Paul Ayshford Methuen (1886 – 1974)

Barrage Balloons, Regents Park, 9 March 1940


Oil on board

36 x 52 cm

Signed lower left and titled and dated lower centre.

Lord Methuen’s oil painting of Regent’s Park on a winter’s day, with barrage balloons above.

Barrage balloons were set up – stationed at an altitude of around 4,000 ft – as a barrier to enemy aircraft. The steel cables used to tether the balloons would take an enemy aeroplane out of the sky if it were to hit the cable. The UK had thousands of them, filled partly with hydrogen and operated largely by women, to protect significant towns, cities, and military installations. These strange blobs floated over the country, just asking to be captured by artists. Methuen had rejoined his regiment (serving as a Captain) in 1939 but was likely stationed in London for a while, when he might have had the opportunity to capture this scene.

When Methuen painted the scene in 1940, Britain was still in the stage of the phoney war. The Battle of Britain did not commence until 10 July, and the Blitz not until 7 September – but Britain’s defences were ready. Barrage balloons were important all the way through the War: they defended London against the V2 missiles; they defended the D-Day invasion fleet; and they protected the invasion army for months. Indeed, it was said that the vast amount of material brought into the UK from the States prior to D-Day would have caused Britain to sink under the sea, were it not for the huge number of barrage balloons holding the country up…

Condition: excellent. Recently revarnished.

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