National Churchill Museum prepares for D-Day exhibit, presentation from Churchill expert

Kit Freudenberg, National Churchill Museum interim assistant director and director of development, unveils a painting that will be hanged with 63 others in the museum for its “D-Day Normany: Operation Overlord” exhibit opening May 30. The exhibit features the artwork of three U.S. Navy combat artists present during D-Day.

Kit Freudenberg, National Churchill Museum interim assistant director and director of development, unveils a painting that will be hanged with 63 others in the museum for its “D-Day Normany: Operation Overlord” exhibit opening May 30. The exhibit features the artwork of three U.S. Navy combat artists present during D-Day. Photo by Brittany Ruess.

Kit Freudenberg walked the beaches of Normandy last summer and stood where soldiers battled nearly 70 years ago in a defining moment of World War II.

Standing at the bottom of the cliffs, the National Churchill Museum interim assistant director and director of development imagined military men running on the sand.

Scenes depicted in her mind were more tangible Thursday evening as she opened painting after painting by artists who witnessed the historic event.

“Now, this is a somber picture,” Freudenberg said while unwrapping a painting.

It showed white blood-stained sheets covering dead bodies of soldiers in the foreground, while military men carry more casualties in the background.

The painting one of 64 watercolors and drawings that will be on display at the National Churchill Museum from May 30-July 20. The exhibit is titled, “D-Day Normandy: Operation Overlord,” and features the work of three former U.S. Navy artists: Mitchell Jamieson, Alexander Russo and Dwight Shepler.

On D-Day, Jamieson walked on shore with the first of the Navy’s Normandy demolition units, while Russo joined soldiers on a landing craft, according to a press release. Shepler documented the experience from an American destroyer ship as well as the Holocaust with the first American line that stepped foot on the beach, the release also states.

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This painting is one of 64 D-Day paintings that will be on display at the National Churchill Museum from May 30-July 20.

As soldiers landed and battled on the Normandy coast, the combat artists were commissioned to document D-Day moments through their artwork — destroyer ships blasting bombs, soldiers setting up on the beach, exhausted men gathering and more.

The release states the exhibit “divides the paintings into five different sections: pre-invasion days, D-Day: The Troops Move In; D-Day: On the Beach; D+1 through D+3 and D+4 and aftermath.”

Freudenberg said the exhibit is a way for the museum to honor veterans and retired military.

Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Archives Centre and a fellow of the Churchill College, will give a presentation followed by a question and answer session May 30 to kickoff the opening.

Attendees can expect Packwood to showcase 3,000 boxes of Churchill’s letters and documents, including original childhood letters and war speeches, according to the release.

The opening events are free and open to the public.

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