by John Capstack
toned bromide print, circa 1933-1935
7 7/8 in. x 5 3/4 in. (200 mm x 146 mm)
This portraitback to top
Although dressed for flying, her makeup in this photograph emphasises her glamour also.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Birkett, Dea; Morris, Jan (foreword), Off the Beaten Track: Three Centuries of Women Travellers, 2004 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 7 July to 31 October 2004), p. 124
- Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 213 Read entry
The intrepid daughter of a Hull herring-importer, Amy Johnson trained as a secretary, but developed a consuming passion for flying. With no more experience than a flight from London to Hull, on 5 May 1930 she set out to fly solo to Australia in a tiny Gipsy Moth. She landed in Port Darwin nineteen days later. Though not a record time, her flight was an astonishing achievement, and aroused universal enthusiasm. She was awarded a CBE, the Daily Mail made her a gift of £10,000, and the children of Sydney raised the money for a gold cup. Other record long-distance flights followed: across Siberia to Tokyo (1931), to Cape Town (1932), and, with her husband J. A. Mollison, to New York (1933). She divorced Mollison in 1938, and in 1939 joined the Air Transport Auxiliary. She was lost, presumed dead, over the Thames estuary on 5 January 1941, when ferrying a plane with material for the Air Ministry.
In this portrait of Johnson in flying gear the Blackpool photographer Capstack attempts an effect of film-star glamour. He also photographed her in allegorical vein as a personification of 'Speed'.
Events of 1933back to top
Current affairsSir Norman Angell is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Angell was recognised for his book, Europe's Optical Illusion (or The Great Illusion) first published in 1910 and updated in 1933, which argued that war between modern powers was futile as neither the looser or victor would gain economically from it.
Art and scienceBritish Art embraces abstraction with the establishment of 'Unit 1', the first group of British Artists dedicated to producing abstract art. The critic Herbert Read formed the group by bringing together the artists Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Paul Nash and the architect, Wells Coates.
The Duveen Wing extension at the National Portrait Gallery is opened by King George V.
InternationalThe Nazi party comes to power in Germany as part of a coalition government with Hitler as Chancellor. Over the next year, the party consolidated its position through the Enabling Act (allowing them to pass legislation without the support of the coalition), by banning and purging opposition, and by making Hitler Führer in 1934: granting him the combined powers of Chancellor and President.
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