Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ 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.

Propaganda of Ottoman atrocities: A Case of Official Censorship

Friday, February 26th, 2021

Recently, an 18th century engraving purchased in the 1950s for the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, was examined as part of the systematic survey and curation of the 28,000 images in the digital archive. This uncolored engraving measures 22.5 x 33.7 cm and is titled: Grausames Verfahren der Türken bei Beschania mit den Oesterreichern. Below the title is a printed key identifying 13 scenes and places such as the Danube, the town of Semlin, and the city of Belgrade.

Depicted is a panoramic view of a battle in countryside between Turks and Austrians, but in addition to the general fighting there are also images of atrocities including Ottomans beheading prisoners near Semlin and Belgrade. One soldier drags a naked prisoner by the hair while another quarters bodies with a sword. Others have been tossed into water to drown. The event represents an apparent incident of the Austro-Turkish War of 1788-1791 and is intended solely as anti-Turkish propaganda.

Prior to the survey, little was know about this image beyond the title. However, research has now uncovered new information. In the Landesarchiv Stubenberg Archive in Germany is a document dating from 1788 which relates directly to this engraving. It reads in translation as follows:

‘A high provincial government has opened today by ordinance of the 16th [June] and the district office of Mahrburg reported this under 13th instant that there was already a copper [engraving] in Mahrburg with the inscription ‘Cruel Procedure of the Turks at Beschania with the Austrians’, which went on sale to the public somewhere between Semlin and the terrible battlefield of Belgrade,  where the Turks are presented against the Austrians, which has a very detrimental to the heart of the farmer, and if their recruits or the same are called-up, the consequences would be all the more serious, as in the case of absent militarists those poaching delicacies arising from heated imagination could not be stopped.

Therefore, as a result of the above-mentioned ordinance, the entire advertising district is commissioned by those who may find bookkeepers, picture dealers and shopkeepers in their district to see if the copper or other similar ones are available and to cease its exhibition and sale unframed against threats of appropriate punishment… K. k. District Office Pruck the 24th June 1788. Guido Graf v. Weissenwolff.’

Steirische Miscellen: zur Orts- und Culturgeschichte der Steiermark, Herausgegeben von Josef von Zahn (Graz, verlag von Ulr. Moser’s Buchhandlung, 1899), page 54

Clearly, such propagandist imagery went too far and was considered detrimental for recruiting purposes. As the document notes, a ban was placed on the sale of this engraving, and the district office at Marburg issued a proclamation on June 24, 1788, stating that anyone selling the print would be subject to punishment.

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

Friday, 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’.

French citizens atop a US Army jeep on the Champs Elisées

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.

Jubilant Parisians waving flags to celebrate liberation

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.

Arc de Triomphe at night with fireworks overhead

British cavalryman riding past St. Marylebone Parish Church

Saturday, 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

Thursday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Friday, 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)

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.