Tuesday, March 25, 2014

USS Alabama @ NNSY as Drawn by Illustrator Thorton Oakley, 1942

Oakley's rough sketch
of the painting shown above.
 Illustrator Thornton Oakley created this interpretation of the battleship USS Alabama (BB-60) at Norfolk Naval Shipyard preparing for launch. The illustration was part of a series he painted of American war industries during World War II. The point of this series was to show the industrial side of the war effort. Oakley was active in making patriotic art during both of the World Wars.

National Geographic showcased his work several times during WWII as part of its coverage of the war. Oakley also worked as both an illustrator and writer for many publications, such as Harper’s Monthly and Scribner’s. He also taught at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art for many years. As an artist, Oakley favored the use of primary colors, such as blue, red, and yellow. This is evident in this particular painting as he has worked several different hues of these colors into the scene for a striking effect. National Geographic originally published this work in their December 1942 issue.

Compare Oakley's work to Arms' interpretation of Alabama and one can quickly see the difference in styles. Even though both men studied architecture at college, Oakely also trained as an illustrator under the great illustrator Howard Pyle. As a result, Oakley's interpretation is more active and action-oriented than Arms' drawing of the battleship, which was still and highly detailed-orientated.

Editor's note: HRNM educator Eljiah Palmer composed this entry.

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