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Adolf Dehn and WW II’s LTA Aviation in Watercolor

17 September 2016


Adolf Dehn painted these watercolors in 1943 of the U.S. Navy’s Lighter-Than-Air aviation world.


Out to Sea by Adolf Dehn 1943—Naval History and Heritage Command image


Lighter-Than-Air Fleet by Adolf Dehn 1943—Naval History and Heritage Command image


Off to War by Adolf Dehn 1943—Naval History and Heritage Command image


Landing Lines Trailing by Adolf Dehn 1943—Naval History and Heritage Command image


Into the Rigging by Adolf Dehn 1943—Naval History and Heritage Command image


Home the Weary Blimpman Makes His Way by Adolf Dehn 1943—Naval History and Heritage Command image


Home Berth by Adolf Dehn 1943—Naval History and Heritage Command image


Free Ballooning by Adolf Dehn 1943—Naval History and Heritage Command image


Down Ship by Adolf Dehn 1943—Naval History and Heritage Command image


Blimp Nest by Adolf Dehn 1943—Naval History and Heritage Command image


By the Light of the Moon by Adolf Dehn 1943—Naval History and Heritage Command image


9 Comments leave one →
  1. david lord permalink
    17 September 2016 12:40

    They are amateurish for the most part. A little hard-edged in the skies…. googled the artist and couldn’t find anything additional…Compositionally they are great….my two favorites are ‘BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON’ and ‘HOME THE BLIMPMAN MAKES HIS WAY”…dramatic use of light; natural and man made….

    Regarding his use of colors, it would be my bet that “back in the day”, color was not totally there yet in photography and printing…. and it looks like the Mr. Dehn’s palette reflects that , and would, because these types of paintings were probably used for promotion in magazines and newspapers, containing none of the nuance and subtlety that four-color allows. Enjoyed them all though! Keep em coming!! thanks, david

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      17 September 2016 19:20

      David, your insights are always welcome and enlightening. The Navy Heritage and History Command’s website didn’t provide any context or provenance information except for the painting sizes. Adolf Dehn was interesting and given credit for much in a few art movements of the U.S. but Wiki’s article mentions nothing of his WW II years. Were his paintings required to be completed quickly? Was the style the latest rage? All unknown without a historian’s input, sadly.

      • 18 September 2016 16:31

        In retrospect i might want to ‘back out’ of the ‘ amateur” comment!… because…. back then, combat artists were soldiers first and artists second. Sketches would have been done on location and rifles were carried too…. and more than likely _were_ done quickly. I agree with you about sizes…i surmised by looking at his signature that they were in the 8 x11 to 15×20 range.

        I have three friends ; one who was a combat artist in WWII and two currently. The advent of the camera influenced the techniques artists today use in that capacity. After basic, they are/were assigned to each service’s corps of CA’s.

        First friend; Not sure of the specifics in WWII but he did all his artwork on site and then went behind the lines to paint and draw originals and has paintings in the pentagon and other military establishments

        My second friend is currently in the mideast theatre and is given specific categories and interacts with a chosen superiors. His specific service is the Navy. He is on board and flies off carriers and such with his camera and he has done ‘campaigns’ and then at a certain point all artists meet at another military location and create their art from the reference they themselves have taken.

        nowadays, civilian artists are also invited / selected/ commissioned through the national CA organization to embed with a service and then return to their home studios and do their artwork. My third friend works this way ….Jim Dietz is one of the most famous….we’re both members of the Automotive Fine Arts Society.

      • travelforaircraft permalink
        19 September 2016 11:11

        What a cool synopsis. I had no idea of the evolution.

  2. 17 September 2016 21:19

    It also would be helpful to have some information on where the airfields are. Or are they just generalized airfields?


    • travelforaircraft permalink
      18 September 2016 08:31

      My thoughts are they are actual airfields but that is only a guess. I’m sure the information is now by the Navy Heritage and History Command but they did not have it on the website or in the EXIF, unfortunately. There are a few of the airfields around: Tillamook OR, Moffatt and another in CA, Richmond FL and a few others I cannot recall.

  3. 18 September 2016 16:57

    Now I _probably_ need to back away from amateur!…NAH! should have done what i normally do…Mr. google first!

    i discovered and am not convinced they are watercolors because I found that most of his work historically is done in lithography, which is a wax type crayon. I make this observation because of the angular slashing of the clouds. At best, i’d compare his talent to Grandma Moses…..probably not amateur, but simplistic, elementaly drawn, stick-figure people , barn and farmhouse ambiance….also good for telling a story as opposed to being major art. you’ll see the same if you do a quick image google of his name. Maybe Grandma saw some of his work!!

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      19 September 2016 11:10

      You’re giving more information than the Navy’s site 😉

  4. Andy Lowe permalink
    5 April 2020 10:27

    I am Adolf Dehn’s nephew. They are indeed watercolors commissioned during WW2, and a major show in the Smithsonian exhibited the works. He was one of the premiere watercolorists of his age, and his works are held by most major museums across the U.S.

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