1945 and After: Peacetime

In May 1945, with the German forces surrendering, the headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Army moved to Lake Garda, just west of the city of Verona in northeastern Italy.

“This had been a vacation spot before the war and now that the war in Europe was over, it became peaceful and as our work was drawing to a close, we had much time for recreation, principally swimming and boating. As I remember those days, it seemed like we were having a vacation. Our Section occupied the dark, majestic palace, built in...1577 by Marquis Sforza Pallavicino, Governor General of the Venetian Army, in the form of a castle with large rooms and surrounded by beautiful gardens. This was a pleasant spot to be, and to spend the last few months in the Army. Here I painted two oils, spending more time to finish them than any of the previous paintings.”

Harry Davis, Experiences of a Soldier Artist, 1946

Italian Partisans

Italian Partisans

“In April 1945...the drive on Bologna and the Po Valley began. I had just started to the [85th] division to get more sketches, when the drive began, but it moved so fast that I did not overtake it. Instead, I went into Bologna on the third day after it had been taken by the Partisans, and there I got an idea for a painting. The celebration of the liberation of Bologna was a colorful affair, and I later made it an oil painting....”

“[The Partisans] were little bands of men and women of all ages, equipped with weapons of every description, who fought gallantly to rid their country of Fascism.”

Harry Davis, Experiences of a Soldier Artist,1946

28th Division in Paris

28th Division in Paris (Image of the painting courtesy of the U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia)

Reference Photograph used for painting "28th Division in Paris"

Reference Photograph used for painting 28th Division in Paris

Davis’s painting 28th Division in Paris shows the U.S Army division marching down the Champs Elysees in Paris on August 29, 1944. Davis, who was in Italy, based his painting on a photograph taken by a U.S. Army photographer. 

Experiences of a Soldier Artist: a narrative of events of the three years that I spent overseas

PDF of Experiences of a Soldier Artist, 1946

Davis was discharged from the army on November 23, 1945. In 1946 he wrote his memiors about his time in the war, which are available to read online. He concluded his memoir of his years in the army with a reflection on the role of combat artists.

“We had seen enough war art that looked like it had been done in fox-holes, but instead had cleverly been done in a studio, with a lot of quick strokes and spots, to give one the impression of it having been created in the fury of battle. That was not our purpose. We saw things as they were and we put them down, very much as a Historian would record the events that occurred. Some of my drawings had to be very factual and maybe they are not art but I feel they tell the story.”

Harry Davis, Experiences of a Soldier Artist, 1946

Harry and Lois Davis

Harry and Lois Davis, date unknown

Harry Davis returned to the Herron School of Art as a faculty member in 1946, teaching there until his retirement in 1983 with the title Professor Emeritus. In 1948 he married fellow artist and Herron alumna Lois Peterson. They had two children, Joanna and Mark. He received numerous awards and honors over the years, and his paintings are in the collections of museums, colleges and universities, corporations, and private collectors. He passed away on February 9, 2006.

1945 and After: Peacetime