Monday, November 06, 2023

Rob Stolzer's Bill Mauldin Art Site


Rob Stolzer has a wonderful new site devoted Bill Mauldin and it includes some rarely seen art. Well worth a visit. A public thanks to Rob for sharing!

Here's Rob:



"This website is devoted to the work of Bill Mauldin (1921-2003), one of the most influential American cartoonists of the 20th century. More specifically, this site will focus on WWII soldier-signed copies of Mauldin’s self-published Sicily Sketch Book. Mauldin was stationed in the Mediterranean Theater at the time, in Sicily, where the 45th Division News was being created and printed. Todd DePastino, writing in his excellent biography of Mauldin, Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front, describes the fighting Mauldin witnessed in Sicily, none of which impacted Mauldin as much as the firefight on Bloody Ridge. You can see Mauldin’s depiction of Bloody Ridge on this website’s homepage. Bloody Ridge left its mark on Mauldin, and as DePastino writes: 'After Bloody Ridge, Bill found it harder to repress his feelings of guilt over escaping from the infantry.' According to DePastino, Mauldin explained, 'I had been conniving for several years to end up with a sketchbook in my hand instead of a weapon ....' This realization may have led Mauldin to the darker humor in his work, which resonated with the infantrymen, or 'dogfaces,' as Mauldin referred to them.

"Once the Battle of Bloody Ridge had ended, resulting in the Germans falling back, Mauldin took this time of respite to create a souvenir book of the Sicilian campaign. Mauldin had been an entrepreneur from a young age and this was no different. He now had a young son, born on the same day that Italy officially withdrew from the war. He needed to send money home to help support his wife and son. Mauldin gathered together cartoons, drawings, and 'Quote the Dogface' columns into a 28-page collection. The 8½” x 6” softcover book could easily fit in a soldier’s backpack, or folded vertically, in a back pocket. Mauldin had 5000 copies printed, which sold out immediately. He then had another 12,000 copies printed, which also sold out. Sicily Sketch Book was a hit with the soldiers. There was something about Mauldin’s voice that struck a chord with the dogfaces. It’s possible that Mauldin’s conniving, as he called it, led him to something more honest in the work. Whatever the case, his fame spread throughout the Seventh Army, eventually attracting the attention of Stars and Stripes.

"Sicily Sketch Book is among the rarest of Mauldin’s books. The book had a low print run, even with the two printings. But it was also created during war, near the front, and paper remained a disposable material. Many of them likely did not survive. But these books meant something to the soldiers, so much so that there are copies that were passed around within divisions, signed like high school yearbooks. Soldiers would vary the information they would write, sometimes including their rank or a brief comment. But all listed their hometown and states, sometimes adding their street address. These are time capsules, documents that capture a momentary time and place. And war. Not all of these young men made it home. I will write about some of them in the blog portion of this site."

1 comment:

Billy Hogan said...

I still have my Dad's copies of Mauldin's books "Up Front" and "Back Home", printed in the 1940's. I love his art and humor and how he portrayed the grunt soldier so accurately. No wonder they loved him, because he lived their lives and was so honest in his cartoons about them. I read his biography several decades ago, and want to add a copy to my personal library/