Object for August – The Kite Flyer, Thomas Gayer Anderson

Thomas Gayer-Anderson was a gifted artist who worked in a range of media, including sculpture. At Little Hall he created a studio within a first floor room of the house, and a workshop within the garden. It was probably within the latter that he made a model in clay, of a naked boy, to which he gave the title, “The kite flyer”.  Subsequently a mould was made from the model and a statuette was cast in bronze.

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Left. Bronze figure of “The “Kite Flyer” by Thomas Gayer-Anderson.

The Kite Flyer depicts the twisting torso of the boy as he looks back skyward toward a none existant kite.  The fist of his right hand is clenched as if holding on to a line attached to a kite in the air. His outstretched left arm reaches to the sky, again as if holding a line. The boy’s body, which is somewhat chubby, has similarities in style to the puttie depicted in Italian Renaissance art.

The spectacle of multicoloured kites soaring into the air, and the often animated faces of their owners, has in the past appealed to Asian and European artists alike. In a work by the 17th century Dutch artist Nicolaes Maes, a boy, a joyous expression on his face, runs as his kite soars  above him. A print by the 18th century Japanese artist  Suzuki Harunobu, depicts a standing courtesan holding her well behaved kite.  A 19th century Indian watercolour painting, in the “British East India Company” style, portrays numerous kites ascending into the air.

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Right. Kite Flying by Suzuki Harunobu, 1766, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Kite flying as a subject obviously, as it had to many artists before him, appealed to Thomas.  It is possible that while serving in India he witnessed a mass kite flying performance. Such performances are often held during Hindu religious festivals. He may well have studied the history of the Kite, images of which are depicted in Indonesian cave paintings dating from the 10th century BC. The type of kite shown in the wall paintings is called a kaghati, which are still seen in Indonesia today. However, the kite has been claimed as an invention of a 5th-century BC Chinese philosopher. In its simplest form the kite consist of fabric, originally silk, stretched over a light frame of rods. Chinese kites were often decorated with mythological motifs and legendary figures; some were fitted with strings and whistles to make musical sounds while they were flying.

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Mass kite flying at an Indian festival, “British East India Company” style

Thomas’s model would be prepared for casting using the lost wax process. Though the process originated thousands of years ago it continues to be used today.

A plaster mould, made in two halves, would have been cast around the clay model. When the plaster was dry the clay would be removed from the mould and the two plaster halves joined together.  Liquid wax would then be poured into the mould producing a solid wax figure. Plaster was then built up around the figure to create a single mould.

In the final process the mould with the wax figure within it would be heated and the liquid wax then poured out.  The bronze, an amalgam of copper and tin, was then heated to 1000 degrees c and poured into the mould. Once cooled the plaster would be broken away and the bronze figure of “The Kite Flyer” released. It would then be cleaned and any imperfections removed. The distinct brown colouration or patina, so typical of bronze, would then have been created using acid and wax. Today the Kite flyer” is displayed in the Library at Little Hall.

Michael Sutherill
Curator, Little Hall
August 2020

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