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The Winter Art Show

June 2024
1min read

Barrage balloons are so much a fixture of embattled London that it is rather startling to see a skyful of them floating above Los Angeles, but in 1942, when the Minnesota-born artist John Haley painted this watercolor, Angelenos had plenty of reason to worry about aerial attack. In fact, on February 24, they actually thought it was happening. The city’s defenses pumped 1,440 rounds of antiaircraft shells into the night skies, evidently at absolutely nothing.

 
collection of terry and eva herndon 1993_8_92-93

Barrage balloons are so much a fixture of embattled London that it is rather startling to see a skyful of them floating above Los Angeles, but in 1942, when the Minnesota-born artist John Haley painted this watercolor, Angelenos had plenty of reason to worry about aerial attack. In fact, on February 24, they actually thought it was happening. The city’s defenses pumped 1,440 rounds of antiaircraft shells into the night skies, evidently at absolutely nothing. (The incident provides the framework for 1941 , which, dollar for dollar, must be one of the half-dozen worst movies ever made.) Wendell Willkie, recently back from London, told Californians that when the real thing came along, “you won’t have to argue about it—you’ll just know.” Haley’s painting is part of an imaginative show on the automobile in American life that has a few weeks left to run at the Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington, Massachusetts.

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