15 February, 2007


Remember my sketch of the traditional Italian house at La Ca? Another half a kilometer down the road lies the scene of my next sketch, a little stone garden hut tucked into a steep downhill slope.
We're going to deviate from art discussions for a minute, here. You'll see the reason, though.
The famous Tenth Mountain Division of the U.S. Army fought a battle in North Italy that is fair to describe as the "Monte Cassino of the North". My late father was there. Last year I visited the scene of the battle at a place the Americans named Riva Ridge.
The elite American mountain troopers conducted a night assault, in winter, up a rock face in what amounts to one of the most spectacular actions of the Second World War. Three other major American assaults by seasoned and first-rate units had been repelled by this "impenetrable" Nazi German position. On the top of Riva ridge were the German's elite Gebergsjager - their own mountain troops.
The most iconic photo of this key battle is this one showing the Tenth Mountain Division's special evacuation and supply tram that was installed in support of the high angle operation. Ammo and supplies went up; wounded and dead came down. What I learned from a veteran is that the small building pictured in the famous photo, was the temporary mausoleum, or collection point for the dead G.I.s and Tedesci (German) alike.
In my drawing is that same building from the old photo. I feature the acute downhill slope towards what is now a garden hut, with a portal through the foliage at the right that leads downhill towards the ravine. In the background, the Riva Ridge ascends towards heaven.
I incorporated some of the VG marks that I have studied, and am using his Garden Cottage drawing as a type of image with copious amounts of foliage, with a structure in the background.

The photo I took of the garden hut, Italy

The entrance to the erstwhile mausoleum.


Robyn Sinclair said...

Your perspective works a treat, Casey. I almost slip down that slope to the little hut! Very moving to read your story of its earlier history and your father's involvement.
I'm often reminded of the wars here. People were killed by bombs in our village in WWII and in the valley below, Hannibal stopped to water his elephants and fought a bloody battle with the Romans.

jafabrit said...

What a story and adds such meaning to your sketch. Oh what a place it must have been to visit, knowing that your father had been there, knowing what it meant.

Casey Klahn said...

Thanks, Robyn. The residents of these little Apennine towns are a class act, that's for sure. The "rock star" reception they give the veterans was very touching.
Those with personal memories of the war were compelled to pass their message on to the children. They went to great lengths to seek out the veterans and share a story of the deprivation they recalled, and the simple grace of getting food from G.I.s
And, of course, we ate, and sang, and ate, and drank vino and grappa, and ate some more!
And thanks to you Corrine. One thing that came to mind was my late father's impressions of Italy. It is quite a lot like Washington Sate, with the mountains and evergreen trees. I felt that my dad must have received a measure of comfort from being in a place like home geophysically.

Casey Klahn said...

Excuse me: "...They gave the veterans..."
Anyone out there with blogger knowledge about this image centering in the frame? The "Portal" image is centered in my Photoshop file, I'm pretty sure. And it looks centered in my Blogger preview, but it comes out off center in my Firefox window.

Making A Mark said...

Lovely drawing Casey - you've done much better than me. And what a fascinating story and place!

Did you use the 'centred' command when uploading it?

Casey Klahn said...

Thank you, Katherine. I'm pretty sure that I always use the centered command, as well as the large command. It's possible that when I shrink by corner grabbing, in order to move text and other images around, that it doesn't open back to center.
Something to explore!
Thank you, kindly, for the link on your blog.

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