Archive for February, 2012

Our Amazing Adventure in Washington D.C. Part Three: The Berlin Wall and The Newseum


2012
02.25

The Berlin Wall

There are several threads to this part of the adventure, and again one of them weaves my father Ed Reep’s art into the story.  We’ve been to Washington many times and we went for a specific purpose this time, which I haven’t even blogged about yet.  The one sight we hadn’t seen and wanted to see was the Newseum.  First, though, we saw my father’s World War II work, produced when he was a soldier and war artist with the 5th Army in Italy, at the Army Art Archives. And we also saw this.

In the Army Art Archives

That’s my husband and me standing in front of two large paintings of the Berlin Wall.  Sometime in the 1970s I think, the Army recommissioned my father as a brigadier general and sent him to Germay to paint his impressions of the Wall.  The paintings are stunning.

 

There were also a number of drawings.  So that was something we didn’t expect to see.

We made it over to the Newseum, which is spectacular.

The Newseum

 

And were unexpectedly greeted by the…

 

Eight sections of the wall were on display as well as a large guard tower.  It was surreal to imagine a city cut in half and living in the shadow of a wall.

So far, there seemed to be a lot of synchronicity in this visit.

If anyone has seen the movie Goodbye Lenin, the next photo will elicit a chuckle.  This real-life scene figured in a funny yet poignant scene in the movie.

So we got a double dose of the Berlin Wall – the real thing and the Wall as recorded by my father while visiting the real thing.  But on to the Newseum.

The purpose of the Newseum is to tell the story of news and how it has been reported since the printed word was first able to be spread.  Starting with the first papers up through modern times an impressive array of front pages has been assembled.  I found these interesting.

Guy Fawkes caught my eye because there were people at Occupy Wall Street in masks I didn’t recognize and I believe they were from Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot.

The lighting was very dim in this particular exhibit to preserve the media.

The exterior of the museum and again on the 6th floor is the Front Pages Gallery.  Every morning before the museum opens, the front page of a newspaper from every one of the 50 states is printed and put on display.

It’s pretty awesome.  There are interactive displays where you can find the front page from any paper in the nation so I found our Bakersfield Californian and one from Wyoming where one of our daughters lives.

If editors make good choices, headlines and photos can tell us much about the tenor of the times.  I think The Bakersfield Californian made a particularly good choice the day we were there.  I was not a particular fan of President Bush, but I would have never shaken my finger at him and given him a scolding.  What bad form!  Yet Obama seems to be responding with concern and dignity.

All kinds of things were tucked into the Newseum as they traced news from the beginning through the digital age.  Tim Russert’s office was recreated – or rather moved just as it was when he died – over here.  There was an FBI and the News exhibit and for some reason the Unibomber’s cabin was there as well as a mock-up of the shoe bomber’s shoes – which were quite complex!  And the Greensboro lunch counter was here – one of the places the civil rights movement began with sit-ins.

By then, television news was starting to influence events unlike in any other time in history and nothing would be the same.

The Newseum also has an exciting array of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs, an excellent First Amendment exhibit, and an interactive ethics center.  There’s an interactive newsroom – so so much.  It took us an entire day and part of another and we still weren’t done.  I haven’t mentioned nearly everything there is to see.

One unfortunate feature that they are particularly proud of is a 4 D movie that everyone is strongly encouraged to see.  Much is made about “be careful if you’re pregnant or have back problems,” etc. so we were ready for some excitement.  The seat lurched a few times.  Well, lurched is too strong a word.  It was lame.  That’s the only thing I can say.  Anti-climactic.  The movie itself started off strong and then kind of stopped.  So spend your Newseum time on anything but the 4D movie!

So far, this trip had exhibited unexpected synchronicity topped off by the Berlin Wall, and we hadn’t even reached the event that brought us to Washington in the first place.  That’s next.

 

 

A Discovery of World War II Photographs of the Original Piazza Nettuno Shrine


2012
02.21

Recently I blogged about a painting of my father’s titled The Shrine.  If you haven’t read that post you might want to because this part of the story is pretty incredible, at least to me.  My father Edward Reep was a war artist in Italy in WWII and unbeknownst to us until just recently he had roll and rolls of film stashed in his studio in a cigar box.  I only found out by chance.  I found a book of contact prints on a shelf and was thrilled to find those – and even then he didn’t think to say he had the actual  film!  He’s almost 94 but I don’t think that’s it – he just doesn’t see this stuff as important.  I, however, am extremely interested in the history, not just because he’s Dad.

Anyhow, in the previous post I talked about a visit my husband and I made to Washington D.C. and our meeting with a curator at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.  We feel The Shrine should be on permanent exhibit (the painting is owned by The Smithsonian) and the blog post details the history of the painting itself.  So now we have these negatives and I am getting them digitized.  I’m kind of wearing myself thin trying to do all kinds of things at once but I feel time pressure – although Dad is in good health, he’s almost 94, and when he is gone, the history is gone with him.  So I want the photos so he can explain them.

The first 12 rolls are back and here are three that were amongst them.

This is the brick wall in Bologna with fresh blood where the shrine sprung up.  Dad was there watching the whole thing happen.

The photos are amazing.  I hate to keep using that word but it keeps springing to mind.

I was so excited to see these!  I had no idea they existed and they complete the history I was able to piece together in my previous post.

I’ll finish with the image of the painting although it’s in the previous post.  And I have some good news from museum director Elizabeth Broun who thinks  she may be able to find a place for the painting to be on permanent display in the Luce Foundation Center for American Art on the third floor of the museum. I hope for some follow-up news on that soon.

Amazing Adventures in Washington D.C. Part Two: The Shrine


2012
02.13

Our recent trip to Washington D.C was packed with special  moments.  In my last post I wrote about seeing my father’s World War Two art at the Army Art Archives.  We were also able to see some of his art at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

My father’s (Edward Reep’s) painting The Shrine is a significant work of art historically, artistically, and emotionally.  It’s painted brilliantly and my father considers it one of the two best works of art he’s ever done.  He painted it on his Guggenheim Fellowship in 1946 based on photos he took during World War II in Bologna, Italy.

About the situation, my dad has this to say in his book A Combat Artist in World War II:

In the town square of Bologna, where the city jail is located,  a collaborator had just been slain beneath the iron-barred windows of the jail, his fresh blood still visible on the brick wall below. Within minutes an Italian flag was hung on the wall, above and to the left of the blood-stain, the tricolored red, white and green presenting a startling panache of color against the ancient, dull brown bricks.  The House of Savoy emblem had been ripped away from the white central panel of the flag; pinned in its place was a stiff black ribbon of mourning.  This became a dual gesture: it signified the end of the monarchy and Fascism, and it became a memorial to those who had given their lives in the long struggle for liberation.  A derelict green table was then thrust against the bedecked wall, and placed upon it were little mementos, mostly photographs and flowers commemorating the loved ones who had perished; more photos were pinned to the flag.  The images of those who had seen service in the Italian army were adorned with delicate multicolored ribbons of red, green and white.  Lastly, an ornate filigree cross of black wrought metal was placed toward the front of the table to become the crowning touch in completing the impromptu shrine.  Today, in Bologna, a permanent shrine stands on that sacred ground.

My dad’s notes on the execution of the painting from his book are as follows:

The Shrine was executed after the war from notes and sketches during the hectic moments when we captured Bologna.  The hastily erected shrine depicted is now a permanent and more elaborate national monument in that city.  The painting relies heavily upon the contrast of transparent color glazes against impasto (thick) paint.  After initially priming the canvas, I covered it with a green ground that would peer through the multitude of brownish-red bricks.  Painting on the field of battle had to be quick and spontaneous; it was rarely studied.  Equipment was always portable and never comfortably complete.  In my postwar studio I was able to exercise care and patience, select the appropriate medium, and – of greater importance – reflect deeply upon significant issues.

This historical explanation and photo of the shrine today comes, with permission, from  Scott D. Haddow 0n flickr,

photo

Il Sacrario dei partigiani in Piazza Nettuno, Bologna

Memorial to the partisans of WWII (1943-1945).

Bologna was one of the Italian cities most affected by the war, both for its importance in the communication/transportation system, and for its location in the rear of the Gothic Line. Between September 1943 and April 1945 the city was occupied by the Nazis. The people suffered from cold and hunger, Allied bombings and Nazi reprisals such as that of Monte Sole. Throughout this period, the courageous action of groups of anti-fascist partisans kept the people’s hopes alive.

A high toll was paid by the Bolognese: the number of civilian deaths under the bombing was 2481, while 2064 partisans were killed. On the morning of April 21 1945 Bologna was free.

Women’s groups began to lay flowers and put up pictures of their loved ones in Piazza Nettuno, on the wall where many partisans had been shot .

Thus was born the shrine of the partisans.

(translated from Italian: www.certosadibologna.it/museo_virtuale/sacrario_nettuno.html)

From another source, here is another image of the shrine today.

I am currently speaking with the head curator of the Smithsonian because I feel my father’s painting should be on permanent display somewhere in the museum system.  My father has a couple of other works at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art that were donated by the Ford Motor Company and while they are excellent watercolors, I don’t believe they have either the artistic or historical significance to merit permanent display.  The Shrine, however, does, and I hope something can be worked out.

If anyone wishes to lend their voice to this endeavor, I contacted the director Elizabeth Broun at BrounE@si.edu and she was very interested in hearing more about the history of the painting and the historical significance of the shrine.  I don’t believe she needs “cheerleading” kinds of contact, but more of historically directed opinions or artistic statements if anyone has information I don’t.  For example, what Scott D. Haddow had to say is very interesting because this was difficult to google.

Above, my husband and I look at my father’s watercolors in the Smithsonian archives.

Watercolor donated to the Smithsonian by Ford Motor Company.

All in all, it was rather amazing to have been one day at the Army Art Archives examining my father’s art and the next doing the same at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.  This trip was beginning to feel a little bit surreal, but no one was complaining!

To come: more amazing connections and coincidences with the Berlin Wall.

 

 

Amazing adventures in Washington DC Part One: We visit the Army Art Archives and see my father’s WWII art


2012
02.10

Anzio Beach by Edward Reep

Above:  bombs fall in the harbor at Anzio Beach in World War II as Edward Reep paints on the spot.

To start at the very beginning we’d have to go all the way back to WWII.  My dad enlisted in the army as so many people did in what is now called the Greatest Generation.  My father, however, was an artist, and while he was trained as a soldier and an officer at Camp Roberts and Fort Ord in California, he was asked to be a war artist.  This meant that he fought the war with paintbrushes as well as guns.

In a previous post, where Ben Clarke recalls how my dad saved his father’s life by rushing onto the battlefield and rescuing him, you can read what it meant to be a war artist.  That’s not what this is about.

This is about the amazing chance my husband and I had to see all the paintings and drawings my dad did in Italy, which are now property of the Department of the Army.  The story gets a little convoluted here and I’ll spare everyone the details. Suffice it to say that through a series of coincidences, odd circumstances and luck, we made contact with the Army art archivist in Washington D.C. and were able to see her during our visit.

We rented a car and drove to Fort Belvoir and again realized how grateful we are to live in Bakersfield, California where the air is bad, the literacy rate is low, but the traffic is light and it’s easy to get around.  But it was nostalgic to visit Fort Belvoir because my parents were married there in Chapel #6 in 1941, and in the ’70s we drove to Fort Belvoir and took our picture outside of Chapel #6.  Today, the fort has been restructured and that little chapel is no more.

So.  The art.  It was a thrill to be in a state-of-the-art building full of art that was not just art but primary source historical material.  It is truly priceless.  The army cares for its art meticulously and with reverence and respect which was comforting and reassuring. The real thrill was seeing my dad’s work.

This work has been reproduced in books and lent to various galleries across the country for shows but for the first time we saw it all and it is spectacular.  In the same way that a black and white photo is oddly more realistic than a color photo, even though the world is in color, a painting of the war can seem more realistic and emotional than a photograph.  Seeing the body of work all together was emotional, and knowing it was my father’s work elicits feelings I can hardly articulate.

My pictures are distorted because the paintings were flat, but I’ll show some anyway and explain.

The Bath

This painting is very well known and popular.  This particular soldier wanted a hot bath and had gasoline dripping over an open flame to heat water.  My dad was afraid it would blow up any instant!  The painting was shipped home during the war, shown in New York, and Eleanor Roosevelt came to the exhibit. She paused in front of this painting, which was captured by the Movietone News.  When my dad’s parents went to the movies in Los Angeles, they were surprised and so proud to see Mrs. Roosevelt, whom they greatly admired, looking at their son Edward Reep’s painting!

These are all from the Italian front.  The soldier bathing is in Anzio.  These soldiers are on a normal patrol, if anything can be called normal in war, and the army archivist mentioned how interesting she found it that artists could capture the natural beauty that existed among the horror of war.

The Italian winters were harsh.  Tents and guns were painted white to blend in with snow.  Supplies had been stashed and buried with cans put on sticks so they could be located, but the cans were painted red.  My father feels this is one of his finest war paintings.

This painting is of the front line.  Dad said that since seeing the movie All Quiet on the Western Front, he had wondered what the front line was like. He described the final scene where the character Paul is back on the front lines and sees a butterfly, a thing of beauty.  He stands to see it better but is too exposed and is shot and killed.  And here it was.  The Front – a line with white tape stretched across it, mines on the other side. Allies on one side, Germans on the other.

This very powerful drawing is of a mule train in the Apennines in Northern Italy.  It was cold and wet; the mud was 14 inches deep and very sticky.  Dad fell face down and almost could not free himself.  He thought he was going to die there.  Finally, he managed to free one nostril enough to breathe and then was able to calm down and work himself out.  He had to draw and not paint because the watercolors would freeze overnight and melt in the mornings.

The leading art critic of the time called Dad one of the six best pen and ink artists of his day.

These are only a few of a large and remarkable body of work.  My husband and I consider this visit a highlight of our adult life and a privilege.  How lucky we are – how lucky I am – to have this history as part of our lives.

You can learn more about the war art program and combat artists, or about my dad Edward Reep’s art and experiences in the war  here- A Combat Artist in WWII

or here – They Drew Fire