Early Aviation in West Cornwall

Image result for grahame white aviation+fleet in mounts bay

The first flight over Penzance was a short affair lasting just 3 minutes at a height of 200 feet. This was achieved in a rather fragile biplane called a Farman with a propeller in the rear. This was around 6.00 p.m. on Saturday July 23rd, 1910. The pilot was the renowned Claude Grahame-White whose purpose was to fly over the three fleets assembled in the bay where they were expected to be informally reviewed by the recently crowned King George V. Poor weather had delayed the flight and high winds curtailed this first effort.

Grahame-White’s second flight from Marazion at 9.00p.m. that same evening was more impressive. It lasted some 15 minutes over the now illuminated fleet. Among the 200 ships present he was able to identify the flagship of the Home fleet, The Dreadnought, and the Admiralty yacht, The Enchantress. It had been his intention to show the vulnerability of the Navy to aerial attack. He had been supported in this endeavour by the photographer of The Daily Mirror, Vaughan T Paul. Grahame-White had learnt to fly at Reims under Bleriot who was the first to cross the Channel, the previous year in 1909. The next month Grahame-White flew his Farnham biplane over Washington landing close to the White House.

Despite the attention which it attracted this was not the first heavier than air flight to take place in the Duchy. Jack Humphries, a Dental Surgeon from Fowey had observed bird flight and made at least two flights with gliders from nearby cliffs. In 1912, the French aviator Henri Salmet, with the financial support of Lord Northcliffe arrived with his Bleriot machine on the 14th of June in Falmouth. He had intended to fly over Lands End, however the headwinds proved too strong for the monoplane.

On 24th September 1913, the Hamburg born Gustav Hamel, just 24 years old, arrived at Trengwainton from whence he flew his Bleriot monoplane over Penzance where he could be seen clearly from the Market Place, Market Jew Street and then to Newlyn Coombe and on to St Ives and was greeted by a large crowd upon his return. After meeting Lord and Lady St Leven and the local M.P., Mr T. Bedford Bolitho who examined his aircraft. The energetic Hamel flew off once more at 5.30 and returned having fulfilled his ambition of being the first aviator to have flown over Lands End.

Hamel and Grahame-White collaborated in the development of Hendon airfield which became a flying school, a site for aircraft manufacture and later taken over by the R.A.F. and is now its museum. Ballooning at Hendon had taken place as early as 1862. Airship bases were built in Cornwall during 1915 and 1916. For example, the Royal Naval Air Station Mullion was developed on a 320-acre site near the village of Cury and the first airship transported here by train. This Lizard Airship Station was later to contain a hydrogen producing plant and a small Marconi transmitter. Its situation was ideal for attacking U-boats in accordance with the intentions of the First Sea Lord, Lord Fisher.

Image result for Lizard Airship Station



Artists and Illustrators published from London in1933

Perusing the London Illustrated News from early 1933, is to immerse oneself in a world which seems remote from our own yet the events shape our modern attitudes. The Empire appears secure with photographs of Imperial India, the Viceroy and his family surrounded by flunkies. Trouble is afoot in Moscow where staff from the British Embassy have been arrested and there are sketches of the process of interrogation where the accused stands and the commissar slouches at his desk. There are photographs of new pontoons in Venice, new aircraft -flying boats with generous accommodation and strange giro-copters whose instability proves as unsurprising as their appearance. Compared with the same publication twenty years before there are regular pages on the “kinema” and engravings are no longer to be seen. Platinum blondes are much in vogue as the photographs of beauty queens clearly portray and the permanent wave has arrived everywhere. The photographs of the rise of the Nazis and their integration with members of the German ruling class made more and more obvious. Marches stream through Potsdam and already in New York 20 000 people assemble and crowd in a square to protest at the persecution of Jews. Street signs are being changed near the Tiergarten in Berlin to celebrate the German “victory” at Jutland.

The desperate state of the unemployed and the slum conditions in South London are a constant theme. A conference on the world depression is held with representatives from 66 countries is held in London at the Geology museum then in Jermyn Street- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Economic_Conference. It will be torpedoed by the American President-the dispute relates to the exchange rates between the dollar and other currencies. This all bespeaks a world portrayed by the artist George Grosz whose sketchbooks can be seen at the V and A just across from the Natural History Museum, where the Geological museum now resides. However, the Illustrated News had its own artists and illustrators who like Grosz captured the atmosphere of the times.

Image result for steven spurrier artist

Prominent on these pages is the work of Steven Spurrier RA (13 July 1878 – 11 March 1961) whose work may be glimpsed at the Tate. He was educated at Heatherley’s, an independent Art School off Baker Street which specialised in portraiture. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heatherley_School_of_Fine_Art

Related image

The next artist whose work proliferates on the pages in 1933 was a brilliant caricaturist and lithographer whoc came from the Channel Isles. He has been called the English Daumier and at the age of 19 was employed by the Daily Chronicle – this was Edmund Blampied (30 March 1886 – 26 August 1966). Blampied was particularly fine at depicting the social conditions at this period of poverty and dire exigence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Blampied Ink and sepia wash being particularly suited to this subject. There is an interesting interview with Blampied at https://www.theislandwiki.org/index.php/Edmund_Blampied_-_an_interview

Image result for blampied artist

The third artist who worked for the London Illustrated News and made sketches at the London Economic Conference was Werner Knoth(1895-1981)  who was a trained businessman and a draftsman, at first self-taught, then studied from 1934 to 1938 in Paris. He was an art dealer in Spain, later a press artist in Hamburg and exhibition organizer. During the Second World War he was taken prisoner of war; his works were destroyed in the bombing. Returning to Hamburg, he drew portraits, theatre and opera sketches. A German citizen employed by the Illustrated News in 1933 and educated at https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hochschule_f%C3%BCr_bildende_K%C3%BCnste_Hamburg

Image result for werner knoth maler  Image result for werner knoth maler

The portrait on the right is of Ulrich Erfurth (1910–1986) who was a German film director.




Sketching in Cafes

I find this scene by Sir Cedric Morris interesting in so many ways. The setting and perspective are intriguing and the atmosphere from the time and dress also are fascinating. The bohemian atmosphere reminds me of the novel, “The Horse’s Mouth” the 1944 novel by Joyce Cary that curiously I have never managed to finish.

Here are three of my own sketches from coffee bars, restaurants and so on:-



Andrés Nagel Tejada-Basque painter, sculptor and engraver

Andrés Nagel Tejada (San Sebastián, 1947) is a Spanish painter, sculptor and engraver, one of the current Basque artists with the greatest international projection.

Image result for Andrés Nagel Tejada

An artist with eclectic tastes, a great traveller and with a history of many exhibitions, his work in painting, sculpture and engraving can be labelled as a postmodern figuration.  In working against the mainstream, in the years 60 and 70, he followed  an  abstract and informalist path.  Nagel addresses mostly social issues with some sarcasm and irreverence, in a style that at times echoes the New Madrid figuration and also adopted influences of pop art (in colourful and urban themes), surrealism (with shocking and humorous approaches) and Povera art ( using humble materials and wastes).

Further information in Spanish is at https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9s_Nagel

Andrey Remnev Modern Russian Painter with a touch of the Medieval

Andrey Remnev

Strongly inspired by the Russian artistic movements of the 15th, 17th and 18th centuries, as well as in the painting of medieval icons, Andrey Remnev’s paintings are ostentatious and oddly hypnotic interpretations.


He wasborn and raised in Yachroma, near Moscow, in 1962. He has always been attracted to nature, people, cities and landscapes. Despite referring to medieval painting, Andrey’s works have a subtle and contemporary touch through the most surreal elements that it includes. Many of his paintings focus on women, elegantly dressed, but with wise looks that add mystery and power to their delicately painted figures.


Andrey carries his further influences by emulating old Renaissance recipes using his own handmade colors with natural pigments mixed with egg yolk. The result gives an intoxicating richness and depth to his works.
These paintings remind me both of Gustav Klimt in their use of gold and in their subject matter of the Newlyn Painter, Thomas Cooper Gotch.

Baron Pierre Paulus de Châtelet- a Belgian Expressionist Painter (1881—1959)

Upon first seeing these paintings by Pierre Paulus I was put in mind once again of the dark and dramatic work of Kaethe Kollwitz (1867-1945) about whom I posted recently. Then the chunky expressive style depicting largely industrial scenes reminded me of Zola’s Germinal which was written between April 1884 and January 1885. The broad lines and dark colours seems well-suited to the scenery of cranes, docks and canals. The dark buildings, however contrast with the white snow-so the expressive aspect is sometimes conveyed through this wintry aspect. Paulus too is a great painter of the intensity of heavy industrialisation-human figures huddled under gigantic mills or stark against Blakean forges. The clip below is enlivened by Puccini’s Madam Butterfly.

Pierre Paulus was born in Châtelet in 1881 into a family of artists. He studied architecture at the Academy of Brussels, where having graduated he dedicated himself to painting, his only true passion. At the age of 15, he already had a considerable mastery of painting. It was not until  he was 25 , however, that he became the painter we remember today, the painter of the Black Country, with its industrial and industrialized environments: mines and islets on the banks of the Sambre, steel factories throwing their flames and the background smoke … he also painted nature, people, still life and everyday scenes.
He met the acclaim in 1911 at the Charleroi exhibition of the general public, and his notoriety began to grow. During the First World War, he took refuge in London.
The interwar period was released in Europe and the United States. He devoted his whole life to Expressionism but also to other forms of art such as lithography and posters.
In 1913 he drew the rooster used as the flag of Wallonia. (With thanks to Inesvigo)