The aeroblog

Adolphe Vuillemot was born in 1886 in Loremont, in the Gironde region in the West of France.

We don’t know that much about his life, we have only a few clues that he left in his drawings. Vuillemot was not an artist by profession, he was a blacksmith, fitter, mechanic, “driver”, and builder. From the class of 1906, he was married and the father of 5 children (3 boys, 2 girls), a patriot, citaizen, socialist, and even candidate for the presidential election!

His work belongs to the “art brut” movement, defined by Jean Dubuffet as that of those who did not go to art school: the self-taught, mentally ill, or even prisoners.

The artwork featured here is from the Abbaye d’Auberive collection and was done using simple and accessible materials: Canson paper and colored pencils. Even if we cannot speak of perspective, this work is nonetheless well constructed and thought out. He uses architectural elements to create the grid for his drawing and then places the subjects over it. The theme of the work is dedicated to humanity’s latest conquest: aviation. We can see, standing out against the background, balloons, airships, and planes in flight.

The choice of colors also shows a certain mastery. Three colors dominate: brown ocher, blue, and black. And in the foreground, in the center, a large twin-engine biplane whose touch of purple on the wings gives it a dynamic; as if it were taking off from the rest of the painting.

But where did this inspiration come from?

In 1909, the first international air locomotion exhibition took place at the Grand Palais in Paris. Created by André Granet (son-in-law of Gustave Eiffel) and Robert Esnault-Pelterie (Engineer), it was the product of the success of the motor show which had taken place in the previous year. We are in the shadow of the very first aerial exploits, such as the crossing of the English Channel by Louis Blériot (even though he could not swim!) This new universe of the air was all the more fascinating then, so what better, or more modern space to house the exhibition than the Grand Palais, which had been built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900? A grand and classic exterior befitting the Parisian aesthetic, while the technologically innovative interior featured the then new materials of metal and glass.

In the photo of the exhibition we see at the center, under airships and hot air balloons, the Blériot XI (the plane used in the forementioned feat) sitting on a platform. The President of the Republic, the Ministers for War, the Navy, Foreign Affairs, Public Works, and Trade, and members of the public, all crowd around excitedly. From 1909 to 1951, the Grand Palais would be the showcase for the jewels of international aeronautics.

Did Vuillemot have the opportunity to visit these exhibitions? Did he see photos or illustrations in the newspaper? There is no way of knowing… But it seems that this drawing is a composite of different iconographic sources, because though the whole resembles the photo of the 1909 show, it also includes twin-engine biplanes like the Caudron G.4 and the Farman F.50, which were first developed as bombers during the First World War, and afterwards as the first passenger planes.

The aeronautics industry created a future for itself …


30 Janvier 2020