A Riverside Picnic needs a crate of champagne

Harold PiffardThis is a detail from the painting “A Riverside Picnic,” by Harold Piffard and has been used as a front cover of D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rainbow” (Wordsworth Classics edition). They claim the image is courtesy of the Fine Art Photographic Library, London.

Harold Hume Piffard (1867 – 1938), an Indian born artist
was educated in England at Lancing College on the South coast. On leaving Lancing in 1883 he returned to India for a while  and worked on a Darjeeling tea plantation. He returned to England to pursue a career in theater and also joined an acrobatic troop.

Once again he traveled back to India in 1889, but that sojourn was short-lived and he returned to England once more. It was during this period that he entered the Royal Academy of Arts as a student. He became a successful portrait painter and he exhibited:

  • four works at the Royal Academy;
  • two works at the Royal Society of Artists in Birmingham; and
  • several works in Liverpool.

However, his talents did not stop there. Known as “Piff” to his friends, he became fascinated with aviation, showing an interest in designing and constructing model aeroplanes. It was at this point in 1910, that he built “Hummingbird,” a boxkite bi-plane.

Folklore relating to his aviation attempts suggests that he won a bet made with the landlord from a local pub.  The challenge was to fly his aeroplane over to collect the prize – a crate of champagne. The flight lasted 40 seconds but the turn he had to make to get back to his shed took him almost an hour and a half as there was no suitable ground to get a proper run for his return.

I bet he was truly “Piffed off“.

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