Tyree and US Marine Corps Artists of World War II

With the start of WWII, the Marine Corps leadership requested that General Robert Denig head the Division of Public Relations to promote Marine activities in the South Pacific.  He assembled a staff of correspondents, photographers and artists. Some of those included were: John Fabion, Theo Hios, Donald Dickson, Hugh Laidman, and Harry Andrew Jackson, all who would become quite well known. Also soon invited was Private Ralph Burke Tyree who was stationed in Samoa at the time. In 1943-44 the Marines’ art was exhibited in San Francisco at the de Young museum, in New York at the Museum of Modern Art and the Scholastic in Philadelphia. None of Tyree paintings from these exhibits have been retained. Tyree went on to send some pencil drawings to his future wife Margo which have been included in the book Tyree, Artist of the South Pacific (sign-up for a notification of this book release on our home page, here).

In 1943 the book Marines at War edited by Aimee Crane was published with the list of artists including Tyree. General Denig’s introduction stated “They are Marines first, and artists, or anything else, second. Every man a fighting man… No artist was enlisted as a specialist. He has to pass the Corps’ rigid entrance requirement, and then prove that he was physically and psychologically able to undergo the basic training program that steels all recruits of the Corps for combat. These men are sound, red-blooded American men, anxious to devote their talents as well as well as their hearts and muscles to the winning of the war.”  The talented and athletic Tyree fit this description.

This WWII book’s editor Aimee Crane said of Tyree:His unusual pencil technique is ideally suited to catch some of the softer qualities of South Pacific atmosphere, reminding us that these islands, now a bloody battlefield, were once the destinations of dreamers.” How prophetic were her words. After the war and for the next thirty plus years, Tyree’s paintings would depict the softer and sensual beauty of the South Pacific and its people. He would paint thousands of pieces of art, initially oils on board, and later, oils on black velvet.

 

Read More about about Tyree: A Marine and Artist here.

And read about his early years here.