The Canada Aviation Museum recently acquired for its exceptional collection a painting entitled “Come Fly with Me” by Robert W. Bradford. The internationally renowned aviation artist generously donated this painting in honour of the Museum’s first curator, Kenneth Molson, who was responsible for introducing him to the Museum world.
Robert Bradford’s paintings of significant Canadian aircraft are familiar to any aviation enthusiast. Born in Toronto in December 17, 1923, Robert W. Bradford began his career as a RCAF pilot in 1943. He has distinguished himself by dedicating his life as aviation artist, historian and curator to preserving Canada’s aviation heritage. He was instrumental in the development of the National Aviation Museum (now Canada Aviation Museum) and its building stands as a testament to his great energy, skill, leadership and persistence. Upon his retirement in 1989 as the Director General, the Canada Aviation Museum inaugurated the Robert W. Bradford Gallery of Aviation Art. Art is an important medium to employ in the demonstration of science and technology as it often places the technology in context thereby highlighting the economic, social and cultural relationships with society.
Robert W. Bradford wrote the following description of his latest work: This painting is a romantic view of a very significant event in the early history of Aviation in Canada. The composition centers on the 1910 Aviation Meet in Lakeside near Montreal, the first such competition in Canada. Aviators came from other countries to compete and brought their latest flying machines with them.
Among the competitors was the Frenchman Count Jacques de Lesseps who brought with him two Bleriot XI’s, the same type of aircraft that Louis Bleriot used to fly across the English Channel on July 25th 1909.
The charismatic Count de Lesseps was a skilled aviator who won several events in Montreal, in Toronto, and in Belmont Park New York during the summer of 1910. He was also very attractive to the ladies and in 1911 married a Canadian, Miss Grace Mackenzie, a daughter of Sir William Mackenzie, President of the Canadian Northern Railway. In the painting I have tried to generate a sense of “being there”, the Count is talking to a very attractive lady while Le Scarabée “listens in”. I have taken the liberty of modeling the lady after my mother who died at an early age in 1941. Her chauffeur waits for her as he holds her fashionable “duster”. Her chaperone is seated at the right of the painting with her back to the viewer.
One of the Count’s two mechanics, Maurice Vanoni walks away to the right to get his tools after overseeing moving Le Scarabée into position. The gentleman just to the left to Count de Lesseps is fascinated by the attractive lady talking to the count. The gentleman in dark clothing standing by the Russell automobile is more interested in the car than in the aerial display of the three transitional Wright biplanes and the United Airship balloon. There are ninety people in the painting to share with you the feeling of “being there”.
Le Scarabée was a very early production Bleriot XI and therefore had distinct differences from standard Bleriot’s XI’s that are well known to Aviation Historians. In fact the Bleriot XI that is often identified as Le Scarabée in aviation books is not Le Scarabée. Very few photos of Le Scarabée are available (…).
The most noticeable difference in the Le Scarabée from other earlier Bleriot XI’s was the front view of the engine cowling arrangement. The cowling is made in three pieces-two side pieces and a top section. When viewed from the front, the side section appears as a portion of a circle attached to each side of the fuselage structure. The third piece (top) is also a portion of a circle but is of a smaller radius and with a higher centre than the side pieces giving the aeroplane a distinctive appearance. Le Scarabée also has an earlier top movement assembly on the ‘bedstead’ undercarriage. Other minor differences exist but are not as noticeable.
The Canada Aviation Museum wishes to express its sincere appreciation of Mr. Bradford’s gesture and is pleased to add this significant painting to its already impressive collection of aviation art.
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