V.E. Day, Paris, May 8, 1945

May 8th, 2020

Seventy-five years ago today, much of the western world celebrated the end of World War Two in Europe. On the previous day, the German high command had surrendered to General Eisenhower in a small third floor room in the bombed city of Reims. When the news broke, cities like Paris exploded in jubilation. Huge crowds thronged the city center in a vast sea of humanity. Waving Allied flags, they danced, hugged, kissed, wept and drank as they moved along the boulevards. ‘La guerre est finie! La guerre est finie!’ they shouted. One observer recalled: ‘On the Champs Elysees they were singing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” [an allusion to the old British World War One song] … in the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe in the Place l’Etoile, there was hardly any place to breath and no place to move’.

Mixing with the Parisians were thousands of British and French and American servicemen and women. One American GI who witnessed the celebrations was Sergeant Ardis Hughes, a talented artist who was there in his capacity as an artist. He had done his basic training at Fort Belvoir, VA, where he joined the art program creating murals. Following this, he was sent to Washington to create posters. Hughes had been in France since April sketching in La Havre and the capital, but nothing prepared him for what he witnessed on May 8. He tried to capture his experiences in a number of paintings and drawings.

Twenty years ago, Ardis visited the Military Collection at Brown University Library and donated close to one hundred original sketches, drawings and paintings done by him during the war. Among the pictures were these three fine watercolors which evoke the moments when the crowds gathered. We see women riding on a jeep near the Arc de Triomphe, part of the victory parade with flags and confetti raining down near a sidewalk cafe, and the nighttime celebrations at the Arc with flags and fireworks.

British cavalryman riding past St. Marylebone Parish Church

April 18th, 2020

In the Military Collection is a rather interesting watercolor measuring 32 x 45 cm. depicting a soldier riding past a church. Until recently, it was cataloged as just that: ‘British Cavalryman riding by Church, circa 1820’.

However, a recent examination of this picture as part of the digital curation of the archive revealed that the church is in fact St. Marylebone Parish Church situated on the Marylebone Road opposite John Nash’s York Gate entrance to The Regent’s Park, close to Madame Tussaud’s in London. This rather distinctive church with a Corinthian portico and eight columns dates from 1813-1817 and was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.

The figure represents a cavalryman wearing stable dress riding eastwards, and the watercolor was probably intended to show the relatively new church rather than the soldier who may have been included for scale.

Two Napoleonic Veterans

January 30th, 2020

The collection of 15 sepia photographs of veterans of the Napoleonic Wars is frequently sought after. Numerous articles have been written about this group of aged men, most of whom are still wearing their old uniforms. Some researchers have colorized digital versions of the images while others have attempted to explore the names of these old soldiers using the surname of each written on the verso in a modern hand. As to when Mrs. Brown acquired these pictures, there is no information on the dealer or provenance of these photographs. Until now, even the name of the photographer was unknown.

Recently, the Military Collection acquired two additional photographs of Napoleonic veterans, both hand-colored, but in both cases, the names of the sitters as well as information concerning the photographer appear on the images, and thanks to research conducted by a Belgian photographic historian, Wouter Lambrechts, it is now possible to attribute the complete set of photographs to a specific photographer.

Both pictures bear a partial address on the mount (4, Rue Frochot, Quartier St. George), and Lambrechts has identified this as the address of the studio of Erwin Hanfstaengl (1838-1904) also known as Erwin frères who occupied the premises in Paris from 1863. The paneling behind the portrait of Dorigny matches that on some of the other photographs; while the furniture which appears in the Bonneville photograph and several others appears also in some carte de visites taken by Hanfstaengl of civilians, which Lambrechts located (these are also now in the Military Collection).

Gratuitous violence: The cavalry prints of Daniel Ash

July 30th, 2019

The collection recently acquired three colored lithographs published by Daniel Ash to complement three existing prints in the same series that had been acquired in 1957 and 1958. They all depict members of various British cavalry regiments. There appear to be 14 total images in the series, each portraying a members of a different regiment, and they were published by Ash at his premises in Fetter Lane, London, between February 1826 and early 1827. Each measures approximately 19.5 x 17 cm. (7 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches).

Such uniform prints were commonplace in the decades after the Battle of Waterloo as uniforms became more impressive and flamboyant, and this group are not unlike many similar images. The one significant difference is the gruesome violence that the artist has each soldier committing upon an unidentified enemy (probably intended to represent French cavalry even though the wars with that nation had been over for a decade or so). With expressions of nonchalance, the cavalrymen slice, cut, chop and decapitate their foes. The 9th Lancer drives his lance straight through his victim, while the 15th Lancer cuts off the hand of one assailant while slicing the head of another. A similar fate has befallen the soldier facing the 11th Light Dragoon, while the 12th Lancer, the 4th Dragoon Guard and the 17th Light Dragoon have managed to behead their enemy.

While such violence was to be expected on the battlefields of the 19th century with close hand-to-hand combat, depicting it for commercial purposes is another matter, and it is hard to fathom what the attraction of such prints might have been beyond the representation of particular regiments in their moment of valor. Each plate is almost in a cartoon manner and perhaps was not intended to be taken seriously.

Fallen Leaves from a Foreign Country

July 19th, 2019

A new addition to the growing collection of books, etc on the expedition of Admiral Perry to Japan between 1853 and 1854, is a rare Japanese account published in 1854, shortly after the signing of the Kanagawa Treaty (March 31, 1854) which opened the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate for American vessels. The description of the events is written by an anonymous author (the preface is signed by one “Ingakudo”), and contains colorful illustrations, including a map of the Edo Bay (with the new coastal fortifications, including the Odaiba Islands which were erected after Perry’s first landing in July 1853), an American steam engine, presents from the Americans to the Japanese Emperor, a map of North America and the Caribbean, eight portraits – four shoulder-length of Matthew Perry, his son Lt. Oliver Hazard Perry II (1825-79), who acted as his secretary, Commander Henry A. Adams (Perry’s chief of staff), and an American naval officer; and four full-length of the American soldiers; and four images of details of American uniform, drums, trumpets, a sable, and a picture of a “Black ship” (possibly, USS “Mississippi”). The account ends with the Japanese translation of Commodore Perry’s message to the Japanese Emperor. The illustrations signed by “Miki Kosai” were executed by a talented Japanese artist and engraver named Utagawa Yoshimori. The book is considered one of “the rarest and finest of the printed books devoted to Perry in Japan, 1853-54″ (Foreigners in Early Japan: Paintings, Prints, Books; Including a Remarkable Perry Scroll and Scroll of Russians in Japan, 1853-1855. Dawson’s Book Shop, Los Angeles 1966-1969, Catalogue 354, Lot 154)
Read the rest of this entry »

Colleville-Sur-Mer, June 8, 1944

May 17th, 2019

Alexander P. Russo (born 1922 in New Jersey) enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve in 1942 after studying art at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. Though he began his service as an apprentice seaman, his artistic talent was quickly recognized, and he was transferred to the US Navy Recruiting Bureau in White Plains, NY, where he worked as a Navy artist. After a year or so of illustrating naval publications, Russo sought a more exciting assignment and was tasked with making shoreline sketches of Sicily for use by the assault forces of the Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet. He then was sent with a Naval Task Force to London to serve aboard a landing craft during the D-Day Invasion, which he captured in a series of sketches and later translated to finished paintings.

After reaching shore on the following day (D-Day plus 2), Russo continued his sketches of beach activity and views of neighboring towns, including Colleville-Sur-Met and Verville-Sur-Mer, which he likely visited on June 8, 1944 (note the “D+3” inscription at the bottom left). Following the war, Russo was awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships, one of which was for his depictions of the D-Day ivasion. He continued to work as an artist and teacher in New York and the Washington, DC area until his retirement in 1990. His work is widely collected, and the Navy Art Collection contains over 84 of Russo’s World War II watercolor sketches.

Departure of the 6th Regiment for the Frontier

February 20th, 2019

A recent addition to the Military Collection is an intriguing water-color dating from around 1850. It depicts soldiers marching to the left with a group of officers behind them saying their goodbyes to their sweethearts. There are various speech bubbles, from a soldier saying ‘I say Bill, did you cock my eye, I remember such a go’, to an NCO behind him saying ‘No talking Jones if you please’. The ladies and their officers are being more romantic: a lady with her arms raised says ‘Good bye my love, make haste good bye’; a kneeling officer says to his lady ‘Friend of my soul, think of me when I am far away, and promise to write to me often’. Another exclaims ‘Say my dearest that you love me and I will follow you to the Frontier’. An officer says to a girl seeking a memento, ‘Spare but a part of my locks as you have taken all of my whiskers’. On the right a mounted officer says ‘Come Peter and Edward we must fall in so take a last farewell and come on’.

It is likely that it was drawn by an officer in the regiment with the speech bubbles referred to in jokes. The uniforms have blue facings which were changed from yellow when they became a Royal Regiment in 1832. The also look to be wearing Albert Shakos with a peak to the front and back. It was introduced in 1844 and in use until 1878.

The regiment took part in the 7th and 8th Xhosa Wars (1846 – 1853) in South Africa and also fought in India in 1857. The picture almost certainly refers to the Eastern Frontier of the Cape Colony, and it was likely painted in Cape Town in May 1850 when the the regiment embarked for King Williams Town, the center for frontier operations, after some months in the city.

The artist was probably Lieutenant Robert Provo Norris of the 6th Regiment, who was killed on the Frontier on October 14th, 1851 after he was shot through the abdomen as he lead his men into battle near the edge of a deep ravine. The image and hand-writing match similar works and letters in Norris’s archive which is in the Yale Center for British Art. An amateur artist, he seems to have had difficulty drawing figures from the front, hence many of them are in profile.

[Source: Sean Clarke, Christopher Clarke (Antiques) Ltd; Elisabeth Fairman, Yale Center for British Art]

Portrait of Tuskegee Airman

January 7th, 2019

A portrait of a Tuskegee Airman has recently been acquired by the Military Collection. The chalk on board portrait measuring 30 x 23 cm. depicts an unidentified fighter or bomber pilot from the period of World War II. While the sitter has not been identified nor his unit, it is probable that he would have served in one of the squadrons collectively known as the Tuskegee Airmen, as the American military was still segregated at that time.

All African-American aviators during World War II trained at Moton Field, the Tuskegee Army Air Field at Tuskegee, Alabama, and were educated at the Tuskegee Institute. According to the dealer’s catalog, ‘the portrait bears some resemblance to Dudley M. Glasse, a Tuskegee pilot from New York, but exact identification remains elusive at this time. Regardless of his name, the portrait created in his likeness stands as a proud reminder of African-American military service and sacrifice during a time when young African-American men and women were still denied basic civil rights, and the military which they served still thought less of them’.

The drawing was likely executed shortly after the war by a skilled artist who captures a very dignified image of the soldier.

This item complements a collection of 25 original photographs of members of the Tuskegee Airmen and related scenes donated to the Military Collection several years ago by a veteran of the unit.

Join the WAC

December 7th, 2018

A recent addition to the Military Collection is a poster dating from World War Two. It solicits American women to join the WAC, the initials of the Women’s Army Corps. The image is a reproduction of a painting (signed by Spector?) and depicts a member of the WAC seated on a cot, writing on her typewriter. As the subtitle states, “…this is my war, too.”

Beneath the image is a line of text that reads: “This poster contributed to the WAC by Wamsutta Mills, New Bedford, Mass.” According to the history of Wamsutta Mills, during World War One, the Mills produced woven balloon cloth and gas mask fabric.When America went to war again in 1941, balloon cloth was once more manufactured for observation and barrage balloons, but it also “wove thousands and thousands of yards of fine poplin for uniforms as well, and lighter fabrics for powder bags, camouflage purposes, and ponchos…the war contribution of the mills was one of the important technical accomplishments which helped to make up American supremacy in matching urgent problems with immediate practical solutions.”

According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, “over 150,000 American women served in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War Two, being the first women other than nurses to serve in the ranks of the United States Army. Both the Army and the public initially had difficulty accepting the concept of women in uniform in uniform. However, political and military leaders, faced with fighting a two-front war and supplying men and materiel for that war while continuing to send lend-lease material to the Allies, realized that women could supply the additional resources so desperately needed in the military and industrial sectors. Given the opportunity to make a major contribution to the national war effort, women seized it. By the end of the war their contributions would be widely heralded.”

Japanese plan of the first Russian settlement on Sakhalin Island

October 23rd, 2018

A recent addition to the Military Collection is an original manuscript plan of Fort Muravyovsky (now the town of Korsakov in Southern Sakhalin). This was the first Russian trading post on Sakhalin Island. It was founded by a Russian navigator and explorer, Gennady Nevelskoy in 1853 and erected on the site of the Ainu village in southern Sakhalin on the shore of the Salmon Inlet of the Aniva Bay.

Dating from around 1859, this plan (54 x 75 cm) is drawn in black ink on rice paper, hand colored in yellow, red, black, and grey. There is extensive text in Japanese on the right and left margins as well as captions above most of the objects, detailing the location of the fort, the story of its foundation, features of the buildings and the amount of weapons. There is also a note that the Russians trade with the “Santan jin” people (Tungus-speaking tribes from the Far East mainland) who travel to Karafuto (Sakhalin).

According to the dealer’s note, the plan states that it was copied in Ansei 6 (October 1859) from the original sheet drawn in Kaei 6 (September 1853), i.e. shortly after the construction of the fort. It depicts a rectangular fort with two watch towers (each with a guard on top, one is mounted with a flag), tall fence and several buildings, including the commander’s house and the barracks. The inner yard houses two cannons and piles of coal; two small buildings outside the fort walls are the trade house and Russian banya (steam bath house, a fire is seen above the small chimney). The plan has an extensive explanatory text on the left and right margins.

The Wikipedia entry for Sakhalin states that this large island situated in the North Pacific was claimed by both Russia and Japan over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. These disputes often involved military conflict and divisions of the island between the two powers. In 1875, Japan ceded its claims to Russia in exchange for the northern Kuril Islands. Following the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, the island was divided, with the south going to Japan. Russia has held all of the island since seizing the Japanese portion—as well as all the Kuril Islands—in the final days of World War II in 1945.