Nevinson, C.R.W. (1889-1946), 'In the Air (Building Aircraft), Lithograph, 1917

'In the Air (Building Aircraft), Lithograph, 1917

Price on application.
Signed and dated in pencil. Numbered 92.

Building Aircraft

Nevinson designed a set of six lithographs for the series ‘The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideals’. This was his first commission upon being appointed an official war artist in 1917. Nevinson’s prints show the process of building an aeroplane, from making parts, to assembly, and finally to flight. The six lithographs are entitled ‘Making the Engine’, ‘Acetylene Welder’, ‘Assembling Parts’, ‘Banking at 4000 Feet’, ‘In the Air’ and ‘Swooping Down on a Taube’. They were published in an edition of 200 signed and 100 unsigned impressions.

Nevinson once claimed that he was the first person to paint in the air. In his 1937 ‘Paint and Prejudice’, he wrote ‘in all modesty I still think my aeroplane pictures are the finest work I have done. The whole newness of vision, and the excitement of it, infected my work and gave it an enthusiasm which can be felt’.

Aerial warfare played a new and important role during the First World War. Both ‘In the Air’ and ‘Banking at 4000 Feet’ convey a strong sense of freedom with their dramatic viewpoints looking down over a patchwork of fields. Particularly in ‘Banking’ the hand gripping the side of the aircraft communicates the fear and exhilaration of being a passenger in a fighter plane. ‘Swooping Down on a Taube’ depicts the breathtaking dive of a British plane towards a German Taube aircraft. set against a dramatically-lit sky. The German word ‘taube’ means dove, and the plane earned its name from its distinctive curved, bird-like profile.

Nevinson’s lithographs were particularly admired at the Fine Art Society exhibition. One critic wrote he ‘contrives to make the visitor almost giddy’ while another declared that he possessed ‘the power of expressing sensations rather than visual facts’.

The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideals

The most ambitious print project of the First World War, ‘The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideals’ (1917) comprised sixty-six lithographs by eighteen different artists.

The series was commissioned by the British Government in 1917 as artistic propaganda to raise morale among the war-weary public and gain support for the war effort at home and abroad.

The lithographs were divided into two parts: The twelve ‘Ideals’ prints were symbolic statements about the purpose and aims of war while the fifty-four ‘Efforts’ prints illustrated war-time pursuits. demonstrating how vital the contribution of the British people was to the war effort.

The nine ‘Efforts’ subjects and artists include:
Building Aircraft - C.R.W. Nevinson Building Ships - Muirhead Bone
Making Guns - George Clausen
Making Sailors - Frank Brangwyn
Making Soldiers - Eric Kennington Tending the Wounded - Claude Shepperson Transport by Sea - Charles Pears
Women’s Work - A. S. Hartrick
Work on the Land - William Rothenstein

The lithographs were printed at The Avenue Press in London under the direction of the artist and contributor F. Ernest Jackson who had taught Nevinson lithography in 1912.

The series was first exhibited in July 1917 at the Fine Art Society in London, before touring to various regional art galleries around Britain and abroad in France and America.

A critic from the Illustrated London News enthused ‘The very soul of the war is to be read in the set of sixty-six brilliant lithographs’.

Image 40.5 x 30 cm
Paper 50.7 x 39 cm
Collections National Museum Wales; Tate; National Galleries Scotland; Ashmolean; Imperial War Museum
Reference Black 19

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