Giovanni Korompay (1904-1988), Aeropainting, 1935, oil on board. Private collection.
With scarf billowing, James Dixon banked towards the Estorick in Islington to see an aeronautical vision of the future.
Futurist Skies: Italian Aeropainting is a collection of 1930s Italian Futurist painting, sculpture and ceramics focussed on conveying the emotions and sights associated with the rise in popularity and accessibility of flight between the world wars.
It is being held at the Estorick Collection of Modern Art at 39a Canonbury Square in London until February 20.
Aeropainting dominated Italian art during this period, beginning in the mid-1920s with the work of the artist-pilot Fedele Azari who developed a love for flight and its stimulating visual and mental sensations while working as a photographic correspondent during the First World War. Growing as an off-shoot of the Futurist movement, Aeropainting attracted many proponents.
Fillia (Luigi Colombo) (1904-1936), Aerial Mystery, 1931, oil on canvas laid down on board. Private collection.
A number of them came together in 1929 to sign the Manifesto dell’aeropittura (Manifesto of Aeropainting) stating: "We Futurists declare that the changing perspectives of flight constitute an absolute new reality, one that has nothing in common with the reality traditionally constituted by earthbound perspectives".
The pieces that make up Futurist Skies aim to depict the excitement and optimism of the period and its aerial innovation through an exploration of both the machines themselves and the new and interesting sights and perspectives enabled by their flight.
Tullio Crali (1910-2000), Nose-diving on the City, 1939, oil on canvas. MART, Rovereto.
One of the highlights, Nose-diving on the City by Tullio Crali, demonstrates this idea with clarity as the hard angles and lines of the city’s skyscrapers break from their townscape setting to invade the pilot’s cockpit. The breaking down of the physical barrier between inside and outside enables the pilot to achieve his apotheosis as through the speed, power and purpose of his mission he becomes at one with the air.
The importance of the plane in this exhibition is not solely in its appearance and technological aspect, but its ability to transport the viewer to a place without physical limits where man, machine, mission and moment come together to produce a quite intense optimism.
The more military-directed pieces such as Tato’s Aerial Mission and Marisa Mori’s Nocturnal Aerial Battle have a particular poignancy given the loss of innocence soon to be experienced by aeroplanes with the intensive bombing raids of the Spanish and world wars.
Nicolay Diulgheroff (1901-1982), Aeropainting, 1935, tempera on paper. Private collection.
The notion of the pilot’s ability to transcend physical limits and achieve an almost godlike status is further emphasised by Alfredo Guaro Ambrosi’s Loretto Madonna. A tiny biplane is seen flying along the boundary between heaven and earth towards an image of the Virgin Mary emerging from a pillar of cloud and surrounded by the cross-silhouettes of other aeroplanes.
The view down over mountain, lake and town, as well as above the clouds and up to heaven, state clearly the higher level of consciousness enjoyed by the pilot in the Aeropainters’ work.
Futurist Skies is a richly evocative and exciting exhibition that is more than enhanced by being presented within the bright and airy rooms of the Estorick gallery.
The collection achieves a sense of the power and superiority of flyers that, as a viewer standing before the varied intense depictions of height, movement, speed and serenity, it is hard not to be carried away by.