There is something romantic and exciting about vintage hot air balloon art prints. I think because it was the birth of air travel.
This is a carefully curated collection of vintage hot air balloon drawings and prints. The collection includes beautiful painted French postcards of the earliest hot air balloons and airships.
Airships are a type of hot air balloon that can be propelled through the air rather than simply drifting with the wind.
I wrongly assumed that hot air balloons were part of the Jules Verne novel about Phileas Fogg’s journey around the world in eighty days. I have since found out that it is a common myth.
Jules Verne, however, did write a series of books about characters traveling around Africa in a hot air balloon. The first of which was called “Five Weeks In A Balloon“ published in 1863.
History of Hot Air Balloons
The hot air balloon is the first successful form of flight transport of people. The first hot air balloon flights were tethered by a rope. It wasn’t until 1783 the first untethered manned hot air balloon flight was performed by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes.
This inaugural flight took place in Paris, France, in a balloon designed by the Montgolfier brothers.
Like the infamous monkeys in space, animals (sheep duck and a rooster) were used as “guinea pigs” for the first manned hot air balloon flights.
Not just for safety reasons, but also to test the effects of altitude on the creatures. As the duck and the rooster could already fly, they were the control animals in the first test flight.
How Hot Air Balloons Work
Hot air balloons work on the principle that heated air has a lower density than cold air.
They are lighter than air aircraft with an envelope (a balloon) which contains the heated air. Suspended beneath the envelope is a basket for carrying people in.
A burner creates heat, which travels up into the balloon and causes it to be buoyant. There is a vent at the top of the balloon that allows the pilot control over ascent and descent.
The Vintage Hot Air Balloon Art
All the following hot air balloon prints, illustrations, art and drawings are in the Public Domain, so they are copyright free.
To download the image that you want, simply click on the title above it. A higher resolution image will open in a new window on your browser. Click on that image to save or print it.
1909 Watercolour French Postcards
The first set of vintage hot air balloon art prints are from a collection of vintage French postcards in a 1909 scrapbook titled “Album Gravures et Cartes-Postales: Vieux Paris Types Petits Métiers et Cris De La Rue (1909). “
All the watercolour paintings are by the artist A. Molynk.
A watercolour postcard featuring a hand-drawn illustrated depiction of French politicians Léon Gambetta and Eugène Spuller fleeing Paris via hot air balloon during the Franco-Prussian War. The actual date of this flight was the 7th of October 1870.
Postcard featuring a hand-drawn illustrated depiction of the hot air balloon in the style of a sphere with a passenger basket underneath.
This illustration depicts the first flight of a gas-air balloon on December 1, 1783, by French brothers Anne-Jean Robert and Nicolas-Louis Robert and French inventor Jacques Alexandre César Charles.
A vintage hot air balloon art print showing the first successful public hot air balloon demonstration on June 4, 1783, by French brothers Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier.
Postcard featuring a hand-drawn illustrated depiction of a flying airship with assorted propulsion mechanisms and a French flag.
The illustration depicts a type of airship flown by French chemist and politician Louis-Bernard Guyton de Morveau in 1784.
Vintage hot air balloon illustration in the style of an airship with a sail and oars for steering. The design of the balloon is credited to “Guyot”.
Postcard featuring a hand-drawn illustrated depiction of a navigable hot air balloon designed by aeronaut Ferdinand Lagleize in the style of a fish. 1850.
Postcard featuring a hand-drawn illustrated depiction of the hot air balloon Le Géant (The Giant) flown by French photographer and journalist Gaspard-Félix Tournachon.
A proponent of manned flight, Tournachon commissioned the prominent balloonist Eugène Godard to construct Le Géant in 1863.
The other Vintage Hot Air Balloon Art Prints
A political cartoon showing a large balloon flying over a town crowded with people. Coloured etching by James Gillray. From the Welcome Collection.
A vintage art print shows the balloon of Francesco Orlandi, ascending over the public gardens of Bologna, Italy, on November 6, 1828.
Another hot air balloon illustration from an Italian political publication 1878.
Another vintage hot air balloon art print from the Welcome collection. The caption says people are flying hot-air balloons, all have baskets and one has wings attached. Coloured engraving by Garner.
Another vintage hot air balloon print from the Welcome Collection. This one shows three hot air balloons over a snowy landscape.
“Newest invention – an air balloon being piloted by eagles 1801”. Blue and yellow striped air balloon is being piloted by a man steering two harnessed birds.
A vintage hot air balloon art print labelled “H. Lachambre,” with two men riding in the basket. Poster possibly advertising a balloon manufactured by Henri Lachambre whose facility was located in Vaugirard, a section of Paris, France.
A print showing Jacques Alexandre César Charles and Nicolas-Louis Robert riding in the gondola of a balloon ascending from the Tuileries Garden, Paris, France, December 1, 1783, in the first hydrogen balloon flight.
A captive balloon with a clock face and bell, floating above the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France. From the Library of Congress collection.
Another hot air balloon etching from the Library of Congress collection. Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville (1855), a group of five balloons tethered together with French flags.
A woodcut print of a hot air balloon in Japan by Miyagi Gengyo, 1860. From the collection at the Metropolitan Museum, New York.
There is a large collection of vintage Japanese illustrations on Pictureboxblue.
This is another print from the Library of Congress, 1900. The parachutes and trapeze artists remind me of those on the collection of circus posters.
Jean Francois Ganeray painting of the first manned hot-air balloon. The Montgolfier brothers take the tethers off at the garden of the Reveillon workshop, Paris, on October 19, 1783.
1786 description of the historic Montgolfier Brothers’ 1783 balloon flight. Illustration with engineering proportions and description.
From the Library of Congress. The writing on the card translates as “Hope crossing space will bring you my sweetest thoughts and my best wishes.”
You will find more vintage Valentine’s cards here.
23. Ariel Chateau
A Belgian poster shows an air station suspended by a captive balloon at the 1894 world’s fair in Antwerp, Belgium. Advertises Alfred Tobiansky d’Altoff’s patented device for moving passengers from a platform on the ground to the air station.
A vintage Italian poster which shows two men in a captive balloon labelled “Italia”; the uniformed man sits on the hoop, and the other stands in the basket waving a cloth.
A fun ink and graphite drawing of sixteen vignettes from the lives of French Hot Air Balloonists, Albert and Gastn Tissandier (1887).
The drawing shows preparation for a balloon ascension, view from the balloon, a landing at Chauvigny and deflation, and a discussion of the event at the dinner table at the Chateau de l’Odière.
A lovely birds eye view map of Paris with a hot air balloon. Coloured lithograph, 1846, by J. Arnout.
A vintage view of Paris, illustrating 4 different types of early hot air balloons.
The balloon to the right of the title is an early image of the hot air balloon flown by Joseph and Étienne Montgolfier.
The other images of hot air balloons are likely examples of early attempts at manned flight and maybe an early Montgolfier prototype (left of the title) and examples of early models by other hot air balloon pioneers.
A vintage Japanese woodblock print by Utagawa Yoshitora, 1867, titled “America: Enjoying Hot Air Balloons“
A vintage board game which shows a varied landscape and waterfront filled with 21 numbered balloons. The chart at the right illustrates 17 different combinations of numbers on a pair of dice.
An oil painting of hot air balloons titled “Fête de ballons au château de la Muette”, by Victor Philippe François Lemoine-Benoit, circa 1831-1850.
A vintage technical illustration showing early balloon designs: “Lana’s aeronautic machine,” “Montgolfiers’ balloon,” “Blanchard’s balloon,” “Garnerin ascending [and] descending” in his parachute, the “Charles & Roberts’ balloon” being inflated, the “form of the wings employed by Lunardi,” and the “form of the wings employed by Blanchard.“
If you liked these vintage illustrations then you will probably enjoy the collection of vintage airline posters.
You might like some of these other print collections.