First published: Spring 2000
Since ancient times, when Icarus and Daedalus strapped on their wings of wax, man has attempted to overcome his physical limitations and defy gravity. In the 1850s, a half-century before the Wright Brothers made history at Kittyhawk, Charles Dellschau believed he held the secret of flight.
Dellschau (1830–1923) was an enigmatic self-taught artist – a Texas butcher who spent his retirement cloistered in an attic painting large-scale books of flying machines. Forgotten for nearly fifty years after his death, his books were unearthed in the late 1960s.
A visually compelling body of work created by America's earliest known visionary, the books have since attracted the attention of collectors curators, and journalists. As early and as-yet unexplained aviation plans, they have also become a key piece of evidence in attempts to prove the existence of extraterrestrial life, and they are a highly inventive articulation of an age-old human impulse.
The source of Dellschau's inspiration and the meaning of his work remain elusive. It is unclear whether he worked from memory, transcribing the activities of an aeronautical research society, or from his imagination, depicting with unerring conviction a story of engineering feats and clandestine activity.
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #30