Archive for the ‘Special Collections’ Category

Barse Miller WW2 drawing

Thursday, July 29th, 2021

A work by one of the official artists in the War Art Program has now been acquired by the Military Collection. Barse Miller (1904-1973) was a member of the Southwest Pacific Art Unit serving under General Douglas MacArthur, the other artists being Sidney Simon and Frede Vidar.

The ink and watercolor sketch (8 x 11 inches) titled Air Raid Shelter, Tacloban Key depicts five civilians including an infant huddled together under a makeshift shelter at Tacloban Key located on Leyte Island in the Philippines. On the verso is a manuscript note in Miller’s hand written on November 3, 1944 which, while not alluding to the image, provides some context to the local situation:

Conference after breakfast with Gen. Sverdrup. Frede [Vidar] with me. He had hopes of advancing his idea of taking leave before the next operation. “Jack” Sverdrup looking well and all eager to get down the road to Dulac [Dulag] etc. wants to see all he can today and may have a little time to listen to our plans on his return tonight.

I “waded” across the rice paddys between G.H.Q. and 2nd GSB HQ on the beach. Shorter but sloppy will not do that again! Rochet [Lieut. Cortlandt Rochet Rosebro, Jr., USNR, commanding USS APc-6] took me up to the head of the bay where we have set up the maintenance POU [?]. Sixth army H.Q. next door and they both had a bad night or two. They are practically on the end of the nips bomber run over Tacloban Air Strip. Lots of business each night. “Raid” this afternoon resulted in the shooting down of another of our own planes. Makes 3 in two days. Japs are winning at that rate. Boys on the air strip plenty trigger happy.

At the end of the war, each official artist submitted their work to the War Department in Washington, D.C. where a committee reviewed the images and a small selection was returned to the artists for their own use. On the verso of this drawing is the ink stamp: Released to artist by the War Department.

General “Jack” Lief Sverdrup (1898-1976), a Norwegian-born American civil engineer and general with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was MacArthur’s Chief Engineer.

Colleville-Sur-Mer, June 8, 1944

Friday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Monday, 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

Friday, 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

Tuesday, 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.

A. R. Waud: an original drawing

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

A recent acquisition by the Military Collection is an original pencil and water-color sketch (20 x 23 cm.) depicting soldiers resting and drinking from a river. While it is unsigned, the drawing is in the style of Alfred R. Waud (1828-1891), the noted special artist for Harper’s Weekly during the Civil War. The picture appears not to have been published.

According to the dealer’s catalog entry, two mounted figures, identified as Union soldiers, stare tiredly into the distance while their horses refresh themselves; on the right a group of three seated men guzzle from their canteens. The perspective of the image looks upstream towards a range of hills. The purpose of the large wooden structures across the river is unknown.

The drawing is typical of the hastily-produced sketches drawn by special artists in the 19th century. Batches of sketches were folded and placed in envelopes to mail to the various newspapers where they were then re-drawn on wooden blocks for engraving and printing in the weekly papers. This example clearly bears the folds.

Black Ship Scroll

Friday, August 17th, 2018

A new addition to the Military Collection is a beautiful ink and water-color Japanese scroll on rice paper (338 x 26,2 cm) relating to the Perry Expedition. It is a pictorial record of the negotiation of the first American-Japanese Treaty of Kanagawa which was signed in Yokohama on March 31, 1854. The treaty was the result of Commodore Matthew Perry’s two naval expeditionary missions to Japan (July 1853 and February-March 1854), and effectively ended 220-years of Japan’s isolation from the western world. The negotiations lasted for almost a month, accompanied with the presentation of the gifts from the American President to the Japanese Emperor and vice versa, contests by sumo wrestlers, drills of American marines, banquets and many other activities between the Americans and the Japanese. After the Treaty was signed Perry and his ships cruised in the Edo Bay and departed for Simoda on April 11-18, 1854.

The scroll consists of four sections beginning with full-length portraits of ten members of the American delegation, including Commodore Perry himself, marines in their respective uniforms and the Chinese translator Luo Sen; the captions next to each figure read: Amerika Koku Jokan no Shin Zo (“True image of an American Superior Officer”); Do Heishi Gashira no Zo (“Image of American Chief Soldier”); Do Shiki Yaku (“American Commanding Officer”); Do Heishi (“American Soldier”); Seijin Gakukan (“Chinese Scholar Officer”); Amerika tai Gungaku Kan (“American Military Music Officer”); Migi Onaji (“Same as the one to the right”); Do Taiho Shi (“American Cannon Soldier”); Do Gekan Kokui (“American Black man- Lower Officer”); Do Suihu (“American Sailor”).

The second scene is titled “Kaei 7 Kinoe Tora Toshi Ni Gatsu To Ka Oite Yokohama Kan Amerika Koku Kyowa Seiji no Shisetsu Osetsu Joriku no Zu” (“A View of Reception of the Envoy of American Republican Government Landing at Yokohama in 1854”). The watercolour shows the Americans disembarking at Kanagawa on March 8, 1854 for the first day of negotiations with nine “black ships” in the background. Seven boats with American flags are landing at the shore, American marines are lined up in front of the specially constructed “Treaty House”, as Perry and his retinue with an American flag walk to meet the Japanese commissioners. He is preceded with a group of Japanese officials leading him to the negotiation buildings.

The third section titled “Oite Yokohama Taihei Shintai Henka no Zu” (“Picture of troops’ manoeuvres in Yokohama”) shows the American marines during drills performed for the Japanese on March 24. The final scene shows a group of sumo wrestlers tossing bales of rice (entertainment arranged by the Japanese on March 24, 1854, when the presents from the Emperor were handed to the Americans), and the miniature railway in action, which had been presented by the Americans to the Japanese Emperor on March 13. The captions to the scenes read: “Gotoukei Kakushina no Uchi Komedawara 200 Hyo Rikishi Unso no Zu” (“Picture of sumo wrestlers carrying 200 straw bags with rice which are one of our gifts”) and “Kenko Karin Sharyo Shi Zu” (“Picture of the trial of the engine train which was presented”).

This scroll complements our panorama of 12 original water-colors depicting scenes from the Perry Expedition. The curator would like to acknowledge the help of Eric Waschke of The Wayfarer’s Bookshop for providing the description of the scroll.

Parker Bros panorama of the Indian Massacre, etc.

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

A recent acquisition is a broadside flyer (10 1/2 x 14 in.) advertising an entertainment including ‘Culver’s Panorama of the Indian Massacre in Minnesota, the Modoc War in the Far West and the recent outbreak under Sitting Bull’. The flyer notes ‘the hardships of the pioneer, the desperation of the Indian, and the terrible issue of that great tragedy, the Sioux massacre, and the execution of its fiendish perpetrators. It is a show grand and graphic in outline, complete in detail, yet inoffensive to the most delicate’, and has a ‘synopsis of the programme’ listing various scenes including the ‘shooting of Jones and Baker’, ‘Settlers fighting the Indians’, ‘Negro Goodfrey’,  and ‘Custer’s conflict’. The show involved ‘three changes of canvas during which time the Parker Bro’s, assisted by the company, will appear in their character songs and sketches representing Irish, Dutch and Negro characters, in which they are seldom equaled’.

The item clearly postdates the Modoc War of 1873 and Black Hills Expedition of 1876. A variation of the flyer bears the penciled date of 1882-1883. Little can be found for the Parker Brothers although one source lists them as the Parker Brothers Theatre Company. A search of nineteenth century newspapers also failed to locate any mention of the entertainment nor the impresarios. Similarly, no information was found for Culver’s Panorama. It is unclear therefore where these shows were held.

Camp at Zoola, Abyssinia, 1868

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

A recent acquisition is a three-part albumen-print panorama (18.9 x 77.5 cm.) on the original thin card mount with printed series caption: ‘Abyssinia’ at the top and individual title: ‘Camp at Zoola’ and date ‘1868’ below.

150 years ago, the British Empire went to war against the Ethiopian emperor Tewodros II (Theodore) under the pretext of the latter’s imprisoning of several Europeans including the British consul. The short-lived expedition ended with the death of Theodore by his own hand and the destruction of his capital at Magdala in the Ethiopian highlands. The expedition involved 13,000 men and a journey of 400 miles. In addition were 26,000 camp followers and over 40,000 animals including elephants, and the task of coordinating this massive effort went to the Bombay Army under the command of General Sir Robert Napier. It involved an immense amount of supplies and equipment and some sense of the scale can be gleaned from this photograph which was taken by a photographic unit of the Royal Engineers which accompanied the force.

Zoola [Zula] close to the Red Sea coast, was selected for the construction of a base camp to enable the troops and supplies to be landed. Nearby at Annesley Bay, a 700 yards-long pier was constructed in October 1867 (visible in the water-color by William Simpson, the artist for the Illustrated London News who covered the campaign); a second one was added and a railway line laid requiring the erection of 8 iron girder bridges. A road stretching 63 miles was also built by the Royal Engineers. ‘The demand for water was enormous, the Zoola camp using 200 tons a day, which was created using condensation from steamship boilers in the harbour’ (Wikipedia). According to James R. Ryan’s book Photography and the Visualization of the British Empire (1997), the photograph ‘shows the vast technical machinery, from the railway to the stacks of camp equipment, on which the expedition depended’. This includes piles of chairs, wooden crates, barrels, lines of horses, tents, and various sundry bundles tied with rope. British soldiers are seen commanding civilian workers including Indians. On the left horizon, a large timber-framed building is under constriction.