Today is Memorial Day here in the U.S. Though primarily associated with a three-day weekend, barbecues and the unofficial start of summer, it is a day designated to honor those Americans who died while in military service. One way to do this, perhaps, is to develop a better understanding of the experiences of soldiers at war.
Howard Brodie was a well known WW II American combat artist, whose drawings of the front line experiences of soldiers in combat earned him the respect of both his fellow soldiers and the journalism community at large. He was considered one of the best war correspondent artists.
During the Second World War, Brodie was a regular contributor to the Army weekly, Yank magazine, and covered both the Pacific and European theaters of war. He did not carry a gun, but worked as a medic when needed. After covering the Battle of the Bulge, he received a Bronze Star for “aiding the wounded and coolness under fire”.
Brodie’s wonderfully loose, gestural drawings, often done with Prismacolor pencils, capture the experience of combat with an immediacy and emphasis not found in photographs.
I’m sometimes stuck by the similarity in style between Brodie and WW II GI cartoonist Bill Mauldin; though which way influence may have passed, I don’t know.
Before the war, Brodie attended the California School of Fine Arts and worked as a time as a sports illustrator for the San Francisco Chronicle. Afterward, he went back to work for the Chronicle, again covering sports; but the magazine eventually sent him to cover the Korean War, and later, the war in Vietnam.
Afterward, Brodie had a long career as a courtroom artist, covering notable trials such as those of Jack Ruby, James Earl Ray, Charles Manson and the Chicago Seven. He also served as a consultant for several hollywood war movies.
Brodie was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2001, and the article by Victor Juhasz marking the occasion is probably the best piece on the artist. Juhasz, to whom Brodie was a friend and mentor, also has a personal remembrance on his blog, accompanied by images of Brodie’s work.
Brodie was featured in the PBS documentary They Drew Fire: Combat Artists of WW II, which I covered here.