In 1943 at the age of 26, Bromberg was appointed by George Biddle, Chairman of the War Department Art Advisory Board, to be “one of a small group of outstanding artists to go to an active war theater, and there to obtain a graphic record of the war… in the tradition of Goya, Gericault, and Delacroix.”
As an official war artist, Bromberg was assigned to serve with the European Theater of Operations (England, France and Germany). While stationed in London, her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, opened an exhibit of Bromberg’s paintings at Westminster Abbey. He also met with Sir Kenneth Clark (Chairman of the British War Artists’ Advisory Committee), along with war artists Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland. It was Sir Kenneth Clark who persuaded Col. Ganoe, Head of the U.S. Historical Section, not to send Bromberg into Normandy’s Omaha Beach with the first assault troops: his designated boat position was D-Day+20 minutes. Sir Kenneth Clark was keeping his artists out till D+30 days action. There were three American artists (Olin Dows, Albert Gold, and Manuel Bromberg) assigned to the European Theater, and “one of them will be no good for recording the heroism of soldiers if he is dead.”
Bromberg waded ashore Omaha beach in June of 1944, D-Day+6.
“It was an impossible sight. Bodies were still floating in the water. It was a combination of Dante’s Inferno and the biggest junkyard ever seen.”
With a hip pocket sketchpad no bigger than 3 inches by 5 inches and a Leica camera and carbine around his neck, he sketched and photographed the invasion of Normandy and the subsequent campaigns of the First, Third and Seventh armies through Normandy, Alsace-Lorraine, and Rhineland-Germany – every step of the way depicting the impact that the reign of war had inflicted on humanity and the landscape.
In September of 1944 at the Liberation of Paris, Bromberg met with Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau in Picasso’s studio. In his own Parisian studio, Bromberg produced finished paintings from scores of sketches. (The paintings were sent back to the Archives in Washington, DC, to remain the permanent property of the American government.) On several occasions, he spent time with Georges Braque in Braque’s studio and, on May 8, 1945, Bromberg covered the VE Day celebration in Paris.
A Citation for the Legion of Merit was awarded Technical Sergeant Bromberg for his outstanding service in his overseas assignment.
“He has exhibited the qualities of a genius and an artist, and has displayed unusual courage and initiative as a soldier by taking voluntary risks under fire in order to give a proper portrayal of our army in action.”
As an official WWII war artist, Bromberg produced an enormous and impressive body of work, which includes more than 100 paintings & sketches, and some 400 photographs - an intact record of one man’s courage and perseverance.
Manuel Bromberg | copyright 2017 | email Manuel Bromberg
WORLD WAR II