Popular Canadian artist Robert Bailey has finally come out with a book of his art titled “”A Brush With History.”” Not only does it tell about his circuitous route to becoming an aviation artist, it also provides background stories of how the pictures came into being and includes insights into World War II written by veterans from both sides.
The first time I met Robert Bailey was at an artists’ forum in Seattle. The group was on a day trip to Boeing’s Everett factory and after the tour we crossed the road to the Museum of Flight Restoration Facility on Paine Field. As we entered the building the sounds of a radial engine roaring to life prompted me to hurry outside to see what aircraft it was, because the sound was not familiar.
As I walked through the doorway there was a Boeing 247 running up. I had seen pictures of this early twin-engine airliner before, but had never seen one in the flesh. It was smaller than I expected, much smaller than the DC-3. Nearby was Robert Bailey sitting on the ground busily sketching the Boeing 247, his hand quickly flashing back and forth in short strokes as he captured the details of this rare bird.
Most of Bailey’s paintings depict combat scenes from World War II in the European theater from both the Allied and the German pilots’ perspectives. He has a few paintings from the Vietnam War that are also quite dramatic. His aviation art is always filled with action, and he often uses people to give the viewer the realistic feeling that you are actually there witnessing the dramatic scene as it is taking place.
An unusual aspect of some of his paintings is that he does night scenes. It has been my experience that what usually happens with night scenes is that the darkness is overwhelming, but Bailey’s paintings are different. They tell a dramatic story, usually of trains, planes and people is such a way that the darkness of night, while still there, doesn’t overpower the picture. Others must agree, because several of these print editions are available only on the secondary market.
You will find in his paintings meticulously detailed trains, cars and tanks, not just aircraft, and his prints are usually signed by combat veterans.
“”Escort Fury”” is the image featured on the book’s dust jacket. This 126-page hardbound book, filled with 70 color images and 57 pencil drawings, is something every aviation art collector, as well as Robert Bailey fans, will want.
Bailey is offering 250 Limited Edition copies of his book (all signed by the artist) with a limited edition print of “”Ramitelli Rumble,”” signed by four Tuskegee Airmen. He also is offering 30 Artist Proofs with a distinctive dust jacket and the print with nine Tuskegee Airmen signatures. Finally, he has 20 double remarqued edition prints, each signed by 13 Tuskegee Airmen, plus one of the brushes he used to paint “”Ramitelli Rumble.””
He also will include with these editions a small limited edition print of “”Big Beautiful Bluenoser”” signed by Lt. Robert “”Punchy”” Powell Jr. of the 352nd FG and a limited edition print of “”Tirpitz Terror”” signed by F/Lt. Harry Haxby, D.F.M. (RAF).
Larry W. Bledsoe is an avid aviation historian and writer. He can be contacted at 909-986-1103