Miss Earhart’s Arrival

Walter Sickert, Miss Earhart's Arrival (1932)

Walter Sickert, Miss Earhart's Arrival (1932). A fascinating image. The occasion is Amelia Earhart's arrival at Hanworth aerodrome on 22 May 1932, after her solo flight across the Atlantic, the first by a woman and in record time. She was already well-known as an aviator, but this feat made her a celebrity. You can see that here in the crush of spectators around her and her aeroplane -- except she can barely be seen (hers is the tiny face in the mid-righthand side, with a man in a homburg to her left); and the aeroplane isn't hers, it belongs to National Flying Services which was rushing her from Londonderry to London on behalf of Paramount News; and everyone is getting pelted by a heavy English rain. 1 In a further commentary on the nature of modern fame, Sickert painted Miss Earhart's Arrival, in just five days, from a photograph in the Daily Sketch. Flight was highly critical of this aviation celebrity industry, commenting that

So long as the newspapers fill column after column with sensational accounts of 'intrepid bird-men' (or women) who gamble with death and win or lose as the case may be, people will be found who will risk their lives for the sake of the publicity upon which they know full well that they can count. If the newspapers were to confine themselves to giving the news of such flights in half-a-dozen lines, we should soon see the end of these futile 'stunts.' 2

But then we wouldn't have this wonderful painting.

Image source: Tate.

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  1. Derry Journal, 23 May 1932, 10.[]
  2. Flight, 27 May 1932, 457.[]

2 thoughts on “Miss Earhart’s Arrival

  1. The distinctive tail shows the aircraft to be a Desoutter II, used as an air taxi on occasions just like this! (Records and the equipment of NFS would also show that, too.) One airworthy example flies at the Shuttleworth Collection in the UK, there's a static example in Launceston, and another in the Australian National Aviation Museum, Moorabbin. And 'Flight' was being a bit disingenuous, filling an awful lot of column inches reporting on these stunts (that, then, were extending aviation's capability).

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