Flight Over Bali: Xavier Gonzalez


Xavier Gonzalez is pictured sitting in front of the mural Bali, holding a paint brush.  This mural is missing from those in the former Shushan Airport of New Orleans.  Some evidence exists that it may have been destroyed (either accidentally or intentionally) in efforts to remove it from the wall during the conversion of the airport to a 1960s era nuclear fallout shelter.  As the murals were uncovered during the 2013 restoration, only pieces of this mural were found stuck to the wall.  The murals were attached in a process where the canvas was attached to the wall with adhesive, and it may have been damaged during the attempt to remove it.

When the Royal Netherlands Indies Airways (KNILM) began service from Sydney to Batavia (present-day Jakarta) in 1938, their advertising logan was “dinner in Darwin (Australia), luncheon in Bali, then Batavia for dinner.”  Batavia was the “capital of the Dutch East Indies” during the colonial era.

Airplane passenger service from airlines in the Netherlands and Europe began serving Bali, related to the Singapore-Sydney and Batavia-Sydney routes.  The Fokker (barely visible in the upper right corner of the photograph, was the airplane used in the 1920s and 1930s for this route.  Plans are to recreate the Bali mural from the photograph, and hope that it may yet surface, even if in pieces.

Posted in Louisiana, New Deal Administration, New Orleans | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Flight over Egypt: Xavier Gonzalez murals


I think of all the Xavier Gonzalez murals painted for the New Orleans airport in 1938, the flight over Egypt might be my favorite story–though not necessarily favorite painting.  I think there are aspects of all of them that make each unique in its own way, and I have come to appreciate the vision of Gonzalez in how he decided to portray the wonders of aviation as newly introduced to the world.  By 1938 when Gonzalez undertook the murals, flight was emerging from its infancy, and commercial flying was moving into the skies.


The mural is described as a French biplane cruising over the great statues of Memnon, with the Nile River in the foreground, Egyptian columns with ‘lotus capitals’ to the right, and the ancient temples and tomb in the distant background (Save the Murals, Egypt, Friends of New Orleans Lakefront Airport).

A “first” in Egyptian flight (which in 1910 was still under British administration) was the 1910 Heliopolis Air Meet (Leiser, G. 2010. The first flight above Egypt: The Great Week of Aviation at Heliopolis, 1910. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 20(13), 267-294). Twelve pilots and 18 planes entered the competition (some pilots brought more than one plane), including 2 French Bleriots, 4 French Voisins, 2 French Farmans, 2 French Antoinettes, 1 American Curtiss, and 1 German Grade.  The Bleriot and the Antoinette were both monoplanes.  That left only the Voisin biplane and Farman biplane as the possible plane depicted by Gonzalez.  Photographs of both planes indicate the plane was a Voisin, although Gonzalez may have used a model that occurred a couple of years later than 1910.  One of the Voisins was flown (or “driven” as was often said then) by Baroness de la Roche, on her first public flight (Trica, A. C., March 1910. Foreign news. In Aircraft, Volume 1. New York: New York).

The Statues of Memnon depicted are:

…twin monolithic quartzite statues of pharaoh Amenthep III, c. 1400 B. C. (Fred Stross, 1973, University of California-Berkeley)

Although the Colossi of Memnon are located further south of Heliopolis (Cairo) near Luxor, the flight routes of the air meet extended out into the desert away from the city, and might have extended as far as the statues.  That would seem to be the reason for inclusion, other than artistic license, although they did not directly front to the Nile.  Davis Roberts sketched the statues of Memnon on location in 1838, with the temples and tomb in the background, and lithographer Louis Haghe produced the print.


Davis Roberts, 1838, Retrieved from US Archives



Posted in Louisiana, New Deal Administration, New Orleans | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Paris and the Lindbergh Landing: Xavier Gonzalez Mural


Fifth in the series of murals painted by Xavier Gonzalez in 1938 for the newly opened Shushan Airport in New Orleans, Paris and the Lindbergh Landing shows Lindbergh’s arrival in Paris following his 1927 New York City to Paris trans-Atlantic flight.  His plane, the Spirit of St. Louis is depicted along with the planes of the French fliers who welcomed his entrance to Paris.

Following a sleep after the 33 hour non-stop flight, Lindbergh answered reporters’ questions.

…there came into view the hills of Ireland, and the worst was over…By dusk he had reached the French coast, then darkness, then the sweep of powerful searchlights guiding him to his goal.

Finally the brilliant illuminations of Eiffel Tower caught his eyes and he knew he had made Paris. A few minutes later, gracefully as a butterfly alighting upon a flower, his silvery ship of the air glided out of the darkness of night into the glare of searchlights switched on to show him the landing field. (“Phones to Mother Upon Awakening from 10-hour Sleep” The Reading Times, 23 May 1927, p. 1-2)


The Lindbergh-Paris mural was one of three left exposed in the Levee Board offices following the 1960s renovation of the airport.

Posted in Art Deco architecture, Louisiana, New Deal Administration, New Orleans | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

New York Metropolis


The wealth and power of modern civilization seem symbolized by Manhattan’s famous sky-line, towering in the distance across the Hudson River, against the glorious background of the rising sun. The commerce and industry of the Metropolis are proclaimed by the docked ships and factories in the foreground, with power plants, warehouses, tanks and elevated railways indicating the great activity of the port. Suggestive of vast engineering project, the new George Washington bridge spans the Hudson with a single sweep of over two-thirds of a mile between its towering pylons. Overhead, the proud Akron glides above the city before commencing its voyage to the Panama Canal.  It is being given a great send-off by a squadron of airplanes, two of which can be seen in the picture. (Friends of New Orleans Lakefront Airport)


The Akron was manufactured in 1929 and launched the first voyage in 1931.

Springing upward into a mass of gray clouds scuttling across the sky, the U. S. S. Akron, largest airship ever built, started on her ninth and last test flight at 6:50 a.m. today.  The voyage, an endurance hop, was to last at least 48 hours. “Akron Airship is on Last Test Hop”, New Castle News, 16 Oct 1931, p. 1)

In January 1933, the Akron departed Lakehurst, New Jersey for Panama, stopping off in Balboa to investigate a potential air base site.  The Akron crashed off the coast of New Jersey in April 1933 following an encounter with severe weather.  A German merchant ship, Phoebus, saw the descending lights and altered course.  They were able to pull four men from the water. One died without regaining consciousness, but the other three survived.  A total of 73 perished from drowning or hypothermia.

Like the other murals of the work Xavier Gonzalez completed for then-named Shushan Airport, New York Metropolis provides another look into the world of early flying for commercial and military use.  The Akron was developed by the US Navy, and shortly after, the sister ship Macon was completed.  The loss of the Akron and major loss of life derailed hopes for rigid-sided airship use.  The Macon was damaged and sank 2 years later; however, the use of life preservers on the airship had begun after the loss of the Akron, and 70 of the 72 men aboard the Macon were rescued.

It was revealed that no life preservers were aboard the Akron when it put to sea last Monday night. One officer, who has flown 200 hours in the Akron, said he never had seen a life preserver aboard.

Life preservers, because of their weight, were not considered an essential part of the dirigible’s equipment. A life raft and one parachute were aboard as safety devices when the ship plunged into the Atlantic. (“Navy starts its probe of Akron airship crash”, Delaware County Daily Times, 10 Apr 1933, p. 1, 14)

Posted in Art Deco architecture, Louisiana, New Deal Administration, New Orleans | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Mount Everest


Mount Everest, another of the 8 murals done by Xavier Gonzalez in 1938 for the New Orleans then-named Shushan Airport, depicts the first flight over Mount Everest, Nepal.  The Houston-Mount Everest expedition was led by Air-Commander P. F. M. Fellowes, and was carried out by two “specially built Westland planes, powered with supercharged Bristol Pegasus radial motors” (Save the Murals, Friends of New Orleans Lakefront Airport).

On April 3 [1933] the conquest of Everest was made by the two aeroplanes of the Houston, Mount Everest Expedition, with the marquis of Clydesdale as chief pilot. Flying to a height of 30,000 feet, clearing the summit of Everest, by a bare margin of only 100 feet, the planes carried pilots and camera men to their goal.

The arerial conquest of Everest was no job of simple flying. The altitudes that needed to be reached were in themselves a terrific problem. The snow-plumed crest of Mount Everest rises to a height of 29,141 feet.  To clear this summit safely and allow for the danger of down draughts, the planes had to have a ceiling of 33,000 feet.  They actually reached 34,500 on one of the flights, six and one-half miles.  They had to be able to climb fast because of the limited amount of life-giving oxygen that could be carried. (Exeter: Thrilling story of flight over world’s highest mountain. The Portsmouth Herald, October 19, 1933, p. 7)

Erika Katayama’s (2009) Master’s thesis in art, Louisiana State University recounts:

…Gonzalez envisioned imagery outlining the development of aviation and its influence on modern civililization in eight wall murals mounted on the mezzanine.

Gonzalez was selected for the task of creating a series of murals for the Art Deco terminal building in a competition…By all accounts, Shushan and the architects gave Gonzalez comfortable leeway on how to interpret the theme of aerial transportation’s increasing influence on humanity. (p. 8-9)


Pretty far cry from Icarus flying too close to the sun and melting the wax in his wings, isn’t it?


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Land of the Mayas: Gonzalez Mural in New Orleans Lakefront Airport


The “Land of the Mayas” mural depicts a Sikorsky plane flying over the Pyramids of the Magician in Uxmal, Mexico. Igor Sikorsky, originally from Ukraine, established the Sikorsky Corporation in 1925, in Connecticut.  Sikorsky is likely most remembered for developing the helicopter, but he also built a range of small planes that would see service in airlines as well as the military.  The Sikorsky amphibian ranged in models, but the twin Wasp-motored amphibian S-38 is probably depicted.  The S-37 design, developed in 1927, was sold later to Pan American Airways International and was used to scout future air navigation routes.

Too much stress cannot be laid on the important part played by aviation in these explorations, as without airplanes some of the finest pyramids and temples would have remained buried in impassable jungles. (Friends of New Orleans Lakefront Airport)



“House of the Magician” in 1913, Douglas C. McMurtrie, Public Domain photograph retrieved from Wikipedia



The mural also includes depictions of a stela, the upright stone slab, used as a gravestone or other type of memorial, a papaya tree, maguey plant, and a hut and other plants.  The maguey is a member of the agave family and is also called a century plant.


Posted in Art Deco architecture, Louisiana, New Deal Administration, New Orleans | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Flight Over South Pole


Second only to Lindbergh’s epic in firing the enthusiasm of the public were Admiral Byrd’s achievements at the South Pole. In this panel, the big triple-motored Ford monoplane “Floyd Bennett” is shown taking off from the ice for a flight over the Pole.

In the ice-locked harbor on the edge of the forbidding Ross Barrier lies the “City of New York”, the three-masted rigger which carried the expedition as near to the Pole as the great barrier permitted.

It is the beginning of winter, and the Aurora Australis, glowing like a prismatic fan, spreads across the horizon. (Friends of New Orleans Lakefront Airport)

The second in the series of posts about the Gonzalez murals in former Shushan Airport, Admiral Byrd’s Flight Over the South Pole, like the others, had been covered by rice paper to protect it from the 1964 remodeling project that encased the entire airport, including the murals, in steel and concrete and wooden panels.  Elise Grenier, who holds a master’s degree in art history from LSU and diplomas in art restoration from Italian universities, has restored artworks in historic buildings in Louisiana and in Italy, and owns an art conservation company in Baton Rouge, and one in Florence, Italy.  Of the restoration process, Grenier said

It’s like surgery.  You don’t know what’s ahead.  The most important phase is testing to determine materials, what they can withstand during restoration and what the issues are.  When the treatment is correct and successful, it is a wonderful feeling. (John R. Kemp, 2016, Xavier Gonzalez: Restoring a Golden Age in Aviation in New Orleans, myNewOrleans.com)


According to Grenier, Gonzalez “wanted to capture the beauty and safety of flying, which was still very new to most people.”

Posted in Art Deco architecture, Louisiana, New Deal Administration, New Orleans | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Flight Over Rio


Earlier in the year, I introduced the former Shushan Airport of New Orleans, and its magnificent restoration following a make-over in the 1960s to serve as a concrete and steel nuclear fall-out shelter, and the final insult of Hurricane Katrina and the surge waters from Lake Pontchatrain–where the airport sits on an area of in-fill.

Funded in part by programs from Roosevelt’s New Deal Administration, the one-of-a-kind Art Deco airport (and one of the few Art Deco airports remaining) featured a series of murals by New Orleans artist Xavier Gonzalez.

Removed from premises during 1960s renovation, [Flight Over Rio] found at the Louisiana State Museum, returned on permanent loan.  Mural was restored at one point prior to return. (from the poster depicted above)

Flight Over Rio is one of eight murals painted for the project.  The oil on linen canvases measure approximately 134 inches wide and 106 inches high, and are adhered directly to the plaster wall with an adhesive–“marouflage.”


The murals, created in 1938, are located on the mezzanine floor to correspond with the ground floor compass, which indicates points of distance from New Orleans to the various airports, which represent historic flights to locations by “aviation pioneers” in the 1920s and 1930s.

Flight Over Rio depicts the flight of Italian Commander Francesco de Pinedo in the Italian seaplane “Santa Maria.”  The mural pictures the “double-boat monoplane” flying over the Avenido Rio Banco with the Sugar Loaf Peak in the background (Friends of New Orleans Lakefront Airport).

Posted in Art Deco architecture, Louisiana, New Deal Administration, New Orleans | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Suzassippi and Rio will be back soon


Yep, been in Texas again.  Rio shares our week and sends his love with a video, which you can see over in Lottabusha County.

Posted in Texas | Tagged | 6 Comments

Christmas Eve Brunch from France

Last week on Chez Le Rêve Français Amanda made a beautiful post about how to make a French Yorkie Scramble.  Although I have heard of Yorkshire pudding, I had not a clue as to what it was, or how to make it.  Fortunately, Amanda not only provides great pictures (check it out, her result is beautiful!), but also a printable recipe with the steps.

So, who fancies this on Christmas morning, then? (Amanda)

I do!  I do! (Suzassippi)

Well, at least I fancied it on Christmas Eve brunch.  While I knew that “pudding” in England did not mean what people in the States usually think of as pudding, I had never eaten it, or seen one.  Turns out, it is a bit like a “popover” or as Rand so thoughtfully describe it, “Tastes like bread to me.”  Personally, I found it quite easy to make, and quite tasty to eat.

I looked up the history of the Yorkshire pudding and discovered it was historically served prior to the meat course, with gravy on it as a way to extend the meal content, and use of the drippings (fat from the roasting meat) which was not only a main source of energy in the diet, but also was quite tasty.  Originally, it was made by pouring a batter (flour, milk, eggs) into the hot drippings below the roasting meat.  Amanda’s recipe called for placing the batter in a Yorkshire pudding tin, but since I did not have that, I substituted a muffin tin.

The trick is to have the oil (or drippings if you wanted to be historically accurate) very hot, which reminded me of making cornbread in an iron skillet.  The result is a moist bread-like fluffy pudding which is then split to hold the eggs and bacon.  It reminded me a bit of the savory French toasts I learned to love in South Africa.

So, on this sunny and warm Christmas morning in Mississippi, I send greetings and appreciation to all the wonderful bloggers in other countries, other states, and other universes who add to my life pleasures in so many ways.

Posted in Food and Wine | Tagged , | 7 Comments