An Aeroplane: View from the Compound

An Aeroplane: View from the Compound, Alexandra Palace Civil Internment Camp, Rudolf Helmut Sauter, 1918, Oil on panel, 27.5 x 35.4 cm. © Imperial War Museum

An Aeroplane: View from the Compound, Alexandra Palace Civil Internment Camp, Rudolf Helmut Sauter, 1918, Oil on panel, 27.5 x 35.4 cm. © Imperial War Museum

Painted in 1918, during the First World War, this impressionistic, almost Fauvist, painting depicts the view from Alexandra Palace.  A German artist who studied in London and Munich, Sauter was confined to Alexandra Palace between 1918 and 1919 while the building and grounds were used as an internment camp for German and Austrian civilians.  German and Austrian men of fighting age residing in Britain, were arrested by the British Government and detained in Alexandra Palace between 1915 and 1919.

Presenting an unexpected opportunity for the Editors of visit1862 to join in the commemorations of the centenary of the beginning of World War One, this painting also reveals more of the hidden layers of Alexandra Palace’s history.  Not only was it initially built with the materials recycled from the 1862 International Exhibition building (see Picnic at the Palace), but it was also burnt down and rebuilt several times, used as a transmission centre by the BBC, destroyed by further fire and used as an internment camp during the First World War.

These many historical layers therefore this building with meaning and significance, even if the mists of time often obscure this narrative, much like the smudged and foggy reflections on reality Sauter made while imprisoned within its confines.  However, helping us to reflect on the many alternative stories and experiences which visitors to Alexandra Palace have had, this painting serves as an exciting reminder that because experience is never static, historical sites always have multiple stories to tell – both corporal and individual.

 

© Helen Cresswell and Ruth Mason, 2014

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