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World War II Navy Art by Backus

World War II Navy Art by Backus

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World War II Navy Art: A Vision of History: Backus

Standish Backus, JR. (1910 -1989)

Commander, USNR

Born in Detroit, Backus graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Art and Architecture. He later studied painting and art in Europe and developed the style of the California watercolorists, who were receiving national acclaim in the 1930s. When he reported for active duty with the Navy early in 1941, Backus became a specialist in Net and Boom Defenses; in May 1945 he was assigned to cover naval operations in the Pacific as an artist. Arriving in Japan with the Fourth Marine Regiment, he participated in the entry into Tokyo Bay and witnessed the surrender ceremonies aboard USS Missouri on September 2, 1945. In 1955-56 he returned to duty at his own request to go with Admiral Byrd to the Antarctic.

Backus explained why the Navy sent artists to cover Naval activities: "The Navy appreciates that the artist, in reporting his experiences, has the opportunity to convey to his audience a large sense of realization of a subject, than has the photographer with his instantaneous exposures, or the writer, who lacks the advantage of direct visual impact. This artist is limited only by the degree of his skill in portraying his sensitivities. Concurrently, it is to be understood that the artist is obliged to contemplate the subject reflectively, seeking to penetrate beyond the surface of factual representation, in order to present the true nature of the experience".

In civil life he engaged in illustrating, painting, and teaching at his home in Santa Barbara, California, until his death in 1989.