compton Verney from 29th June to 30th September 2012 will include pieces on loan from the Society’s National Aerospace Library..
The exhibition traces how the sensation of aerial flight has been depicted by leading artists over the centuries. It is to be held at Compton Verney an 18th century Georgian mansion in Warwickshire which organises a range of temporary exhibitions alongside its permanent art collection.
Of the 88 works of art included in the exhibition – which opens on June 29 and runs until September 30 2012 – 4 items are being loaned from the archives of the National Aerospace Library at Farnborough, having been pre-selected by the exhibition’s curators Tate Research Fellow Professor Sam Smiles and Penelope Sexton.
The 4 items being loaned reflect how the National Aerospace Library’s extensive archive of material record the evolution of Man’s attempts to conquer the dream of flight from prehistory to modern times. Its pre-eminent early ballooning collection – which is probably one of the finest of its kind in the world – is represented by an early original 1785 French ballooning lithograph ‘Apparition du Globe Aerostatique de Mr Blanchard, entre Calais et Boulogne, parti de Douvres le 7 de Janvier 1785 a 1 heure ½’ – commemorating the first aerial crossing of the English Channel achieved by Jean-Pierre Blanchard and the American Dr. John Jeffries – and a fine watercolour drawing by an unknown artist of the ‘Royal Vauxhall’ (later known as the ‘Nassau’) balloon over the Medway, the balloon – with its gilded eagles’ heads at prow and stern depicted flying through clouds – in which on November 7 1836 the leading Victorian balloonist Charles Green , Robert Hollond and Thomas Monck Mason made an 18-hour flight of some 480 miles, the longest aerial flight that Man had accomplished up to that time.
Moving onto the era of the aeroplane, the 1920s and 1930s witnessed a ‘golden age’ of flying as major advances in air travel and in the design of aircraft brought aviation to the forefront of the public imagination, reflected in the posters, magazine covers and air displays of the time.
From the Library’s extensive collection of contemporary posters of this period, 2 have been selected for the exhibition, a poster designed by Roderic Hill for the Royal Air Force Display, Hendon, Saturday June 25 1932 [ 52 cm x 77 cm ] and a poster for the 1st International Aircraft Exhibition October 12-28 1935 Milan Sample Fair [ 71 cm x 101 cm ] designed by the Italian Futurist artist Plinio Codognato which is probably the largest poster in the Library’s archives.
The Library has amongst its collections a number of aeronautical works of art (paintings, watercolours, drawings, lithographs, prints and posters) which have been presented to the Royal Aeronautical Society over the years. A large number of these are now on permanent display at the Society’s headquarters at Hamilton Place, having been archivally restored during 2000-2003 with the arrangement of The London School of Picture and Frame Restoration under the Library’s ‘Adopt-a-Picture’ conservation programme. These include a number of detailed pen-and-ink / pencil drawings by the aforementioned Roderic Hill (1894-1954) of various aircraft designs and imaginary future aviation scenes that were originally published in ‘Flight’ 1919-1922 when at the time the artist was in charge of Experimental Flying Dept. at R.A.E. Farnborough.
The items loaned by the National Aerospace Library – which will be reproduced in the accompanying exhibition publication – are to be exhibited alongside works by Leonardo da Vinci, Goya, Matisse, Paul Nash etc. loaned from the Royal Collection – Windsor Castle , British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and other national collections.
In association with the exhibition, a special themed ‘Flight’ event at Compton Verney – including a flypast from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, paper aircraft races, model aircraft demonstrations, kite flying and much more – is planned for the weekend of July 7- 8 2012.