Hardy Coton Vimy

Today we have a pair of artworks on the Vickers Vimy, an aircraft type designed for the Great War, but made a name as a record setter worldwide.


The first image is by the late, great aviation artist Wilf Hardy, a particular favourite painter of myself and my Aeroplane Monthly colleague Ian Bott. A  450mm x 300mm gouache on board item from 1976, features the Alcock and Brown transatlantic Vimy flight, a popular subject as no contemporary images exist of the majority of the crossing’s breathtaking story. The sales website ‘Illustration Art Gallery’ that is offering the artwork note:

“Hardy’s bold brush strokes create a real sense of urgency and danger as the men and their small aircraft race against the weather and the waves. This stunning piece has a small part of a ‘Speed and Power’ sticker to the top left of the page, as this was sent to publication for the Speed and Power supplement of Look and Learn [ issue no 750, 29 May 1976] magazine.”

Note there’s no pretensions to the art. The lower right is used for a profile artwork of the Smith brothers England – Australia record setting Vimy G-EAOU, but around it, the lower right hand panel simply doesn’t exist, as Hardy knew that’s where text would be placed, and he wouldn’t be paid for the time to paint it. Further the sticker at the top left to keep track of a commercial work by the owners.

CotonAfricaLL-GSecond is a mono watercolour by Graham Coton; “Help is in sight as a relief spotter aircraft discovers a crashed bi-plane near an African village. – An as yet unidentified painting by Graham Coton believed to have been created for publication in Look and Learn 1978.” While some of Coton’s aircraft could be a bit ‘bendy’ and lacking in fine technical detail, this one I think is excellent.

I’d guess (confirmation or correction welcome) that it depicts on of the adventures of the Silver Queens, the Vimys (it’s definitely a Vimy, with a DH commercial about to make the ‘rescue’) used for the first flight from the UK to South Africa.

Again, the artwork fills a key part of the history in a dynamic and dramatic way, showing where graphic illustration has a key part to play. On the other hand, despite the readership being children, no compromise is being accepted by the two artists on the accuracy of the subjects. While much of this professional, commercial art is done on computers these days, as artist have always adapted new media to do their work, the principle – of illustrating the otherwise undepicted – continues.

James Kightly, Vintage Aero Writer.

Links to Coton’s Vimy here and Wilf Hardy’s here. Thanks to Gregory Alegi for the tip of the website.

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