Richard Warren

20thc British art and poetry (mainly), plus bits of my own – "Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

John Turnbull: English Aeropittura

What is known about John Armstrong Turnbull, ex-Royal Flying Corps observer and pilot, who made what appears to have been a very brief artistic career exhibiting with the ex-Vorticists and others in “Group X” in 1920? It’s clear that Wyndham Lewis had a high regard for his work, and one can see why from this painting, Air Fight of 1919, done for the Beaverbrook war artist programme, and now in the Canadian War Museum. This is wonderfully complex, and rather spikier than Nevinson’s war planes of the same era. It belongs (despite its lack of sub-cubist spatial fragmentation) up there with the later aeropittura of il secondo futurismo – Dottori, Crali etc. “Airman Turnbull vanished with the same jet-like speed with which he had flown in upon us,” recalled William Roberts in 1957. But to where did he vanish? And where’s the rest of his work?

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