Is it art…?

In connection with face book page ‘Aircraft nose art’  I will be writing one post a week about the most liked picture posted to the group. This weeks winner is Gerry Swift, who posted this picture.


photograph first shown on ‘ The Lancaster bomber most beautiful aircraft’ site. 

posted on ‘Airplane nose art’ site by Gerry Swift

with the caption ”From the Lancaster Bomber most beautiful aircraft site. I think this counts as art as a prompt celebration of WW2’s end. Clever improvisation of the existing squadron codes and markings. No doubt treated as graffiti the next day.”

There is no denying that this is a wonderful and atmospheric photograph which encapsulates the camaraderie and exuberance of the end of the war but does it constitute art? Art by its very nature is subjective, not everyone would agree that Tracy Emins ”my bed” installation was art yet she was nominated for the Turner Prize of the back of it.

The photograph above is of 463 Squadron RAAF decorating aircraft ME615 near the end of the war adapting the squadron markings J0-V to read ‘By Jove’ whilst based at Waddington Lincs. Other grafiti style markings include ”the aussie express”, ”your journey is necessary” and ”home at last”.

They were a heavy bomber squadron during world 2 having been formed in the UK on the 25th November 1943 using personnel and aircrafts from the 467 squadron RRAF. They were equipped with Avro Lancaster bombers and were quickly dispatched on their first raids on Germany. Operating under RAF bomber command they also conducted raids on cities, industrial facilities and military targets in Germany, France and Norway from 1944 until the end of the war in 1945. Following the end of the war the squadron evacuated Allied prisoners from Europe until the squadron was disbanded in September 1945. Unfortunately this story has a very sad ending, the aircraft ME615 was shot down on the 28th July 1944 , during a mission to bomb Stuttgart, killing the entire crew of seven. These courageous men are buried in France where the plane went down.


memorial for the crew of ME615. Photograph from 

But enough of the history lesson and back to the debate …can merely writing on the sides of an aircraft constitute nose art? However jubilant the ‘artists’ appear or the subject matter is? I am not going to answer this for you as art is as personal as ones name. What I see as art you may not and vice versa. Does art have to be a picture? many people would consider the aircraft itself to be art, I for one consider fashion to be art. There is no ‘right’ answer to this question, if Aristotle is correct in saying ”the aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but there inward significants” then it is quite clear that the photograph depicts art in its most unrefined and primal form and yet dramatic in its significance. However if you believe art needs colours and shapes then it is purely writing on an aircraft. The choice is yours…

Whether you or I believe the graffiti on this bomber is art or not does not distract from the glorious beauty of humanity depicted in this picture. I will leave the last word to 436 Squadron whose motto, quite fittingly, was…




  1. Alan · June 14, 2015

    ME615 was lost on 28th July 44, not 7th July as stated.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lenahedges · August 6, 2015

    Hi Alan, Thank you for clearing that up. I don’t know why I have only just seen this comment. I have edited the post.


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