Thursday, January 24, 2019

Up Close: Frank Wootton's "Harts Over the Himalayas"

Frank Anthony Albert Wootton (1914-1998) painted landscapes and horses, but for me he's noted for his illustrations of automobiles and airplanes. In particular, he was highly skilled at depicting the effects of light, shadow and reflections on shiny metallic surfaces such as can be found on cars and planes.

His brief Wikipedia entry is here. A more extensive treatment can be found in his obituary in the Independent. I wrote about his poster art here.

In October I visited the Royal Air Force Museum London located at the former Hendon aerodrome north of town. Besides aircraft and support vehicles there was a small gallery of aviation paintings, several by Wootton. The one I focus on in this post is titled "Harts Over the Himalayas" (c. 1967) that shows three Hawker Hart biplane bombers in the north of India during the 1930s. Closely related to the Hart was the Hawker Fury fighter that in turn was an ancestor of the famous Hawker Hurricane fighter that comprised the bulk of Britain's interceptors during the 1940 Battle of Britain.

Below are images of Wootton's Hart painting.


Image of the painting via the museum's Web site.  Click on this and the other images to enlarge.

A detail photographed by me.  Conditions were poor due to lighting in the area along with the protective cover on the painting.  A smear of reflected light is at the lower left and the darker area to its right of that is my shadow.  Keep these in mind when evaluating Wootton's technique as shown in this image and the one below.

A closer view of his capture of the metal covered portion of the fuselage.  Not hard-edge as some aviation artists are prone to do -- freer and slightly impressionistic.  Contrast this to his treatment of the fabric-covered part of the fuselage beginning abaft of the lower wing.  At least one Hart exists, and can be found in the museum.  I do not know if Wootton was able to use it as a model for the painting or it he relied on period photos of Harts --- most likely the latter.  I also strongly suspect that his treatment of the fuselage surfaces and other parts of the aircraft was from his imagination honed by years of depicting planes of many types.


John Paul Jones said...

I was very pleased to find Frank Wooton the subject of your blog this a.m. I had the pleasure of meeting him in 1984 at Oshkosh where he was guest speaker for a group of artists interested in aviation art. He was soft spoken and modest, the perfect English gentleman.
He graciously consented to autograph my worn copy of his 'How To Draw Aircraft" I'd bought new in 1959. A very small book but a great influence on me and my future as an aviation artist.
The previous year I'd seen the Smithsonian's exhibition of his paintings while one of my paintings was also on display as part of their Golden Age of Flight exhibit. His were beautiful aircraft and beautiful horses.
Thank you for bringing him to your viewer's attention. It was nice to be reminded again of Frank Wooton, artist and gentleman.

emjayay said...

I didn't know about the RAF Museum in London. They have Baron von Richthoven's blue glass dog, which looks kind of like a beagle, like Snoopy of Peanuts, who liked to imagine he was flying his Sopwith Camel against Richthoven, the Red Baron......

Donald Pittenger said...

John -- Long ago when I was in high school I used to thumb through Wootton's airplane drawing book along with his book on cars at the book department of the local department store. Didn't buy them for some forgotten reason that might have been due to money. A coupe years ago I bought both editions of his car book via Abe Books. Maybe I should do the same with the airplane one.

Wootton's style always impressed. But sometimes he freehanded planes, getting proportions off a bit. Those Harts in the post are correctly done, however.