Charles A.A. Dellschau. Aeros. 1899-1922.
In the fall of 1899, Charles Dellschau (1830-1923), a retired butcher living in Houston, embarked on a project that would occupy him for more than twenty years, resulting in twelve large, hand-bound books with more than 2,500 drawings related to airships and the development of flight. Dellschau used watercolour, collage and pencil to create a fleet of craft resembling hot air balloons augmented with fantastical details and text.
His work was in large part a record of the activities of the Sonora Aero Club, of which he was a purported member. Dellschau’s writings describe the club as a secret group of flight enthusiasts who met at Sonora, California in the mid-19th century. One of the members had discovered the formula for an anti-gravity fuel he called “NB Gas.” Their mission was to design and build the first navigable aircraft using the NB Gas for lift and propulsion. Dellschau called these flying machines “Aeros”. According to a coded story hidden throughout the drawings which made up his notebooks, the Sonora Aero Club was a branch of a larger secret society known only as NYMZA. Despite exhaustive research, nothing has been found to substantiate the existence of the group. It is speculated that, like Henry Darger’s “Realms of the Unreal”, the Sonora Aero Club is a fiction by Dellschau.
After the artist’s death in 1923, the books were stored in the attic of the family home in Texas where they remained until being discovered in the aftermath of a fire in the 1960s. Like the eccentric outpourings of Adolf Wölfli, Darger and Achilles Rizzoli, these private works were not created for the art world, but to satisfy a driving internal creative force. Dellschau is now considered one of the earliest self taught visionary artists in America, and his work has been shown alongside the likes of Da Vinci. (S. Romano, Wiki)