Bairnsfather in WW2

Categories:People
Anne

Ive always thought of Bruce Bairnsfather as an illustrator and humorist from the first world war. When I was starting out as an antiques dealer 20 years ago I would seek out pottery with his designs on as they always sold well. Barinsfather was an official war artist in the 1914 to 1918 war. He created a character Old Bill who always had something grumpy to say about his time in the trenches.

Bairnsfather cartoon

Bairnsfather cartoon

What I didn’t know until today is that he also worked during the second world war. Not for the British this time but as official war artist to the Americans in the UK. The illustrations and text here come from Illustrated magazine dated may 2 1942 . I’m sure that these are now quite rare so I thought you would like to see.


The text was written by Bairnsfather himself :

All my life I have been drawing the soldiers of various nations. Maybe it will interest readers to know how I set about my work and to hear about some of my recent experiences with the American Army in Northern Ireland.

Drawing is only part of the job, to produce something really good it is not only necessary for me to see and pit on paper what the soldiers look like. I must also probe behind the uniform and diagnose as much as possibly how they think and feel.

I was fortunate in my study of the American Army in Northern Ireland, because, being familiar with many parts of the United States and having lived and travelled there a great deal, I was able to feel a bond of understanding with the men. This was a tremendous help in my analysis of the types that came before me.

Bairnsfather Sketches

Bairnsfather Sketches


He goes on to talk about his accurate sketches of the uniforms. How these are different from the British ones and how they had changed since the first world war. After all the details of the uniforms had been studies he went on to sketches of the individual men. During this process he learned all about them as individuals. As a cartoonist he was looking out for specific and different subjects for his work.  There is a discussion of an American Indian soldier Рhere is his sketch of that proud looking man.

Bairnsfather American Indian

Bairnsfather American Indian


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