BOOK REVIEW: ‘Flight Through The Ages: A 50th Anniversary Tribute to the Guild of Aviation Artists’

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Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title: Flight Through The Ages: A 50th Anniversary Tribute to the Guild of Aviation Artists

Author: Guild of Aviation Artists

Total Number of Printed Pages: 218

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): Photographs: 9, Text: 2

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A note appearing on this volume’s dustjacket states ‘This book celebrates 50 years of exhibitions [by the Guild of Aviation Artists] and includes paintings by…Guild artists, past and present, depicting aircraft from the earliest airborne activities through to the present day’. It is an accurate summary.

Within the volume itself, a section titled Introduction and Acknowledgements follows its’ Contents page. The title is self-explanatory. The section is in turn followed by a Foreword (by Michael Turner, President of the Guild of Aviation Artists), within-which a precis of the organisation’s history is presented. A five-page section titled The Guild of Aviation Artists follows. Within-this, sub-sections elaborate on the Guild’s aims its exhibitions, origins, history and current state. The Images section now follows. This comprises 195 pages and is divided into 13 Sections, these being analogous to Chapters. With the exception of Section 12 (Portraits) and 13 (Producing an Aviation Painting), each Section covers a specific era in aviation, from Early Aviation, Balloons, Airships (Section One) to Second World War (Section Four), Civil Aviation (Section Eight) and Museums (Section 11). With the exception of page 198 (Guild Sketching Days – Guild Artists at Work) which contains five small images), Sections 1-12 follow a similar format; namely a single (usually full-page) coloured image of a specific aircraft or aviation-themed event relating to the era being presented. Each image is accompanied by a caption which gives the work’s title, the aircraft or event which it depicts, the artist, and the medium used in its creation. Section 13 (Producing An Aviation Painting) does however follow a different format. It is the volume’s final section and as will ascertained from its title, takes the reader through the processes required to turn an original monochrome image into a full-coloured painting, taking eight pages to do so. The process is informative and uses both monochrome and coloured images to chart the development of a painting to meet a specific end result.

While this volume is full of beautiful and highly-coloured images, for this reviewer it was badly let down by the lack of an Index. According to its’ dustjacket, the book contains ‘…Some 200 illustrations…’ a fact which pre-supposes works by many different artists. In the absence of an Index, a reader seeking a specific artist has no choice but to laboriously peruse every page’s captions in the (perhaps forlorn) hope that they might somehow find the name of the individual they are seeking.

The same criticism can be levelled concerning the aircraft types and locations portrayed and for the same reasons; again, how can a specific aircraft type or location be found without having to view the whole volume. A significant failing! In addition, the paucity of caption information was such that this reviewer eventually started randomly counting the words of each caption to see how many words they contained; the shortest found was three, the longest, nine. Brevity has its place, but for this reviewer, this volume was not one of those places. It was also regrettable that an interpretive Glossary was not included within the wok; what (for example) do the letters GAvA, FGAvA, AGM or IWM mean? To a non-aviation, (possibly non-artistic) reader, they are meaningless. In addition, the absence of any biographical details about the contributing artists effectively dehumanises them, reducing them to mere names on a page, rather than providing possibly-inspirational details concerning their artistic-development and backgrounds.

Ultimately, this volume is a collection of pretty pictures of aeroplanes doing all sorts of interesting things. On that basis, buyers wanting beautiful pictures of all sorts of (mainly British) aeroplanes are likely to be well-pleased with this volume. However, readers seeking ‘technical’ details about said machines, or even how the individual images were created (Section 13 notwithstanding), will be disappointed by their lack, the book’s emphasis / focus being on the completed image rather than the ‘things technical / mechanical’ that got it to that stage.

That this volume contains spectacular artworks of beautiful aeroplanes and lighter than air machines is undeniable, but for this reviewer it lacks what he considers to be the most basic of items, the Index being but one of these. It is on this basis that he has given it the rating appearing below:

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given the Photographs: 9, the Text: 2.

It should have been higher.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Flight Through The Ages: A 50th Anniversary Tribute to the Guild of Aviation Artists’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘COMBAT AIRCRAFT OF THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE: RARE PHOTOGRAPHS FROM WARTIME ARCHIVES’

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Reviewer: NZ Crown Mines

Title:  Combat Aircraft of the United States Air Force: Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives

Author: Michael Green

Total Number of  Pages: 196

Total Number of Printed Pages: 72

Total Number of Photographic Pages: 124

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent) 3

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The United States Air Force (USAF) is currently the world’s most powerful air arm and performs a wide variety of tasks in a variety of locations around the globe. It has a long and colourful history, and has operated many different types of aircraft since its inception.  It has many admirers, amongst them the author of this volume.

This book is a soft-cover work of the ‘Aviation Monograph’ genre, and is essentially a ‘picture book’ of photographs, accompanied by a small amount of text. It is both a written and visual history of the USAF. The photographs it contains are from the author’s collection, although the majority are originally sourced from USAF archives, a fact that the author acknowledges. The volume is divided into six separate chapters, with each of these covering a specific time period. A well-researched and well-written section appears at the beginning of each chapter. Within this section the relevant information is presented under appropriately-worded subheadings. The written section is in turn followed by a photographic section showing aircraft of the era, the majority of these images being in colour. The photographs are clear and crisp, the colour images especially-so. The photographs appear to have been professionally-taken, and provide a level of detail and quality that few amateurs can match. If photographs (especially colour photographs) of USAF aeroplanes are what the purchaser requires, then this book will have few equals. The volume contains a Contents section together with a Dedication, Foreword, Acknowledgments and Notes to the Reader. There is however no Index, nor or a list of the aircraft-types that appear within its covers.  For those interested in a once-over-lightly review of the USAF and pictures of its aircraft, it is unlikely that the lack of the latter will be of any consequence.

However, the serious aviation enthusiast may not find this volume especially useful. As this reviewer has a  long-standing interest in the USAF, he was attracted  to the work by its promise of ‘Rare Photographs From Wartime Archives’, and the expectation that he would see some previously-unknown World War II images.

While there certainly were images from WWII, to this reviewer they were neither rare nor new.  In addition, although Chapter 3 is the section of this volume that specifically deals with USAF operations during WWII,  of the 60 images it contains, only 24 were actually taken during that period; the remaining 36 being Twenty-first Century photographs of preserved aircraft.  In the absence of the promised ‘Rare Photographs From Wartime Archives’ this reviewer felt that the title misrepresented its subject.  In this specific case it promised much, but did not deliver.

In precis, this work is something of a mixed bag; it has beautiful photographs (especially colour ones) and a well-researched and well-written text. As such it would be useful as an introduction to its subject, although whether or not it would be useful to serious students of the USAF will depend on individual assessments of its content. However, it also promises what it does not deliver, namely ‘ Rare Photographs From Wartime Archives’, a situation which this reviewer finds unacceptable. Were that it were not so.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I would give it a 3.

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nzcrownmines is also available for book reviewing Contact nzcrownmines@gmail.com

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: ‘COMBAT AIRCRAFT OF THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE: RARE PHOTOGRAPHS FROM WARTIME ARCHIVES’