Walter Richard Sickert

Miss Earhart’s Arrival

1932

On display at Tate Britain

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 717 x 1832 mm
frame: 865 x 1987 x 60 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1982
Reference
T03360

Display caption

Amelia Earhart (1898-1937) was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She landed in northern Ireland in May 1932, but this depicts her arrival in a thunderstorm at Hanworth, near London, the following day, where she was greeted by crowds of spectators. Earhart can be glimpsed in the middle distance of the right-hand side of the picture. Sickert based this painting on a newspaper photograph, from which he squared up the image. It took him only five days to complete, and itself aroused much public interest when it was exhibited soon afterwards.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Entry

Background

Increasingly during the 1930s Walter Sickert scanned the popular press for visual source material for his work. One of the most audacious uses of a contemporary news story was his painting Miss Earhart’s Arrival, which took as its subject the solo flight across the Atlantic of American aviator, Amelia Earhart (1898–1937). Charles Lindbergh had first achieved this milestone of flight history in 1927, but five years later Earhart became the first woman, and only the second person, to complete the epic journey alone. She departed from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland on 20 May 1932 in a red Lockheed Vega plane (now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum, Washington). Despite a turbulent crossing, during which time her altimeter failed, an electrical storm sent the plane in a flat spin owing to ice on the wings, and one of her engines caught fire, she arrived safely in Ireland just under fifteen hours later.1 The next day she was flown in a Paramount News aeroplane from Londonderry to Stanley Park Aerodrome, Blackpool, and from there to Hanworth Air Park, Middlesex where a large crowd had gathered to welcome her. Sickert’s painting is based upon a press photograph of her arrival at Hanworth which appeared on the front page of the Daily Sketch, accompanied by the headline, ‘Welcome “Lady Lindy”: Heroine of the Air Reaches London in a Storm’ (fig.1).2
Welcome 'Lady Lindy!' Heroine of the Air reaches London in a Storm 1932
Fig.1
Welcome 'Lady Lindy!' Heroine of the Air reaches London in a Storm 1932
British Newspaper Library, Colindale, London
Photo © British Newspaper Library, Colindale, London
Aviation was one of the most exciting and dynamic innovations of the early twentieth century and even its dangers served to heighten public interest in the early pioneers. The same front page which announced Earhart’s arrival also reported the tragic deaths of E.V. Barton, a Daily Sketch cameraman, and a pilot, Major I.N. Clarke, killed when their plane crashed in thick fog on their way back from reporting the story. Aviators were the undisputed heroes of the day and the fascination with female fliers, in particular, was insatiable. Earhart was popular because of her youth and the natural counterpoint she presented to her male compatriot Charles Lindbergh (hence her nickname, Lady Lindy). She had been a household name since 1928, after becoming the first woman to cross the Atlantic as a passenger (with two other male pilots). Since then she had sustained the public’s interest through an organised publicity campaign run by her agent and future husband, George Palmer Putnam.3 Appearances on advertising posters and in radio shows, the publication of an autobiography in 1928 and a job as aviation editor for Cosmopolitan Magazine, all fed the public’s obsession with her. Following the 1932 Atlantic feat, media interest and public excitement about her reached new levels.

Description

Reception

Nicola Moorby
April 2006

Notes

1
George Palmer Putnam, Soaring Wings: A Biography of Amelia Earhart, London 1940, p.110.
2
Daily Sketch, 23 May 1932, p.1.
3
Susan Ware, Still Missing: Amelia Earhart and the Search for Modern Feminism, New York and London 1993, p.90.
4
Jean L. Backus, Letter from Amelia 1901–1937, Boston 1982, p.127; see also Nevin Bell, Amelia Earhart, Geneva 1970, p.129.
5
Putnam 1940, p.110.
6
Times, 2 July 1932, p.10.
7
Bell 1970, p.130.
8
Ibid., p.134.
9
Walter Sickert, ‘Post-Impressionists’, Fortnightly Review, January 1911, in Anna Gruetzner Robins, Walter Sickert: The Complete Writings on Art, Oxford 2000, p.280, also quoted in Richard Morphet, The Tate Gallery 1982–84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986.
10
Robins 2000, p.282.
11
Anna Gruetzner Robins, Modern Art in Britain 1910–1914, exhibition catalogue, Barbican Art Gallery, London 1997, p.187, reproduced fig.10.
12
‘The Round of the Day’, News Chronicle, 1 June 1932.
13
Daily Mail, 31 May 1932.
14
Edinburgh Evening News, 31 May 1932.
15
‘Rapid Painting’, Glasgow Herald, 31 May 1932.
16
‘Mr Sickert and Miss Earhart’, Yorkshire Post, 1 June 1932.
17
Times, 8 June 1932.
18
New York Times, 29 May 1932, p.3.
19
Daily Sketch, 31 May 1932.
20
The Observer, 5 June 1932.
21
P.G. Konody, ‘Painting of Miss Earhart’, Daily Mail, 31 May 1932.
22
Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, Walter Sickert 1860–1942: Sketch for a Portrait, 10 February 1961, BBC Home Service, LP 26657, Side 1.
23
Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, New Haven and London 2006, no.697.

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