For the last exhibition in our second season of Hidden Gems, Liss Llewellyn are delighted to unveil Birds-eye View. Popularised by surveyors and cartographers in the sixteenth-century, the birds-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 birds-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 Ruschoffs 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 Finneys (1905-1991) Dawn, as the transatlantic jet ferries him to the United States, triggering a beginning for him in terms of his artistic creativity.