A BRIEF CHRONOLOGY
Chairman of the Douglas Bader Foundation and Douglas son-in-law
AVIATION ART THE BEGINNING
Art to Fly is the brainchild of Pat Barnard. It has been established as a nonprofit organisation solely to raise money for the Douglas Bader Foundations Disabled Children Flying Days. I have known Pat for a long time and am pleased to have the opportunity to work with him on this very worthwhile project. As many know, Pat Barnard is credited with founding the aviation art business as we know it today, almost singlehanded.
When he began publishing aviation art over 30 years ago nobody had thought of the idea of obtaining important and relevant signatures of wartime heroes to accompany those of artists on military art prints. The idea was so new that, understandably, when approached, distinguished exmilitary personnel had serious reservations about becoming part of what was to be a commercial enterprise.
Being inherently modest and unassuming, distinguished wartime personalities believed that endorsing prints with their signatures would somehow compromise their integrity and reputation. A natural reaction to such a new idea.
Although it had not been tested, from the very outset Pat was convinced that adding significant and relevant signatures to prints would make them eminently more attractive to collectors, and in time increase their value. Determined to find a way around the initial resistance he looked for ways to convince distinguished military figures that their integrity would be in no way be diminished by signing prints.
Pat felt the most obvious route to introduce the model would be to link the idea to a fundraising exercise, and indeed this is how his Military Gallery publishing business began.
Today, three and a half decades after he launched the concept, when its common practice for anyone publishing aviation art to add signatures of pilots and aircrew, it is difficult to imagine there was ever a problem.
Pat transformed the way aviation art is collected, and his faith in the idea of adding aircrew signatures to prints depicting the great air battles of WWII, has been totally vindicated. Today the concept proves irresistible to collectors of aviation prints who, into the bargain, gain the added investment element those signatures provide. But for his determination, this concept of collecting military art might never have happened!
Back in the 1970s, while researching a suitable fundraising project, Pat discovered the sole surviving destroyer from WWII, H.M.S. Cavalier, was languishing in Husbands boatyard in Southampton Water. The ship was in imminent danger of passing into oblivion, however a small group of enthusiasts, which he noted included Admiral of the Fleet Lord Louis Mountbatten, were looking for ways to raise money to save Cavalier for posterity. Meanwhile the people at Husbands Boatyard were urgently seeking the ships early removal and WWIIs very last remaining destroyer was literally weeks away from the breakers yard.
He carefully prepared a proposal and approached Lord Mountbatten offering to fund and publish a limited edition, provided Lord Mountbatten would sign each and every print. In return for his signatures Pat guaranteed an immediate payment of £25,000 (about $60,000) to the newly formed HMS Cavalier Trust.
£25,000 may not sound a great deal in the context of todays values but, put into perspective, at the time would have bought a house costing around £500,000 in todays money. Pat recalls his financial commitment at the time was frightening!
To cut a long story short, Lord Mountbatten agreed to the proposal, the prints were published and duly signed, and the promised £25,000 purchased enough marine paint to reclad the destroyer, which kept the advancing rust at bay and the ship afloat.
Due to the efforts of Lord Mountbatten and his team of supporters, H.M.S. Cavalier was saved and now lies in Chatham Historical Dockyards, a museum ship dedicated to the memory of all those who served in destroyers in WWII. For more information visit (www.hmscavalier.org.uk).
Pat claims to have played only a very minor role in saving the ship, but recalls that what the project proved was acceptance of the idea of adding important signatures to prints. So, with the notion of perceived added value the idea provided collectors, he immediately embarked on a course of publishing prints on a wider scale through his newly formed Military Gallery.
SIR DOUGLAS BADER
After his initial success, and having a strong interest in aviation (he was himself a pilot), Pat approached Sir Douglas Bader to ask if he would sign a print edition featuring a WWII aviation scene. Douglas Bader had lost both legs in a prewar flying accident, yet commanded a Hurricane squadron during the Battle of Britain, and later led the famous Tangmere Spitfire Wing in 1941. Bader was certainly one of the highest profile figures from British WWII aviation, and Pat knew if he could convince this national hero to participate he would be able to persuade others too.
Knowing nothing about him or his fledgling company, and having never previously been asked to sign prints, Sir Douglas was reluctant at first until Pat mentioned the H.M.S Cavalier project. Fortunately Sir Douglas was acquainted with Lord Mountbatten and the two spoke.
Having assisted Lord Mountbatten with the print signing, Pat had spent many hours in the Admirals company and, although he has no idea what the two discussed, says Lord Mountbatten must have convinced Sir Douglas that the little pioneering publishing operation was above board because Douglas Bader quickly agreed to cooperate.
Once his decision was made, Douglas Bader became full of enthusiasm for the project and immediately suggested he would ask WWIIs topscoring Allied fighter pilot, Air ViceMarshal Johnnie Johnson, also to sign the prints the two had flown together in 1941. So it was that both Aces signed what was to become the very first aviation art print endorsed with the signatures of two famous WWII fighter pilots to be marketed on both sides of the Atlantic.
The print, like that for the H.M.S. Cavalier project, was from a painting by Robert Taylor, a budding young artist who Pat was to promote and publish throughout the next 30 years. Simply titled Spitfire, this print launched the pilotsigned aviation art movement as it widely operates today now an accepted and recognised genre within the popular art print industry.
Sir Douglas Bader took a personal interest in the new publishing operation and became a great ambassador for the Military Gallery. He introduced the idea of signing prints to a large number of fighter pilots hed flown with, and even some hed fought against: Indeed it was in Douglas Baders office in Ascot that Pat first met General Adolf Galland, commander of all Luftwaffe day and night fighters in WWII. The General was likewise impressed with Pats publishing ideas and in turn helped recruit signatures of many of the leading Luftwaffe aces whod survived WWII.
The Military Gallery couldnt have gained two more influential friends at this early stage of its aviation art publishing activity, and this support has much to do with the pilotsigned print concept quickly gathering momentum and credibility.
Sir Douglas believed there was some importance in what the Military Gallery was publishing, often saying he saw it as helping to create awareness about WWII aviation among the younger generations, and I believe he was correct about that. One museum director even wrote that it rightly helped immortalise the gallant endeavours of aviators in WWII It probably did that too, though I am sure the aviators who have signed prints never thought about it in this way.
Though always modest about his own feats, Douglas Bader was ever keen to help Pat recruit other distinguished fighter pilots, and he particularly went out of his way to introduce bomber crews, whom he always held in great esteem.
By taking an active part, Sir Douglas Bader, General Galland, together with Group Captain (later, Lord) Leonard Cheshire, VC, were largely instrumental in helping the Military Gallery legitimise the concept of adding distinguished aviators signatures to art prints. By the beginning of the 1980s all the earlier reservations about signing prints had been dispelled, and some of the most famous and distinguished military personnel from all sides of the great conflict were placing their soughtafter signatures on Military Gallery prints.
Over the years the Military Gallery supported many military charities and foundations on both sides of the Atlantic. The company sponsored the Bomber Command annual reunion dinner, raised funds for the Battle of Britain Pilots Association, SAAFA, The White Ensign Association, and staged many fundraising exhibitions in UK, USA, and Australia. Pat Barnards fund raising for British military charities was recognised in 1984 when he was given the Freedom of the City of London.
One of the Military Gallerys most successful fundraising projects in the US was to aid the Navy Museum at Pensacola, Florida. Together with Virginia Bader, a niece of Sir Douglas, and a successful aviation art gallery owner in California, they managed to persuade President George Bush senior, himself a WWII navy pilot, to sign a complete edition which was published solely to benefit the museum. President Bush senior is believed to be the only American president to sign art prints while in office. Because of his busy schedule the only time available for signing was while travelling between engagements aboard Air Force One, the presidential aircraft. Every print in that edition was signed at around 30,000 feet which seems entirely appropriate for an aviation art print!
After some 30 years, during which time The Military Gallery had grown to supply a network of some 500 galleries worldwide, had established a busy subsidiary in California, held gallery receptions on four continents, staged Robert Taylors oneman exhibitions at the US Air Force Museum at Dayton, Ohio, and the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, in 2003 Pat retired. Today the Military Gallery continues to thrive under its new ownership.
Robert Taylor, who Pat had worked with since the day he became a professional painter, remains the Gallerys principal artist today, and has now been joined by his talented son Richard. Over all these years the Military Gallery published some of the most memorable and collectible of all aviation art, every piece signed by one or more distinguished name from the history of military aviation.
One could suggest that had it not been for the seal of approval given to Pat Barnards idea of pilotsigned aviation art prints by the great legless fighter ace, Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader, the aviation art movement that Pat pioneered back in the 1970s may never have happened! It is in recognition of the part Sir Douglas Bader played in the very early days of his publishing business, that Pat has set up Art to Fly to raise funds for the Douglas Bader Foundations Disabled Children Flying Days.
THE DOUGLAS BADER FOUNDATION
The memory of Sir Douglas Bader, and all he stood for, is perpetuated by The Douglas Bader Foundation, a charity set up following his death by family and a group of pilots who had flown with him in WWII. Appropriately, the charity supports and aids the disabled people that were always closest to Douglas Baders heart, and whom he inspired and worked tirelessly for throughout his peacetime life. Douglas Bader was knighted in 1972 for his work on behalf of the disabled.
Among the Foundations many rehabilitation and occupational projects is a programme that helps disabled children, many of whom have lost limbs, to experience for the first time in their lives, the thrill of flying a project Sir Douglas Bader would have approved of wholeheartedly.
ART TO FLY
ART TO FLY has been established specifically to raise funds for The Douglas Bader Foundations flying programme for disabled children and, as Chairman of the Douglas Bader Foundation, I would like to encourage you to support this very worthwhile programme in any way you can.
To help you and others to contribute in a way we hope you will enjoy, and as an aviation art collector maybe gain some material benefit over time, the ART TO FLY website offers a range of unique collector pieces from which you can choose. It is anticipated you will want to add some of these to your personal collection of WWII militaria.
ART TO FLYs activity is entirely nonprofitmaking. When you purchase, all the profits go to the Douglas Bader Foundations Disabled Childrens Flying Days.
During the 30 years he owned he Military Gallery Pat and his family personally collected many items of aviation artwork and militaria, including original paintings and drawings, pilotsigned prints and books, aviation articles, artefacts, and other signed documents, even an ammunition box full of genuine WWII Merlin engine valves (theres a long story about those!).
Most of this private collection, together with some personal items that belonged to Sir Douglas kindly donated by Lady Bader, as well as many other highly collectible paintings, prints, and memorabilia donated by generous supporters, or boughtin specifically to raise funds, are offered for sale through Art To Fly. All the profits go to the Douglas Bader Foundations Disabled Childrens Flying Days.
Pat made personal contact with thousands of aviation enthusiasts during the years since founding the aviation art business in the 1970s, and you may be one of them. All he found to be passionate about aviation, ardent and knowledgeable about collecting, and in his experience, friendly, generous people with an enduring love of all things to do with flying.
Like Pat, we at the Douglas Bader Foundation hope you will support us in helping unfortunate youngsters who, through no fault of their own, have lost limbs or are disabled in some other way, whose lives will be improved immeasurably when given the chance to experience the joy of flight.
When you buy something youd like to own from ART TO FLY, knowing your purchase will benefit some disabled children will, I am sure, multiply the pleasure you get from your purchase many times over. Your generous support will be greatly appreciated.
With every good wish,
Douglas Bader Foundation
Even if there is nothing you want to buy today, please keep visiting the Art to Fly website as new items are added all the time. And if youd like to make a donation any amount will help please go to the Donations page. Every penny you give will go straight to the Douglas Bader Foundations Disabled Children Flying Programme.