Albert Rubin, 1887 - 1956
Portrait of a WW I Allied Aviator in Flying Dress wearing a Leather Coat and leather Flying Cap
Portrait of a WW I Allied Aviator in Flying Dress
5th June 1918

"A Rubin /1918"

oil on canvas
20 x 16.1/2 in. (51 x 42 cm.)


According to Ewen Cameron , Ian Thirsk & Vernon Creek from the Royal Air Force Museum , The Flying Coat is probably British, although the not standard issue British helmet or coat but there was so much private purchase of flying kit being used at this time. The coat is a similar design to a fabric example The RAF Musuem has in the collection. By 1918, The Germans were finding it very hard to rub two bits of leather together ! , so it is unlikely that the subject of the portrait is German , most likley British Allied or Commonwealth, probably Royal Flying Corps or Royal Naval Air Service.

The readily available motoring apparel was the norm and could be obtained at reasonable cost. By the start of the War in 1914, developments by the Royal Aircraft Factory and British industry had provided more refined aircraft in which the pilot was contained more within the fuselage, rather than perched on a wicker seat and fully exposed to the elements. At this stage there was no formal issue of clothing specifically for flying but the military, with their wide experience of Army motor transport, had a range of readily available motoring garments which they offered to the newly formed Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service pilots. Thus, at the start of the war pilots were provided with a more formalised issue of motoring gear – weatherproof coats, goggles, gauntlets, leather boots etc. – all of which were worn over the uniform. Although pilots were able to use the military issue they were also at liberty to purchase their own clothing and commercial companies continued to develop their motoring clothing into more specialised flying clothing. Although both the RFC and the RNAS supplied clothing to their pilots and observers, there was the freedom to purchase from commercial suppliers which allowed the crews to incorporate individual needs from their London tailors . In the winter of 1916 the first significant stride was made to providing effective protection for the pilot and this arrived from the brain of Sidney Cotton, an RNAS pilot with No.8 Squadron. Cotton had been working on his own aircraft when a ‘scramble’ was called and he flew in his dirty overalls for an hour or so and upon landing found that, unlike his fellow pilots who were shivering from the cold, he was quite unaffected. Having thought through this effect, he realised that it was the oil and grease soaked into the overalls that had retained the body heat.
Picking up on the idea, he took leave and travelled to London, to Robinson & Cleaver, where he had a flying suit made for him to his design. The suit had three layers, a thin lining of fur, a layer of airproof silk, and an outside layer of light Burberry material, all made into a one-piece
suit, just like his overalls. Robinson & Cleaver were asked to register the design on behalf of Cotton and the flying suit took its name from the inventor and was called the Sidcot suit. By late 1917, tests had shown that the Sidcot Flying Suit No 5 was regarded by pilots as the most suitable for operational use. Consequently the manufacturers of the suit, Robinson & Cleaver, were asked to produce 250 suits per week, just fourteen days after the order. Deliveries were later expected to reach 1,000 per week just four weeks after the initial order. By December 1917 the orders for leather flying coats, some 3,000, were cancelled in favour of the Sidcot suit. This suit met virtually every requirement for protection against the primary threat, the cold, and was in service in a number of modified and development forms right through into WW2 and only ceased being used as closed cockpits, combined sometimes with cabin heating, became the norm in aircraft design.

World War I was the first time that aircraft were used on a large scale. Tethered observation balloons had already been employed in several wars, and would be used extensively for artillery spotting. Germany employed Zeppelins for reconnaissance over the North Sea and Baltic and also for strategic bombing raids over Britain and the Eastern Front. Aeroplanes were just coming into military use at the outset of the war. Initially, they were used mostly for reconnaissance. Pilots and engineers learned from experience, leading to the development of many specialized types, including fighters, bombers, and ground-attack aeroplanes. Ace fighter pilots were portrayed as modern knights, and many became popular heroes. The war also saw the appointment of high-ranking officers to direct the belligerent nations' air war effort. While the impact of aircraft on the course of war was mainly tactical rather than strategic, most important being direct cooperation with ground forces (especially ranging and correcting artillery fire) the first steps in the strategic roles of aircraft in future wars was also foreshadowed.

The surrender of the Russians and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, and the resulting release of troops from the Eastern Front gave the Germans a "last chance" of winning the war before the Americans could become effectively involved. This resulted in the last great German offensive of the war, the "Spring Offensive", which opened on 21 March. The main attack fell on the British front on the assumption that defeat of the British army would result in the surrender of the mutiny-weakened French.

In the air, the battle was marked by the carefully coordinated use of the Schlachtstaffeln or "battle flights", equipped with the light CL class two seaters built by the Halberstadt and Hannover firms, that had proved so effective in the German counter-attack in early October's Battle of Cambrai. The new German fighter aircraft, notably the Fokker D.VII, that might have revived German air superiority in time for this battle had not however reached the Jagdstaffeln in sufficient numbers, despite its own premier on the Western Front in the mid-Spring of 1918. As with several offensives on both sides, thorough planning and preparation led to initial success, and in fact to deeper penetration than had been achieved by either side since 1914. Many British airfields had to be abandoned to the advancing Germans in a new war of movement. Losses of aircraft and their crew were very heavy on both sides – especially to light anti-aircraft fire. However, by the time of the death of Manfred von Richthofen, the famed Red Baron, on 21 April, the great offensive had largely stalled. The new German fighters had still not arrived, and the British still held general air superiority.

The month of April 1918 began with the consolidation of the separate British RFC and RNAS air services into the Royal Air Force, the first independent air arm not subordinate to its national army or navy. By the end of April the new Fokker, Pfalz and Roland fighters had finally begun to replace the obsolescent equipment of the Jagdstaffeln, but this did not proceed with as much dispatch as it might have, due to increasing shortages of supplies on the side of the Central Powers, and many of the Jastas still flew Albatros D types at the time of the armistice. The rotary engined Fokker D.VIII and Siemens-Schuckert D.IV, as well as surviving Fokker Triplanes, suffered from poor reliability and shortened engine life due to the Voltol-based oil that was used to replace scarce castor oil – captured and salvaged Allied aircraft (especially Sopwith Camels) were scrounged, not only for engines and equipment, but even for their lubricants. Nonetheless, by September casualties in the RFC had reached the highest level since "Bloody April" – and the Allies were maintaining air superiority by weight of numbers rather than technical superiority.

1918, especially the second half of the year, also saw the United States increasingly involved. While American volunteers had been flying in Allied squadrons since the early years of the war, not until 1918 did all-American squadrons begin active operations. Technically America had fallen well behind the European powers in aviation, and no American designed types saw action, with the exception of the Curtiss flying boats. At first, the Americans were largely supplied with second-rate and obsolete aircraft, such as the Nieuport 28, Sopwith 1½ Strutter, and Dorand AR.2 types, and inexperienced American airmen stood little chance against their seasoned opponents. As numbers grew and equipment improved with the introduction of the twin-gun SPAD XIII as well as the Sopwith Camel and even the S.E. 5a into American service near the war's end, the Americans came to hold their own in the air; although casualties were heavy, as indeed were those of the French and British, in the last desperate fighting of the war. One of the French twin-seat reconnaissance aircraft used by the French and the USAAS, the Salmson 2.A2, was among the World War I-era aircraft to pioneer the use of "fixed" radial engines in military aircraft — the liquid-cooled radials designed by Georges Canton and Pierre Unné powered the 2.A2 aircraft, and were among the first "fixed" radial aircraft powerplants ever designed, and manufactured by the parent Société des Moteurs Salmson aircraft and automobile manufacturing firm, from 1908 to 1920.

Artist biography

Born July 10th 1887 in Sofia, Bulgaria, Albert had a brief education as he was removed from school and apprenticed to a cabinet maker, during his free time and with the consent of his employer he practiced his skill as a wood carver, alogside this he prepared numerous sketches and drawings. Professor Boris Schatz a friend of the family, noticed his talents and sponsored Alberts admission to the Sofia School of Fine Art. In 1907 the Bezalel of Academy of Art and design was founded in Jerusalem under the direction of Boris Schatz. Albert was one of 30 successful candidates who passed the entry examinatio, which was pen to young artists throughout europe. Abert and his family moved to Palestine where they stayed for 3 years, during his residence Albert specialized in Landscapes , Sculpture and Portraits.On his return to Europe Albert decided t o move to Paris. With very little money Albert became a street artist to hep him with his accomodation and living expenses, as soon as he was able he submitted his candidature for the Ecole des Beaux Arts and gained entry. Professor Fernand Cormon his course leader supported Alberts work and helped him secure a scholarship enabling to stay until 1916. Albert submited his work for the prestigious Prix de Rome which was only awardd to French Citizens, however Baron de Rothschild took an interest in his work and granted him a Scholarship.

Monsieur Bonneval one of the founders of the Athenee de France accepted Rubin into the society where he exhibited two poryraits of Sheikh Abbu Naddara. Rubin worked in advertising , creating work for 2 agencies Ehramm Loraine Publicity and Robert Krier, where he completed many decorative commissions for clients including a poster for the product "Saponite" displayed on the Paris Metro. He painted many portraits throughout his life in oil, pastel and crayon. He travelled widely and in particular Switzerland. He and his family survived the traumas of World War II in occupied France and was successfully able to evade incarceration and deportation by the Nazi's despite their Jewish background. After the war Rubin joined with other French Jewish artists and becae a founder of the "Association des Artistses Peintures et Sculpteurs Juifs de France".

He exhibited regulalry at the Salon D'Hiver ad the rand Palais in Paris, he was made a Laureate of the Salon des Artistes Francais.