This page is excerpted from the article "Aviation Artists" that was written by Gp Capt Kapil Bhargava and published in "INDIAN AVIATION". Reproduced here with permission.
There have always been enthusiastic pilots, other aircrew and airmen in the Indian Air Force (IAF) who expressed their passion for aviation through paintings. Most Officers’, Senior Non-Commissioned Officers’ and Airmen’s messes exhibit paintings, usually in bars, dining rooms and anterooms. Many aviation paintings adorn offices, especially of senior officers. Unfortunately, unlike public property, such as silver, furniture etc, paintings do not always show up in the inventories during handing over and assuming charge when personnel change.
The result at times is disastrous An Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of a Command was told by an artist that many works which were present before he took over had gone missing. The AOC-in-C instituted a Court of Inquiry and succeeded in retrieving three paintings, which had been illegally sold. But some were never found again. He also commissioned some paintings to make up the losses. Another source of routine loss of aviation art is the whitewashing or redecoration of rooms where they are displayed. Of course the paintings have to be taken down and stored carefully. Surprisingly they do not always find their way back to their original area of display. The story of one such painting lost and found is explained in Dennis La Fontaine's story.
There is an obvious need in the Air Force, and perhaps in the other services as well, to start officially recording details of the assets of aviation art. These should then form a part of official inventories for handing over to successors, exactly like other public property. It would also be nice, if the history of each work is recorded along with information about the artist and held in official files. A copy of relevant details may be pasted to the back of the painting so that a ready reference to it would always be possible. There is a painting by Raja Ravi Verma, which at a conservative estimate would be worth 60 or 70 lac rupees. Presumably, it is being held and cared for in the manner requested here. Otherwise, it would have gone missing long ago and sold abroad for far more money through an auction house such as Christies.
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