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The Air Show

William Walcot (1874-1943)



Watercolour with pencil, bodycolour and gum arabic on tinted paper

15 ¼ x 18 ½ inches

'Chris Beetles Summer Show', London, 2014, No 57

This painting probably celebrates the 1909 Grande Semaine d'Avation de la Champagne in Reims. The world's first public international air show took place in August 1909, at the time of an increasing public interest in flight and a month after Louis Bleriot's celebrated inaugural flight across the Channel. Sponsored by the great Champagne houses, grandstands were erected, and a restaurant seating 600 people and other entertainments, such as circus acts, were provided. It was widely covered by newspapers and cine newsreels, and over 200,000 visitors attended, including the French President, Armand Fallières, and British Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George. During the week there were several competitions with demonstrations of speed and altitude flying. Immensely successful and important, the show marks the transitional point between flight as an experimental curiosity and a viable means of transport and industry. Walcot’s painting may show American Glenn Curtiss winning the Gordon Bennett Cup for speed (46 1/2 miles/hour).

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