Power’s Swirl

Today is a 1935 linocut, the original print being just over a foot square. A dramatic and dynamic work, by Cyril E Power, it fits well with his oeuvre, many of the linocuts featuring dynamic, swirling, moving shapes inside a square frame.

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It’s entitled ‘air raid’, which is interesting as it would be better entitled ‘dogfight’ as no ground or air raid target is seen, but there are cleared roundel-bedecked aircraft in intense combat with anonymous, unmarked ones, while a flight of other aircraft pass by unmolested – so far.

How much did Power know of what he depicted here? It’s hard to say – he was commissioned in the Royal Flying Corps as an officer in 1916 but based at Lympne in the UK, and it seems as a ground-based officer, not a pilot or aircrew – which doesn’t mean he didn’t get to fly of course. Lympne was attacked by German Gotha bombers on 25 May 1917 – but there was no swirling dogfight on that occasion.

While the print below (from the NGV online collection) makes more visual sense with the flight passing across the frame, the example above, from the Boston Museum of Fine Art has a very clear ‘this way up’, written in pencil, lower left – and the smoke from the burning aircraft trails upwards in it. (Note too the NGV example has been reversed – the text in the corner being a clear giveaway…)

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Again, my friend and colleague Dr Brett Holman got here first, so here’s a link to his own take on this neat image.

James Kightly, Vintage Aero Writer.

The Boston Museum of Fine Art example can be found here, with the rotated example in the National Gallery of Victoria can be found here. The Boston Museum of Fine art list it as a ‘Color linocut on Asian-style tissue’, with the image being 30.5 x 39.3 cm (12 x 15 1/2 in.) the sheet 38.1 x 32.4 cm (15 x 12 3/4 in.).

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