… I was in Sweden was with the Avro 504k for the 75th anniversary of the Swedish Air Force. We whipped the wings off and bunged G-ECKE in the back of a lorry for the journey from Suffolk – it was too difficult to fly there because of the Avro’s lack of speed (therefore range) and the requirement for into-wind grass at each fuel stop. The crew jumped on a scheduled flight into Malmo and a Piper twin picked us up for the last leg to Ljungbyhed. There we were issued with bicycles and shown our rooms in one of the military barracks. The Avro had turned up a few hours before us so the next morning we put it all back together again and waited for the wind to die down for the test flights in the evening.
It all went very well and we were royally treated by the charming Swedes. Mikael Carlson was there with his Tummelisa – we’d met him in Berlin a couple of years before….
and there was a trio of Stieglitz and a couple of Tiger Moths, so enough to keep us all interested.
But my abiding memory of the week was a visit to a junk shop in the village. I dug out an excellent painting by Aage Schad and didn’t pay a great deal for it. Naturally, when you find something in a junk shop that’s clearly a lost masterpiece, the first thing you think about is how to smuggle it out of the country. Well, the tailplane of the Avro was big enough to seat 12 for dinner so slipping the painting under it for the journey home on the lorry was the obvious choice.
Aage Schad was known for his landscapes so the portrait might well have been a one-off; certainly its size was unusual for Schad. And all this happened in the days before the internet took off so it was quite difficult to pin him down. Of course, there was plenty about his much more famous namesake, Christian Schad (who I thought initially it could have been) and it’s only relatively recently that Aage Schad’s information has become more accessible. That still leaves me in the dark about the identity of his sitter who, as the painting is dated 1946, looks like he’s been through the wars.
Some research based on a comment that Schad was associated with Bornholm (a Danish island south of Sweden) led me to the Bornholm school of painters and to the wartime history of the island. Occupied by Germany in 1940, the German forces refused to surrender to the Russians at the end of the conflict and there were some pretty nasty consequences for everyone on the island until the occupiers relented. The sitter in Schad’s painting has always looked to me like a prisoner of war and reading about Bornholm’s history supports my initial instinct; Schad might well have painted this portrait while staying there. Back home, I took the painting to a major auction house and left it with them for a few days. When I got it back there was a fleck of paint missing from the middle of the subject’s forehead. Thanks. And to add insult to injury, not much more than I paid for it was reckoned as its sale value.
Philistines; that’s the last time I do that.