October 29,  1921  Bill Mauldin’s Army

A talented artist, Bill Mauldin’s medium was the cartoon.  Through them, he told the story of the common soldier, usually at a rate of six per week.

Bill Mauldin's Army 5Born on October 29, 1921 in New Mexico and brought up in Arizona, William Henry “Bill” Mauldin was part of what Tom Brokaw called, the “Greatest Generation”.

Mauldin enlisted in the 45th Infantry Division when the United States entered WWII.  He was a talented artist, trained at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and volunteered to work for the unit’s newspaper, as a cartoonist.

As a sergeant of the 45th Division’s press corps and later for Stars & Stripes, Mauldin was part of the invasion of Sicily and the later Italian campaign.  He was given his own jeep and allowed to go wherever he pleased, which was usually out in front.  His medium was the cartoon.  He told the story of the common soldier, usually at the rate of six per week.

Bill Mauldin's Army 2Mauldin developed two cartoon infantrymen, calling them “Willie and Joe”.  He told the story of the war through their eyes.  He became extremely popular within the enlisted ranks, while his humor tended to poke fun at the “spit & polish” of the officer corps.  He even lampooned General George Patton one time, for insisting that his men to be clean shaven all the time.  Even in combat.

Patton summoned the cartoonist to his office, threatening to “throw his ass in jail” for “spreading dissent”, until Dwight Eisenhower told Patton to leave him alone.  According to the Supreme Allied Commander, Mauldin’s cartoons gave the soldiers an outlet for their frustrations.

Bill Mauldin's Army 3Mauldin later told an interviewer, “I always admired Patton. Oh, sure, the stupid bastard was crazy. He was insane. He thought he was living in the Dark Ages. Soldiers were peasants to him. I didn’t like that attitude, but I certainly respected his theories and the techniques he used to get his men out of their foxholes”.

His was no rear echelon assignment.  Mauldin’s fellow soldier-cartoonist, Gregor Duncan, was killed in Anzio in May 1944.  Mauldin himself was wounded in a German mortar attack near Monte Cassino.  By the end of the war, he had received the Army’s Legion of Merit for his drawings.

Mauldin tried to revive Willy & Joe after the war, but found they didn’t assimilate well into civilian life.

“Peanuts” cartoonist Charles M. Schulz was himself a veteran of World War II. Schulz paid tribute to Rosie the Riveter and Ernie Pyle in his strip, but more than any other, he paid tribute to Willy & Joe. Snoopy visited with Willie & Joe no fewer than 17 times over the years.  Always on Veterans Day.

Bill Mauldin passed away on January 22, 2003, from a bathtub scalding exacerbated by complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

PeanutsBill Mauldin drew Willie & Joe for last time in 1998, for inclusion in Schulz’ Veteran’s Day Peanuts strip.  Schulz had long described Mauldin as his hero. He signed that final strip Schulz, as always, and added “and my Hero“.  Bill Mauldin’s signature, appears underneath.

Bill Mauldin's Army 6

 

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September 13, 1501 David

If you look at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, you would never know that the artist who produced such a work didn’t care for painting. Michelangelo was a sculptor. “Along with the milk of my nurse,” he said, “I received the knack of handling chisel and hammer, with which I make my figures”.

The Renaissance has been variously described as an advance beyond the dark ages, andMasters of Italian Art a nostalgic period looking back to the Classical age. Whatever it was, the 15th and 16th centuries produced some of the most spectacularly gifted artists, in history.

None more so, than the Italian Masters.

There was Leonardo and Donatello, Raphael, Brunelleschi and Botticelli, but only one of them would have his biography written while he was still alive. Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, had two. Only one of these men would have his home town renamed after himself.  Today, the Tuscan village of Caprese is known as Caprese Michelangelo.

If you look at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, you would never know that the artist who produced such a work didn’t care for painting. Michelangelo was a sculptor. “Along with the milk of my nurse,” he would say, “I received the knack of handling chisel and hammer, with which I make my figures”.

Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel

He was “Il Divino”, “The Divine One”, literally growing up with the hammer and chisel. He had a “Terribilità”, a sense of awe-inspiring grandeur about him that made him difficult to work with, but he was widely admired and imitated. Michelangelo was that insufferably cocky kid who wasn’t bragging, because he could deliver.

Michelangelo-David-rearThe massive block of Carrara marble was quarried in 1466, nine years before Michelangelo was born. The “David” commission was given to artist Agostino di Duccio that same year. So difficult was this particular marble block that he never got beyond roughing out the legs and draperies. Antonio Rossellino took a shot at it 10 years later, but he didn’t get much farther.

25 years later, the Guild of Wool Merchants wanted to revive the abandoned project, and went looking for an artist. The now infamously difficult marble slab had deteriorated for years in the elements, when Michelangelo stepped forward at the age of 26.  The prevailing attitude seems to have been yeah, give it to him.  That will take him down a few pegs.

Michelangelo began work on September 13th, 1501. His master work would take him three years to complete.

The 17′, six-ton David was originally intended for the roof of the FlorenceDavid, Michelangelo Cathedral, but it wasn’t feasible to raise such an object that high. A committee including Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli was formed to decide on an appropriate site for the statue. The commitee chose the Piazza della Signoria outside the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence.

It took four days on a specially constructed cart to move the David statue into position, the unveiling taking place on September 8, 1504. Among the dignitaries gathered for the occasion was the Mayor of Florence, Vasari Pier Soderini, who complained that David’s nose was “too thick”.

Michelangelo climbed the statue with a handful of marble dust, sending down a shower of the stuff as he pretended to work on the nose. After several minutes, he stepped back and asked Soderini if it was improved. “Yes”, replied the Mayor, now satisfied. “I like it better. You have given it life”.Michelangelo at Work