The Art of Propaganda on View at Eclipse

By Jen ThomasiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS — Their plans for a World War II museum to complement the existing Berkshire cultural attractions may still be in its infancy, but artist Ralph Brill and collector Darrell K. English are already exploring ways to combine their passion for art and war memorabilia.

"The Art of World War II," which will feature some war-era broadside posters from English's personal collection, is set for a soft opening this weekend at the Brill Gallery at the Eclipse Mill. Expected to run eight weeks, the show will display 40 pieces of wartime memorabilia, primarily war bond posters or "propaganda art."

"There's a lot of interest in this slice of history. Thousands of veterans are dying every day and people really want to know more about this neglected niche," said Brill on Wednesday, pointing to the success of a 2002 exhibit at the Williams College Musuem of Art titled "Prelude to a Nightmare: Art, Politics and Hitler's Early Years in Vienna, 1906-1913" as evidence of a renewed interest in the Holocaust and the war.

"This was before the Internet or even television. Back then, they were using art to communicate strong ideas and not too much has changed," said Brill, claiming current infractions of citizen's privacy by government as one of the parallels of that era. "This was the last so-to-speak 'good war.' All since then have been confused wars and there's been less patriotism but the themes are similar."

Brill, who was born in England during the war, said he has a particular interest in the time period because of his experiences in Europe following the fall of the Axis powers.

"I saw the war through young eyes and I made my own connections and interpretations," said Brill.

The artist said the show is a smaller version of what the pair want to house at their World War II museum. With hopes to construct their 40,000-square-foot facility along "Museum Mile," the section surrounding Route 2 that includes the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts, Williams College Museum of Arts and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Brill and English want to display art from both sides of the conflict.

<L2>Calling English's memorabilia "one piece of the puzzle," Brill said the museum could borrow pieces from other permanent collections from around the world.

Along with artwork created by Japanese-Americans detained in internment camps and airplane nose art, the museum will feature information of the history of "monuments men," a group of art rescuers whose efforts were highlighted through the books "Rescuing Da Vinci" and "The Rape of Europa."

The museum, to be created by museum design firm Ralph Applebaum Associates, will also showcase up to 4,000 kids' drawings created in California shipyards. Left alone while their mothers constructed ships and their fathers were at war, the artwork offers a new perspective on wartime views.

Brill and English are looking ahead to what their museum can offer the Berkshires but they still have a long way to go.

"But you have to start somewhere," Brill said.

The Brill Gallery at the Eclipse Mill is open Fridays through Sundays from noon to 6 or by appointment. Call 1-800-294-2811 for more information.
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