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Joseph Hirsch (1910-1981)

Joseph Hirsch was born in 1910 in Philadelphia. He began his formal art training at 17, when he won a four-year scholarship from the city of Philadelphia to attend the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art. Later he studied in New York City with George Luks, who was a member of "The Eight," a group of American painters who rejected modernism in favor of depicting scenes of ordinary people and everyday life. Throughout his life, Hirsch's subjects focused on social commentary.

During the 1930's Hirsch's art career received a boost through employment by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in Philadelphia. He completed murals for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Building and the Municipal Court. During this period he also bought an etching press and tried his hand at printmaking. Though prints could reach a wider audience, he quickly gave up etching in favor of painting. During the rest of career, however, he frequently produced lithographs of his painted works.

Along with other members of the Associated American Artists, during World War II, Hirsch worked for Abbott Laboratories, producing artworks to illustrate the war effort. His first work was the most widely produced war bond poster, Till We Meet Again. Continuing his style of capturing ordinary people and moments, he worked with fellow artist Georges Schreiber at the Pensacola Naval Air Station documenting Naval aviation training. From there he went to the South Pacific at the request of Admiral Ross McIntyre, Surgeon General of the Navy, to document the efforts of Navy medicine. Later he covered the Italian front and operations in North Africa for the Army. Those works currently belong to the U.S. Army Art Collection.

After the war, Hirsch continued his successful career. He sold his paintings through New York galleries, worked on commissions for corporations, and executed special projects such as designs for playbills. He also taught at the Chicago Art Institute, the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League in New York City, where he taught at the time of his death in 1981. During his lifetime, Joseph Hirsch won every major award offered for American artists.

There are 32 works of Joseph Hirsch in the Navy Art Collection and all of them are online

Works of Joseph Hirsch are also in the permanent collections of these institutions:

Museum of Fine Art, Boston, MA
Butler Institute of Fine Art, Youngstown OH
Corcoran Gallery, Washington DC
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas TX
Library of Congress, Washington DC
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia PA
Truman Library, Independence MO
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
The Army Center of Military History, Washington DC

Transportation, Latest Mode
Joseph Hirsch #32
Watercolor and tempera drawing, circa 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories

These ambulatory wounded, all Marine raiders, wait on the lowered platform of an LST as it approaches Lunga Beach at Guadalcanal. The green tags indicate the specific injuries and the front line treatment administered. This particular group is returning from Rendova.


On the Double
Joseph Hirsch #14
Watercolor, circa 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories

Seldom waiting for the cry of "Medic!", the Navy's litter bearers attached to battalion aid stations serving the Marine Corps are to be found in the thick of every shore engagement in which the latter fights. Thanks in part to such men as those pictured here, 97 out of every 100 Americans wounded in the present conflict are saved from death. These corpsmen carry morphine, plasma and sulfa drugs as a part of their regular equipment.


An LST Transports the Wounded
Joseph Hirsch #17
Oil on canvas, circa 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories

An LST returns to the beach at Guadalcanal with litters and sitters (stretcher cases and ambulatory cases), who are taken by ambulance and truck to mobile hospitals. The Japanese planes in the foreground have been brought back for salvage purposes.


Mercy Ship
Joseph Hirsch #29
Oil on canvas, circa 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories


Navy Hospital Ship USS Solace. The Navy's hospital ships operate under the laws laid down by the Geneva Convention, being unarmed, fully illuminated at night, and painted white.


Attention Deluxe
Joseph Hirsch #27
Oil on canvas, circa 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories

Within twenty minutes after this boy onboard a Navy transport broke his thumb boxing, it has been X-rayed, set and placed in a plaster cast. This is typical of the way the Navy Medical Department functions, bringing the finest medical care to boys who in many cases came from regions or homes where a similar degree of attention is practically unknown. Here the Navy physician is using a fluoroscope in conjunction with a dental x-ray machine.


Spinal Anesthesia
Joseph Hirsch #10
Charcoal, circa 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories

The operating room of a large Navy ship is little different than those in our most modern hospitals. This man is being anesthetized spinally before the setting of a compound fracture suffered when he fell forty feet down a hatch.


Sick Bay
Joseph Hirsch #21
Pen and ink wash drawing, circa 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories

Miniature hospitals onboard ship abound in the U.S. fleet. Resembling hospital wards ashore except for the double-tiered bunks, they are known as "sick bay" quiet inlets, away from the normal tide of ship activities, where the wounded and ill are treated amid the drug odors and paraphernalia that mark hospital wards everywhere.


Everything Must Be Spotless
Joseph Hirsch #5
Charcoal, circa 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories


The medical officer on a Navy ship does much more then treat sick and wounded men. Part of his job is to inspect the kitchens, toilets, and living quarters of all personnel aboard. If similar preventive measures could be instituted generally in civilian life, the incidence of many diseases might be drastically cut.

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Online Exhibits that feature Joseph Hirsch's work
Amphibious Operations in the Pacific Theater

Navy Medical Art of the Abbott Collection
Naval Aviation of WWII From the Abbott Laboratories Collection


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22 June 2000