RJ Mitchell. A life in aviation.
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RJ Mitchell Statue at the Science Museum

A visually exciting, unique statue commissioned by the Sidney E Frank Foundation for the London Science Museum.

The statue is made of approximately 400,000 individual pieces of stacked Welsh slate and has taken over 2000 man hours to create

The artist Stephen Kettle, originally from Castle Bromwich, near the site where many Spitfires were built during the Second World War, now lives and works in West London. Stephen is a self-taught artist who has received no formal training or education in art which, he feels, leaves him free to express himself in the manner that he chooses. Stephen has followed his own artistic path working with what is technically called argillaceous metamorphic rock (slate). Metamorphism means "changed form" and presenting slate in a further changed form offers real truth to his subjects, he believes.

Photo of RJ Mitchell statue from the side - Click to enlarge Photo of RJ Mitchell statue from the front - Click to enlarge Photo of RJ Mitchell statue close up - Click to enlarge
Photographs showing the completed statue at the artist's studio in west London (click photos to enlarge)

Working closely with RJ Mitchell's only son, Dr Gordon Mitchell now aged 85, Stephen has captured an astonishing likeness, physical and spiritual presence, portraying RJ Mitchell standing at a drawing board in the summer of 1936. His shirt sleeves pushed up showing us the "hands on" designer that he most certainly was and carrying the expression one would expect of a man given the task of designing Britain's frontline fighter aircraft for the RAF.

Stephen has paid great attention to detail whilst maintaining artistic integrity with the drawing board also being constructed entirely from slate. The board has a carved reproduction of the first complete official Supermarine drawing made of the prototype Spitfire K5054 as it was actually built .The drawing was made in June 1936, three months after the prototype Spitfire first flew. It incorporates all the alterations made to the original designs. The K5054 was the only Spitfire RJ Mitchell ever saw, before he died of cancer a year later in June 1937.

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