Ballet of wind and rain

Unit Royal Australian Air Force
Places
Accession Number ART25701
Collection type Art
Measurement unframed: 50.8 x 60.9 cm; framed: 71 x 81 cm
Object type Painting
Physical description oil on canvas
Location Main Bld: World War 2 Gallery: Gallery 2: Air Europe
Maker Colahan, Colin
Place made Belgium, Netherlands
Date made 1945
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Description

'Ballet of wind and rain' was painted in Holland late in the Second World War, in February 1945, when Colahan travelled into recently liberated regions of war-torn Europe. In this painting the artist gives the impression of the fleeting moment when four airmen, returning from night operations move across the wet and windy airfield. Leaning into the driving wind from their left, the aircrew appear as if walking in unison with synergy in motion. The artist refers to the syngeristic movement as a 'ballet of wind and rain'. The idea that a compositional 'ballet' was created through the colour, movement and atmospheric effects underpins Colahan's title for the work which is in homage to James McNeill Whistler's use of musical terms in the titles of his works of art, such as 'symphony', 'arrangement' and 'harmony'.

In a dawn reconnaissance mission, Australians were involved in patrolling the low countries for German troop movement and strafing enemy aircraft. These crewmen who operated single pilotted aircraft, possibly mosquitoes, would fly low over the occupied territory from bases in the Netherlands from November 1944 to the end of the war. During February 1945, around the time this painting was made, Squadron 453, who were based in Holland, succesfully bombed the liquid oxygen factory at Losduinen, near The Hague, thus limiting the quantity of this fuel available for use by the missiles. During April the unit continued to attack enemy targets in Holland and from 6 April relocated to Lympne, UK and returned to its reconnaissance and bomber escort role.