Trove Of Army’s Art Awaits A New Museum: Four Rockwells Top A List Of 16,000 Pieces, Michael E. Ruane, Washington Post, January 15, 2014.
The following is an excerpt:The story goes that Norman Rockwell, seeking authenticity, wanted to rip holes in the soldiers’s shirt. The GI said fine. Rockwell asked to smear mud on his face and hands. Not a problem.
But when the artist asked to rub dirt on his machine gun, the soldier refused: No proper gunner could tolerate that. So Rockwell portrayed the GI as tattered and begrimed, but with his big gray Browning machine gun sleek and clean.
This rare and meticulous World War II painting, by an artist whose work routinely fetches tens of millions of dollars, hangs not in a museum or gallery, but in a state-of-the-art Army conservation center at Fort Belvoir.
It is part of the Army’s extensive collection of military art — much of it by renowned painters and illustrators — that is ready and waiting for the future National Museum of the United States Army.
But the museum, which has been a decade in the making, is at least four years from opening and has less than half the money it needs for its construction, according to its chief fundraiser, Creighton W. Abrams Jr., a retired brigadier general.
The Army Historical Foundation, which he directs, has raised $76 million of the $175 million it needs. Abrams said he expects the museum to open in 2018, at the earliest. It is also to be located at Fort Belvoir, six miles west of Mount Vernon. The project, like many such endeavors in the Washington area, has been blessed with generous donors, slowed by years of planning starts and stops, and hampered by the ups and downs of fundraising. In 2010, fundraising was good, Abrams said in an interview last week. It was not as good in 2011, worse in 2012, but better in 2013. “We raised $10 million last year,” he said. “And we think we’re going to get between $15 [million] and $20 [million] this year.”
Meanwhile, the art collection and a trove of other Army historical treasures wait in climate-controlled seclusion. The collection is superb. It has four original works by Rockwell, and several by the noted World War II illustrator Tom Lea — including his famous portrait of a stunned, battle-fatigued Marine, entitled "Marines Cal It That 2,000 Yard Stare." There’s art by Floyd MacMillan Davis, the magazine and advertising illustrator, and by Edward Reep, on the ground, painted the World War II bombing of Italy’s Monte Cassion while it was still underway. “The earth trembled (and so did my hand),” Reep said later. . . . .
There’s a series of elegant 1840s paintings from the Mexican War by James Walker portraits of Civil War Gen. Philip Sheridan and President Abraham Lincoln, and stark, impressionist works from the Vietnam War. In all, there are 16,000 pieces of art stored in the Army’s $24 million Museum Support Center, which was created to care for items destined for the museum.
Although American martial art became well known during the Civil War, with such painters as Winslow Home and Conrad Wise Chapman, and illustrators like Alfred Waud, the official War Department art program began in World War I, Forgey said. . . . .
Full Text and Image Source: Washington Post, January 15, 2014