Professor F. E. C. Culick
California Institute of Technology, MC 205-45, Pasadena, CA 91125
back to directory
|soleil, tour, aéroplane, 1913, delaunay||
a passion for wings, aviation and the western imagination, 1908 - 1918,
by robert wohl (yale university press)
...we know that the enthusiasm Delaunay displayed for aviation was long-standing and deeply felt. In July 1909 he and Sonia followed "day by day" the preparation of Blériot's flight across the English Channel. After its successful completion, they had been on the boulevards to welcome the triumphant aviator home. Delaunay had even written Blériot a letter of congratulation, to which Blériot had courteously responded. Later that fall Delaunay had sketched flying machines on exhibit at the Grand Palais during the first Salon de l'Aéronautique. In 1913 Delaunay and his wife often trudged by foot from the railroad station at Versailles to the airdrome at Buc in order to watch the planes take off and land in the late afternoon light. "By foot," Sonia later remembered, "like the pilgrims of old. He [Robert] watched the take-offs with joyous eyes." Though Delaunay did not record his impressions in writing, another avant-garde artist Lyonel Feininger has left a description of what he perceived and felt while watching a similar sight:
For a long time I watched the airplanes fly over the airport. I cannot find the words to describe the beauty of the landscape to the west which in the mist of evening appeared unreal. Some puddles of water in the field, after the rain of the night before, shined like gold at twilight and the only dark spot was formed by the mass of two immense hangars below. The hills around Paris, from Montrouge to the left to Saint-Cloud to the right, disappeared as night fell. Through the mist, innumerable factory smokestacks with their serpentines of smoke appeared totally deformed. Little by little, the sun, like an enormous ball of fire, disappeared in the clouds in the west and that extraordinary landscape seemed to me to be the perfect decor, worthy of the miracle of flying man. Furrowing the sky with long trains of smoke, the monoplanes and biplanes, in groups of two and three, climbed, descended, turned like dragonflies on sparkling wings, disappeared behind the apartment buildings, and reappeared in order to finally descend in gliding flight toward the ground, pitching, balancing, and vacillating before alighting.