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Aviation Art by a Master Has His Fans Flying to Buy

February 14, 1991|CHARLES HILLINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Every six months, Douglas Ettridge, a resident of England, flies halfway around the world from his London home to Los Angeles, where he is greeted by adoring fans in large exhibition halls.

A modern-day prophet? A rock 'n' roll star?

No, Ettridge is an artist who is known to aviation aficionados nationwide. Every six months, he flies to Los Angeles to exhibit his paintings of nostalgic aviation scenes.

Pilots, aviation company executives and flying buffs from all over Southern California visited his latest exhibition, held recently at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica. Many others flew in from out of state. On exhibit were 26 paintings of historic aviation scenes that sold at prices ranging from $1,500 to $5,000.

"In my opinion Doug is the best aviation artist there is," said Clay Lacy, a United Airlines 747 captain and president of Clay Lacy Aviation of Van Nuys. Lacy owns 35 Ettridge paintings.

"He is an aviation historian as well as a superb artist. He spends a great deal of time researching every painting. Each one is always historically accurate. The paintings depict outstanding or nostalgic aviation events of the past," Lacy said.

Ettridge's most recent selections included a 1931 moonlight flight in a Ford Trimotor over what was then the virtually uninhabited Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Alberto Santos-Dumont is shown standing in his perilous perch beneath the gasbag of his 1901 dirigible as he flew over the Seine and around the Eiffel Tower. Ettridge portrays Ruth Law flying her Curtiss Pusher during the inaugural illumination of the Statue of Liberty in 1916.

One fanciful creation shows a crumpled stick-and-fabric airplane in a 1911 forced landing. A helmeted, heavyset policeman is taking notes from the dashing pilot, who has his goggles raised above his forehead. Standing in awe of the crashed flying machine are several bicyclists, as well as men, women and children in clothing of that era.

Lt. Jimmy Doolittle is shown as he rounded the Baltimore Lighthouse during the 1925 Schneider Trophy race. American Harriet Quimbey is depicted leaving Dover in her airplane as she became the first woman to fly the English Channel in 1912.

"Doug Ettridge has a marvelous refreshing slant in all his paintings," said Dee Howard, chairman of the board of an aviation modification company in San Antonio, Tex. "I have one of the old Grand Central Air Terminal in Glendale that is so real and meaningful to me. Hell, I worked right down the street from that place."

For several years, Howard, who owns 20 Ettridge paintings, has flown to Southern California from his home in Texas just for the artist's semiannual exhibits.

Many people commission Ettridge to do paintings. "I commissioned Doug to do a painting of my P-51 when I was flying it around a pylon at the Lancaster race in 1966," Lacy said. "Another one I had him do was of the Boeing 747 flying over Seattle when I flew around the world and set the speed record of 36 hours and 54 minutes."

At the exhibit at the Museum of Flying, Dorothy Furman, manager of the Macao Tourist Bureau for North America, commissioned Ettridge to do a painting of the Pan Am Clipper landing at the harbor in Macao from San Francisco on April 28, 1937.

It was the first passenger flight from the United States to Asia. Among the 25 aboard the flight was Juan Trippe, Pan Am's founder and president. Macao is building a new international airport, and Ettridge's painting of the Pan Am flight will hang in the terminal, Furman said.

Ettridge began specializing in aviation art 33 years ago. "This most unusual situation started in 1957," said the 63-year-old artist. "A friend, the late Paul Mantz, a famous aviator, suggested I do several paintings and hang them in his hangar at Long Beach Airport."

But Ettridge had been an aviation fan and an artist since he was in elementary school. "I never became a pilot, but I probably have personally known most of the greatest pilots of the past 50 years," he said.

"The late Clete Roberts, the Los Angeles television newsman, was a close friend. When he was alive, he often took me up in his Stinson Voyager flying out of the Santa Paula Airport during my visits here from England."

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