The Gift of Art

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(Painting by Robert Taylor)

In Gallant Company

(Robert Taylor)

Artist Robert Taylor has written several books about his aviation art. In Robert Taylor: Art Combat Paintings Vol. II, he writes about this work, titled In Gallant Company:

“When flying hazardous over-water missions, a pilot’s worst nightmare was having to parachute or to ditch into the vast expanse of the Pacific, where there was little chance of ever being picked up. Yet it was a concern every fighter pilot had to live with on almost every mission flown in the Pacific. Exhausted from the exertions of combat, perhaps wounded, a pilot might have to nurse home a damaged aircraft over hundreds of miles of sea. A slip in concentration or even consciousness could bring a fighter pilot’s career to an abrupt and watery end. Coaxing along a badly damaged plane on a long journey home could, I am told, be more harrowing than combat itself. All pilots in the Pacific had to contend with this ever-present fear, and they readily identified with the anxieties of another flyer in trouble, quickly rallying round to provide what support and encouragement they could. On countless missions pilots would close ranks around a stricken plane in an effort to see him home. The overbearing tension could be drawn out for over an hour or more. My painting In Gallant Company endeavours to portray such an episode, and depicts a nail-biting drama in the Solomons during the great struggle for air supremacy in 1943. Marine Corps F4F Wildcats have fought a bitter air battle. Weary from the contest but flushed with success, the F4F pilots head for base; they are joined by three F4U Corsairs, newly arrived in the Pacific, on the journey home. But one of the F4Fs is in trouble: it has been raked across the fuselage by gunfire, crazing the canopy, taking out the radio equipment and puncturing an oil pipe. The pilot is injured but in control, and has thus far managed to maintain speed. His CO and wingman have closed in to give support; but with land in sight, the F4F has started to trail smoke. As we view the drama we are uncertain whether the islands looming up are friendly or in enemy hands. How much longer will this F4F’s engine continue to run? Can the pilot hang on?”

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