Monday, May 6, 2013

USS Albermarle (AV-5) and USS Wichita (CA-45) in an Icelandic Storm, 1942

Shown here is a painting of the sea plane tender USS Albermarle (AV-5) and the heavy cruiser USS Wichita (CA-45) as they ride out a major winter storm in the port city of  Hafnarfjörður, Iceland, in January of 1942.  The painting currently hangs in the museum's Battle of the Atlantic gallery.

The two Norfolk-based ships were part of a task force sent to Iceland to reinforce the American military presence there.  Notice the wind blowing off the mountains and the high sea state.  When Albermarle and Wichita arrived in Iceland, the temperature was hovering around freezing.  This might not have been so awful.  Unfortunately, they also encountered a storm with gale force winds topping 120 mph that lasted for four days.  The wind drove both ships from their anchors, resulting in ship collisions. 
Photograph of Wichita as seen from
 Albermarle during the same storm, 1942.

The realistic depiction of the harsh environment was the work of painter Rudolf Claudus.  Rudolf was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and served in their navy during World War I as an engineer.  After the war, Claudus pursued a career as an artist. 

He held no grudge against his former adversary and befriended many Italian, British, and American naval officers. Seeing his skills as a maritime artist, these officers commissioned Claudus to produce works of famous ships from their respective navies.  President Franklin Roosevelt even asked Claudus to produce a series of works depicting the early American Navy during the American Revolution and War of 1812. 

During World War II,  Claudus returned to Europe and developed an "eyewitness"and "realistic" artistic approach.  While producing works on the Italian Navy at war, he showed Italians sailors drenched in water with torn uniforms.  After the war, he went back to work painting warships.  He received commissions from many heads of state from around the world, including President John F. Kennedy.  One author commented that Claudus could paint any ship as if he was looking right at it, even though he only had a set of building plans to work with. 

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