Simanaitis Says

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REPORTS OF the first powered, heavier-than-air, controlled flight encouraged artists around the world to incorporate the Wright Brothers’ craft in their work. Even today, the Wright Flyer is the subject of artistic endeavors, folk art and otherwise. Here are examples.

The Wrights were thorough in their experiments, documenting their developments with extensive photography. These photos in turn inspired artists who had never seen the Wright Flyer in action.

The French painter Henri Rousseau worked in the post-Impressionist movement when he included a Wright in his Pêcheurs à la ligne avec aéroplane (Fishermen with aeroplane), 1908.


Pêcheurs à la ligne avec aéroplane, 1908, by Henri Rousseau. Musées nationaux Paris. Image from A Passion for Wings: Aviation and the Western Imagination, 1908-1918.

Rousseau is regarded for his jungle scenes, such as Tiger in a Tropical Storm. Just as he never visited a jungle—indeed, he never left France—it’s likely he saw the Wright only in illustrated magazines.

Within six years of the Wrights’ epic flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, air shows were held in Reims, France; Brescia, Italy; Los Angeles, California; and Dayton, Ohio. These events were accompanied by posters, some technically correct, others fanciful.


Poster celebrating the Wrights after Wilbur’s 1909 European exhibition. The Walker Litho. Co., Dayton, Ohio. Image from Looping the Loop: Posters of Flight.

The Dayton fête was a Wright Brothers Home Days Celebration on June 17-18, 1909. It welcomed Wilbur back after his successful flying exhibition at Le Mans, France, that year. See for details. The poster accurately shows its pilot sitting erect rather than prone as in the 1903 version of the Wright Flyer.

The Los Angeles Aviation Meet, January 10-20, 1910, took place about 10 miles southeast of today’s LAX. The meet included foreign as well as U.S. participants, thus making it the first international air show in America.


The Wright Flyer gets prominent position in this poster announcing the Los Angeles Aviation Meet. Image from Looping the Loop: Posters of Flight.

Louis-Marie Lemaire is best known for his still lifes on floral themes. He also did posters for the Aéro Club de Belgique, including this one with a strong sense of mythology and only a modest sense of aero accuracy.


Poster for Belgian Aviation Circuit, by Louis-Marie Lemaire, c. 1910. Image from The Legend Of The Skies.

The Wright Flyer is posed immediately beneath Icarus. Below the Wright Flyer is a Blériot Type XI, Escher-like in its tail structure. To their left is a Henry Farman III.

The Wright Flyer even made its mark in theater advertising. The Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris had been timely in 1876 staging Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (the book, published three years earlier). And in 1909, the theater touted “Les Aventures de Gavroche,” in which it promised “every evening, a real aeroplane produced on stage.”


Poster for a Paris stage show, 1909. Image from The Legend Of The Skies.

The aeroplane rendered is quite an accurate Wright Flyer.

For Christmas 1991, Wife Dottie gifted me with Mallard’s Aircraft and Adventure Factory, software for building and importing aircraft into Microsoft Flight Simulator (then in its fourth iteration, the final one destined to be FSX). Needless to say, the first aircraft I built was the Wright Flyer.

Given that AAF was well-suited for modeling modern single-wing, tube-bodied aircraft, this was hardly a sensible first project. A combination of no fuselage, the tail in front, and two wings with all those struts and wires taught me a lot of tricks. For a while there, the model outdid Lemaire’s Escher-like Blériot.


From left to right, my original Wright Flyer for FS4; my interim version; Microsoft’s rendering included in FS9.

My original Wright Flyer had a file size of 41,842 bytes. This pushed matters to the point that I devised Little Red Blockhead, my semi-abstract pilot of minimal elements. By contrast, Microsoft’s superb modeling of the FS9 Wright Flyer has a file size of 10,240,728 bytes.

I also have a pair of folk-art Wright Flyers. The one, identified as “made in China; for decoration only,” has its own pedestal for modest mobility. The other is on a larger scale, made in the Philippines.


Wright folk art. Below, detail of the larger model.


The larger model has particularly good rendering of its engine, pulley-driven props and a pilot who’s a far cry from Little Red Blockhead. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2014

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