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BLOG | November 26 2020

The Art of Balloons

Balloons, balloons, balloons! So much meaning, history and significance in one little object!

When we think of flying objects in art we might not put balloons at the top of our list. However, as we enter the final month of the year and endure ever earlier dark evenings (in the northern hemisphere at least!), what better time to explore these colourful bursts of fun!

Balloons have been a source of fascination for people young and old for a very long time. From the simplest air-filled toy balloon on a string, to the huge, beautiful balloons employed in the first attempts to fly, there is something romantic, playful, and prepossessing about them.

Below you will find 5 of our favourite examples of balloons in art!

Balloons for fun!

Balloons grab attention with their colourful and carefree characteristics. Often associated with the fun and innocence of children, we love this depiction by Alexander Millar!

Alexander Millar, Hopes and Dreams, contemporary, private collection. Artist’s website.

Balloons for transportation

The Montgolfier brothers pioneered balloon flight with the first flight occurring in 1783. The pilots took off from Paris in a balloon made of silk and paper. They traveled around five miles, hand-feeding a fire to keep the balloon aloft. The first hydrogen balloon took off in the same year, also from Paris. This would have been a momentous occasion: the equivalent of the first rocket launch into space! These balloons, captured in art, remind us of the excitement that something so new can generate.

Antonio Carnicero, Ascent of a Montgolfier Balloon at Aranjuez, c.1784, Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

Balloons for loss

Something about balloons speaks of loss. It isn’t only the physical loss when we let them go by mistake and watch them float away, it’s the idea that balloons can represent a loss of innocence, or a loss of life itself. These ideas revolve around themes of fragility and transience, encapsulated perfectly by a small, delicate object that is there one moment and gone the next. This image by Banksy captures this beautifully and simply.

Banksy, Girl with Balloon, 2004, London, UK.

Balloons for danger

In the 1900s airships were invented, with Von Zeppelin launching the first large commercial airliner in the 1930s. These were also filled with hydrogen gas, and could travel as far as three hundred miles a day. The famous Hindenburg was built in Germany in 1936.

The story of the Hindenburg was made famous by the fact that after it caught fire while attempting to dock, it burned up in less than a minute. The accident killed almost half of the people on board.

Sven Sauer, The Hindenburg Burning, c. 2015. Art Station.

Ballons for transformation

Balloon animals are a typically associated with children’s parties, but Jeff Koons takes this to a new level, presenting them on a huge scale. The viewer sees a light and fragile sculpture because of everything that our experience tells us about them. However, in reality, the dog is made from polished, color-coated stainless steel and it stands over three metres tall!

You’ll never look at a balloon the same way again! There really is so much potential meaning and varying significance in one little object!

Thanks to the Daily Art Magazine for this shot of inspiration! For more incredible representations of balloons in art, please see the original article here.