JACK D. HUNTER – ORIGINAL PAINTING – FEATURING “GEBRÜDER VON RICHTHOFEN” – THE FOKKER DR. 1 TRIPLANES OF MANFRED AND LOTHAR VON RICHTHOFEN
We fondly remember Jack D. Hunter, author of The Blue Max and its two sequels: The Blood Order and The Tin Cravat. Jack was a dear friend, as well an inspiration. When I discovered The Blue Max (both the movie and the novel) as a teenager in the 1960’s, it sparked a lifelong love of WW I in general and its Air War in particular. I first met Jack in the 1980’s, and he remained my dear friend until his death (continuing as my friend today in spirit). In addition to being a talented author, Jack was also a very talented artist. When The Blue Max was first published, it was he who did the dust cover’s artwork! He was told by his publisher that since he was a first-time author, they would not pay for color art on its dust jacket. Jack stepped in and said “I’ll do it!” and he did!
Jack continued to paint mixed media pictures throughout his life as a hobby. He had a keen eye and the ability to bring WW I airplanes to life on canvas. Part of this talent was his attention to detail. He had an extensive aviation library in which he conducted detailed research about the pilots and airplanes he wanted to portray. From that information, he worked up rough pencil drafts of the airplane. He wanted to ensure that details such as the guy wires, turnbuckles, engine cowl, machine gun placement, etc., were correct before he began to paint.
The last painting that Jack did for me was really quite unusual. I wanted something that involved Manfred von Richthofen. He groaned and said “Oh, please, not another red Triplane with Roy Brown chasing him or the Baron chasing Wilfred May (who almost became Der Rote Baron’s 81st victim)!” I said “OK, surprise me.” And he did. Years before he did a painting for me that depicted the two von Richthofen brothers flying their red Albatros D. V’s or D. Va’s. It centered on a mission in April 1917 (eventually known as “Bloody April”) where their father Albrecht was visiting them at Jasta 11’s airfield. Each brother was successful that day (they both happily reported to their father that they had shot down Englishmen).
So I was stunned when Jack presented me with the painting that I am offering today. He titled it “Gebrüder von Richthofen” (The Von Richthofen Brothers), a simple and elegant name for a painting. The subject’s aircraft study was more than I could ever have hoped for. It shows two Fokker Dr. 1 Triplanes in wing-to-wing level flight.
[PLEASE NOTE: Manfred von Richthofen flew at least EIGHT different Fokker Triplanes. Many people who have not studied him are unaware of this. They often erroneously believe that the only Fokker Dr. 1 he flew was all red. The machine that he flew on his death day, 21 April 1918, a Fokker Triplane 425/17, WAS primarily red. It was the most vibrantly-painted of the Fokker Triplanes that he had at his disposal. That being said, he did fly several other machines. Below is a list of the various Fokker Dr. 1 Triplanes flown by the Red Baron.
Fokker Triplane 152/17 (remember this number)!
Fokker Triplane FI 102/17 (an early prototype)
Fokker Triplane 127/17
Fokker Triplane 114/17
Fokker Triplane 477/17
Fokker Triplane 454/17
Fokker Triplane 425/17 (his death plane)
Aside from 425/17, the other seven airplanes featured significant amounts of camouflage splashed with red. [Younger brother Lothar von Richthofen’s machine sported the same camouflage splashed with yellow. Lothar displayed yellow on his plane because prior to joining the Imperial German Air Service he had been a Kavallerie Regiment Dragoner and yellow was an important color to Dragoner-Regiments]. Of the eighty victories that Manfred von Richthofen achieved, the bulk was achieved in aircraft other than the Fokker Dr. 1 Triplane. In fact, only eighteen of his confirmed victories came in the Triplane. The other sixty-two came in a combination of the Albatros D. II., the Halberstadt D. II., and the Albatros D. V. and D. Va. aircrafts. Some sources claim that Fokker Dr. 1 152/17 (the subject of this painting) was used in either two or three of von Richthofen’s victories in March 1918. The Baron’s 79th and 80th victories on 20 April 1918 (the day before he died) were in the Fokker Dr 1 425/17 had. I find it most amusing that the Red Triplane, the source of so much admiration for the Red Baron, only saw the final two victories of his career!
What became of Fokker Triplane Dr. 1 152/17? After von Richthofen’s death, it was sent to Berlin’s Zeughaus Museum. I have read two stories on its fate. One is that it was destroyed in the Allied bombing of Berlin. A second story is that it was moved East to avoid destruction in Berlin and that freezing peasants burned it to stay warm. Both interesting stories, but we will never know for sure.
The painting is housed in an ultra high-end custom frame that measures 24½”x 29,” and features a handsome burled wood (a personal favorite) sandwiched between two bands of ridged black wood that accent the smooth burled brown wood. As an integral part of the framing, we specified that a triple matting that accentuates the painting’s various colors: two thin mattes of red and blue with a broader mottled-silver matt. It is very striking and extremely elegant! The work was done at a high-end frame shop that uses the best of the best in terms of materials and labor.
The painting itself measures 18″ x 13.” We see two Fokker Triplanes in level flight, wing to wing. Manfred von Richthofen is in the foreground while his brother, Lothar, is in the back. Their scale and power immediately seize one’s attention. They loom large on the canvas. They are not, however, the blazing red Fokker Dr 1’s one might expect. Instead, we see the great areas of camouflage canvas that were consistent with these airplanes’ actual appearance.
Consider Lothar von Richthofen’s Triplane in the background. It displays red cowling, red struts, red undercarriage legs, and the red wheel disks that represented Jasta 11. It sports a yellow fuselage from its Iron Cross area back to the tail, acknowledging Lothar’s personal attachment to his former Dragoner-Regiment. While no aircraft number is visible due to the wing placement, the aircraft is most certainly Fokker Triplane Dr 1 454/17.
Let us now turn to Manfred von Richthofen’s aircraft. It also displays the red cowl, red wheels, red struts, red undercarriage legs, and red wheel disks. Where Lothar’s plane was yellow aft of the Iron Cross, Manfred’s is red. Significant portions of camouflage remain, however. [It certainly is NOT the pure red airplane we so often envision when contemplating Manfred von Richthofen]. The aircraft also displays “Fok. Dr. 1 152/17” on its side. If you look at the list of the various Triplanes he flew, you will see that 152/17 is at the top of the list. He actually flew this aircraft more than 425/17! [Here is one small detail about these airplanes. Their Iron Crosses were of an earlier style. The Balkan Cross was introduced after March 1918. The planes depicted, then, were flown in late Autumn 1917 or early Winter 1918. By the time Manfred von Richthofen flew in 425/17, the plane sported an up-to-date Balkan Cross].
This painting captures an amazing moment in WW I aviation history. It has been in a place of honor in our home for many years. Now, it is time to share it with a new owner. [We want to remind you that we also are offering an example of Manfred von Richthofen’s signature, as well as a small piece of AUTHENTICATED fabric from 425/17. If you are interested in a combination of any of these items, we will gladly offer you a handsome discount].