Hidden Gems II: Bird's Eye View

For the last exhibition in our second season of Hidden Gems, Liss Llewellyn are delighted to unveil Bird’s-eye View. Popularised by surveyors and cartographers in the sixteenth-century, the bird’s-eye view took on a fascinating new lease of life in Modern British Art. And while Alan Sorrell (1904-1974) paid homage to the Classical origins of this tradition with his ‘reconstruction drawings’ of ancient sites, these were only made possible by the vast technological advancements afforded to him and his generation.

Flight was at the forefront of these developments, and the bird’s-eye view took on a new, unprecedented significance during the First and Second World Wars. Though stationary observation balloons were still being used during the Great War – as shown by Curt Ruschoff’s gouache of the Somme – the advancement of airplanes provided the vital means for moving, aerial reconnaissance, and largely supplanted this custom.

Indeed, such was the growth in aviation during this time, that many figures in this campaign were RAF pilots, or were known to have flown in their duty as Official War Artists. This list includes Christopher Nevinson (1889-1946), Douglas Percy Bliss (1900-1984), Rudolph Sauter (1895-1977), Charles Pears (1873-1958), and Richard Barrett Talbot Kelly (1896-1971). Sir Thomas Monnington (1902-1976) also completed over 4,000 hours of flying during WW2, and was so moved by the experience that he went on to produce abstract paintings, inspired in part by aeronautics. Perhaps even more remarkably, Richard Carline(1896-1980) was a Lieutenant with the Royal Air Force, and undertook a lecturing tour after the close of conflict, billing himself as an ‘Official Aerial War Artist, Adventurer, Artist, and Lecturer

The evolution of commercial flight gave other artists the opportunity to paint from great altitude, and it is hard not to feel a sense of excitement in Hubert Arthur Finney’s (1905-1991) Dawn, as the transatlantic jet ferries him to the United States, triggering a beginning for him in terms of his artistic creativity.

Works FEATURED in this Exhibition

On Loan
Hubert Arthur Finney (1905 - 1991)
View of wing from the inside of an aircraft, circa 1957
Douglas Percy Bliss (1900 - 1984)
Aerial View, circa 1940
Eric Ravilious (1903 - 1942)
Floods at Lewes
Christopher R.W. Nevinson (1889 - 1946)
Banking at 4000 Feet, 1917
Charles Pears (1873 - 1958)
Bristol Blenheim setting fire to German oil tanker, circa 1940
Rudolf Sauter (1895 - 1977)
View from an aeroplane, over snow-capped Sierras, 1959
Rudolf Sauter (1895 - 1977)
Bird’s-eye view over the Wing of an Aeroplane, circa 1945 (recto and verso)
German observation balloons recording the position of the Allied forces on the Somme
David Evans (1929 - 1988)
Air Escape, 1970
Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)
View from the cockpit, circa 1944
H. Scott Orr (1881 - 1972)
The Theatreland Raid, 13th October 1915
Hubert Arthur Finney (1905 - 1991)
Dawn, 1966
Richard Carline (1896 - 1980)
Lt Richard Barrett Talbot Kelly (1896 - 1971)
An RE8 with a French Nieuport 27 fighter escort, circa 1916
Alan Sorrell (1904 - 1974)
Study for An Aerial View of a Wartime Airfield, circa 1942
On Loan
Albert de Belleroche (1864 - 1944)
Early Morning, Charing Cross Station, c.1890