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Painting with Words

January 17, 1945

a winter scene of a town with snow on the ground from a high vantage point

"Snowy Morning in Briey," from the collection of David Howe

Jan. 17, 1945

My darling Judy,

Today I had the thrill of a lifetime!! When I tell you about it you may smile a little. However in more than one way was I overjoyed today. First, artistically – for I came upon a scene that makes everything I’ve seen here pale by comparison!! I couldn’t do it enough justice, I’m afraid, but even at that what I did do is one of the most unusual things I’ve done! Well, I’ll begin at the beginning I had a pass from 9 to 12 and I planned to go out and work. It was snowing a little and cold as the devil in the morning. I walked around some realizing then that this little town beats any place we’ve been in for beauty!! That includes the big city we were near for almost three months. I came to one spot, high above that so astounded me, I was left breathless. There was a house right there and in a few minutes a man came out to dump some ashes. I asked him whether I could sketch from one of the windows, and the answer was “yes”. I knocked on a door and some people let me in after this man spoke to them in better French than I can manage. The people were very nice and showed me a place to sit by the window with a table at my side. A perfect setup in a heated room! I worked until I had to return and as I worked a little five year old boy was by my side every minute. He was one of the prettiest looking kids that I’ve ever seen and I thoroughly enjoyed his company. And what a face for a portrait – no wonder Renoir was so inspired by little French children. Later on in the day while I was completing the scene his little sister came in. I had thought he was one of the best looking children I had ever seen, I still think so, but I seemed to melt away when I saw this little girl. My God, what a gorgeous sweet little thing she was! I was surprised to know she was seven she looked so tiny for her age. I completed the scene and as I stood back to look at it the girl was right in front of me. I lifted her high up in the air under her armpits, she was so light. After that she wouldn’t let me put her down and the boy also, I had both arms full of children! Except for some moments with Carolyn, nothing ever equaled this feeling!! They are such beautiful children that I have intentions of doing portraits of them and also get Fred to take some pictures of them. I also would like to do the scene I did today on a larger sheet of paper. I have one sheet left of a big pad and when I use that I shall send you a package of any recent watercolors. This scene today reminded me of a combination of Brueghel’s winter scene and a Chinese print, it is so abstract, flat and full of movement. How I wish I could paint a great big canvas of that scene! Contreras also did a scene which is a beauty and I hope I’ll have some opportunity to do it also. The Some of the streets in town are so steep that there are steps instead of sidewalks! Consequently, there is all sorts of strange angles, flat patterns and buildups that look very artistic!

That sums up this very delightful holiday, a swell day for me certainly except for only one thing – still no mail. According to what we’ve read mail has no priority over vital war materials – now. I hope we’ll get some soon, I’m badly in need of a few sweet words from you. I haven’t very much to do and it’s only about a quarter to five. I will probably write to my folks this evening and the rest of the time I’ll have free. I may work do some artwork although I have no idea just this minutes. I know about artwork I’d like to be doing – some watercolors of you à la Baltimore – do you remember? I feel much more capable of doing something good than I did then. I know that I’ll be changed in one respect when I come back to you, I’ll probably be doing much more artwork I mean particularly things from life – portraits and all kinds of drawings of you, and the people I know. Plenty of other things also and yet I’ll still do animals. Don’t let this worry you at all, or lead you to feel that I’ll be neglectful, never fear, the way I feel now – well – I guess I can’t say it in a letter, but I think you know how I feel.

The war news looks as good and better today than yesterday and the Russians maintain that they are driving for Berlin. Communiques from the other fronts are also encouraging. Everyone hopes the end is not too far off. Dearest Judy, I miss you so terribly much and think of you so often I’ll go nuts if I have to be away from you very much longer. I adore you, and may Providence watch over you and keep you well.



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