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Painting with Words

April 13, 1945

a chair under a skylight in a stone room with art hanging on the walls

Company B's attic gallery in Briey, where the soldiers could work on and exhibit their art, and sell to one another. They would also generate programs and announcements for their shows.

Credit: PFC Arthur Singer, handwritten letter to Corporal Lou Dorfsman, 1945, RIT Cary Graphic Arts Collection, Lou Dorfsman papers, CSC-0123.

April 13, 1945

Dear Lou,

You made me wait for your letter but I’m an understanding guy so let’s forget all about it. If I let a letter go without an answer for ten days the chances are that I’ll never answer it. So it’s very rare that more than three days pass between receiving and answering. I got yours today and here is the answer the same day but I hope mail goes out regularly. I’m glad you liked the last letter, it seems like a long time has passed since.

Apartment hunting seems to be a tough problem everywhere if what you, Judy and Donnie tell me is true. Man, I’d like to have problems like that now. Gate, I’m down in the dumps I’m afraid. This long absence from Judy is gradually whittling away my spirit. I hope you never have the misfortune of being torn away for overseas duty. Distant lands may be beautiful and interesting, but one misses his wife so much (if he loves her) that it’s torture. I’m glad Ann is back with you. Gate, I can just see you kissing her now. I hope she wouldn’t mind if you slipped in a quick one from me. Ann – a mother! Swell, Lou, it really “sends me”. So she’s “swollen app”. Give me the lowdown ‘cause I’ll have to know when Judy gets that way, someday, I hope.

Hey, Lou, don’t get excited about those things I’ve been sending home, because if you do, you’ll be sadly brought down. I honestly don’t believe any of them are that good. Some are better and more satisfying than others, but don’t forget they are all local stuff, not artistic paintings. They are good material to use in the future. I like some but don’t consider them very creative. In the first place, I don’t handle watercolor in the accepted manner, they are not very watery if you know what I mean. I’ll have to do much better before I let you get steamed up – so – calm down, Gate. I appreciate the efforts you went to, to see whether my work could be exhibited in that national army show. As for Yank they definitely wouldn’t be interested for there is practically nothing pertaining to the G.I.

Jesus, it would have been wonderful if you could have landed with in that temporary duty job on 42nd Street. What could have been better? But I wouldn’t feel too bad if I were you, hell, I’d take any job in any part of the states if Judy could be near me. I can see you’re making a name for yourself, Lou, and your work is spreading around. Someday I’ll be able to say – I know Dorfsman, just like some guys might say – I know Will Burtin or Covarrubias or those other top notch men. You can never tell what might happen – you may get to New York yet on detached service or something. As for the newspaper series, of course, send them, stuff isn’t censored anyhow coming to us, it’s only the outgoing that gets a going over.

And, Lou, please don’t remind me about that P.F.C. stuff I could puke when I think of it. A guy hasn’t a chinaman’s chance in this outfit, so what’s the use. The only thing that matters to me now is that I can do a little work of my own occasionally. Perhaps some day I’ll have the laugh on a lot of the brass big shots and guys with stripes all over their arms. Yeah, I guess I’m a little bitter about it – that doesn’t aggravate me anymore. The only thing that hurts is missing Judy and my friends and parents. That extra money is the only thing that would count. Oh well, let’s drop the whole subject. I had many heated debates with Judy on the subject and it’s something I don’t discuss anymore.

As for Milt, I did get a letter from him since last I wrote you – but the other day I got a long letter from Bernie. I’ve also condescended (ouch) to write to Ralph “the rat” Danziger. I wrote to Sylvia Lubalin the other night. I wonder whether Herb will become a more avid letter writer? Haven’t heard where he is yet, have you? I occasionally get long letters from Jack Golden. In his last he mentioned Wallace Harrison and said he saw the man’s output for the last couple of years. He was highly enthusiastic and I know Jack’s a tough man to please. I’d like to see some of Harrison’s work, I’ve only heard him spout but never saw anything he did. Just a couple of weeks ago while up in Germany on the Rhine during a major operation, I got a swell letter from Howard Willard. He’s in China, you know, and was pretty tickled to hear from me. He is a Senior Field Representative with the O.W.I. [Office of War Information] He did a lot of traveling to get there and did some sketching of his own. He has been able to buy very cheaply some wonderful native Chinese artwork. Just like him, he included something out of the ordinary in his letter – a New Year’s card which wasn’t one – what it was – well two large hand blocked Chinese posters, on rice paper which the people there still use. One is to chase away evil spirits, the other invites the good – they were unusual and colorful and I sent them home to Judy. He also misses his wife. Today I heard from Fritz Brosius who used to work with me at Ben Sackheim’s. I’m in his home territory now. And finally I got a long letter from my non-conformist friend Donnie Fazakas, who has separated from her husband. It’s rather unfortunate but she always was a bit unsteady unpredictable. I think she’ll do better in her career job than with marriage. She’s a good business woman. So much for other friends you and I both know.

As for us: - at times we’ve been busy – at other times not. We’ve been in Germany many times already. Someday you’ll be able to read about our doings. I was told that Ralph Ingersoll is doing or has finished a book about us. It will have to wait for the wars to finish before it could be published. It will make very interesting reading, I imagine.

Boy, we are really making time over here Gate? Maybe I will be home before 1946. I’m not quite as optimistic as the papers for the Nazis could put up a nasty fight in the Alps. However we could get them out in not too long a time for we would have all the Red Armies and American and French knocking hell out of them – that plus all of the air power in the ETO! They couldn’t take it for very long, dug in or not. Then if I do leave here it will be to the C.B.I. [China Burma India] I’d have to hope that I’d at least get a furlough home, before spending another precious year or two away from Judy. Or else we may be used as occupational troops. You’ll laugh when I tell you this one Lou, as I sit here writing this book to you – I’m getting matzohs! I got them two days ago – from Mom. I get lots of packages from her these days, happily.

By the way, Lou, Judy’s sister Miriam got married! Did you know about it? I never met the bridegroom but I’ve heard a great deal about him. His name is Isaac and he’s a Russian. He came to the States about six years ago I believe. He doesn’t know what happened to his parents when the Nazis took over – it couldn’t be very pleasant, though. He came over here as a “looey” [lieutenant] and since he knows speaks six languages fluently he was a PW interpreter. He was sent back for certain training six months of it at Camp Ritchie Maryland after which he is supposed to return to the Continent. They made up their minds without much to do and got married. Mira went to join him in Maryland.

As for my art, Gate, I still manage to do some things every week. You know we were up in Holland. This alone makes quite a record England, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Holland! We were there only a few days billeted with families and it was the nearest thing to actually being home that I’ve experienced yet! Gate, it was wonderful to sit in a warm living room, with a swell radio playing, doing a piece of artwork. I’d have coffee every hour or so. They were swell people. The old man worked in the mines as all the others in that section – but Lou I was amazed! Their houses beautifully designed, simple, modern, well built and clean surpass anything I’ve seen over here or in the States! Why these homes make those Long Island Housing projects look sick and cheap! The streets were so clean the guys were breaking up their butts instead of just throwing them away. God, we were treated like kings, beautiful big beds, mattresses, sheets, blankets and quilts. We were really living for three days!

Then I made a find, Lou, that got me excited. I found a set of German animal books, five in all. Three are mammals 2 on birds that surpass any animal books I’ve ever seen in twelve years of book hunting, as a matter of fact – better than any I’ve seen in the Museum of Nat. Hist. library or in the zoo. They are crammed full of photos, they are heavy books, well printed and well bound and each must contain close to three hundred of the best “shots” of animals in the wild that I’ve ever seen! I did some watercolors in Holland, one in Germany and a Picasso like abstraction of a window that I like. However, I really did one thing in the barracks one night – a six foot wall decoration of animals with four cans of G.I. enamel paints! It’s one of the best animal jobs I ever attempted and it took me six hours to do the whole thing. I made a little sketch of it and some of the boys took snapshots of it that I haven’t seen yet.

We just moved again. I was due to have some of my stuff on exhibit in Company B’s Attic Gallery starting this weekend. I guess that’s out for the time being. As I’ve told you we have a lot of artists here and standards are pretty damned high – like Cooper Union. If a guy goes around showing a corny sketch he gets a ribbing for it more than likely. But the guys really do some nice work occasionally, not often enough. There are only a few that keep at it all the time like myself. Now, some of the boys in B who were very ambitious decided to show off the talents of the outfit. They used the attic which has a heavy beamed gable roof, brick walls and skylights. Where they got all the frames, materials and all is a mystery, but anyway they sent to town the result – it looked almost like a room in the Museum of Modern Art! With every exhibit they changed the interior and furnishings. They made a handmade program and announcements. It was some stuff. They sold a number of things mostly to officers and got a good price. It was beginning to attract attention of bigger “brass” when we moved. Up til that time it was strictly B. company’s gallery but this week was to be the A, B, C. show with a man representing each of those 3 companies. I was the man from C but it will have to wait – a long time I think.

And so Lou my hand is growing tired, I’m even getting fed up with the matzohs, I have guard duty in the morrow and there just isn’t much else left to say. So it’s so long again and I hope that it will just be a few months when we’ll be walking down B’way on a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon trying to decide where to go. I could shed a tear just thinking about it – how happy I’ll be when I see you again – Give my love to Ann and take care of her, Lou.

Your friend – always,


P.S. Catch a movie called Rhapsody In Blue it’s terrific!!

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