The collection of paintings covers the history of aviation in South Africa from 1917 to about 1976, and at the same time, reflects some of the many changes that have taken place within Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape, a region important in the history of aviation in the sub-continent.
The 154 paintings and a number of drawings were published by Struikhof Publishers in 1989 in “A Portrait of Military Aviation in South Africa” by Ron Belling, who was both author and artist.
Gutsche Family Investments now preserve the collection as part of the cultural heritage of this city.
The paintings resulted from many years of research, extensive photographic recording, field sketching and flying with the South African Air Force by the artist. Throughout this time, he continued developing and refining the skills he required to work in this specialised field of painting, and the collection reflects this.
His challenge was to combine the difficult and divergent aspects of accurate historical representation, landscape, townscape, and seascape painting, the accurate portrayal of the drama of the weather, and then combine all these with technically exact illustrations of the aircraft, past and present.
Despite the technical demands of his subjects, Ron Belling was ever conscious of the overall artistic constraints of the overall artist constraints of aesthetics and compositional requirements in his pictures. Every aircraft is illustrated with exact engineering detail, serial and identification markings, and colour accuracy.
This information was a fundamental historical requirement in every painting and, in the course of his wide-ranging research, he became a leading international authority on aeronautics. His records, library, writings and supporting research material bear eloquent testimony to his professionalism.
Ron Belling was a modest person of many talents and with an almost obsessive interest in aeronautics which had started as a hobby when he was a young boy. With maturity, his knowledge expanded, and he became both an authority and a painter with a driving passion.