Imagine a British artist who, after completing 65 paintings depicting World War II battles in the Atlantic, takes on the job of painting 100 more such scenes in the Pacific.
John Hamilton, all 61 years and "2 1/4 yards" of him, agrees that he's out to sea.
Last night at the Army and Navy Club, the ambitious and towering (6-feet, 9-inch) British marine artist was honored by the Committee to Remember the Pacific Conflict at Sea, 1941-1945, a group newly formed by former Secretary of the Navy J. William Middendorf II to, among other things, remember the fallen of that era. With John Hamilton and his work around, there's no need to worry.
"I try to sign off 2 1/2 a month," rasped Hamilton, his voice already tested by several detailed tours he'd given of the first seven Pacific paintings, illuminated in the club's Washington Room under the watchful eye of landlubber George himself.
About 40 guests, some in full uniform like Rear Adm. Bruce Newell, snacked on hors d'oeuvres when not encountering the indefatigable painter's precise disquisitions on the battles. Eyebrows full-speed ahead, arms jumping from detail to detail, Hamilton pointed to the numbers on Col. Doolittle's B-25 bomber in "First Air Raid on Japan," the distance between the Exeter and other ships in "Battle of the Java Sea," and talked about the painter's burden of accuracy.
He fretted about whether the water in "First Air Raid on Japan" looked too much "like the Atlantic" -- he had never seen the Pacific. Seasoned officers assured him that the Pacific is not always blue. For Hamilton, that came as a relief. He hopes his paintings, eventually to be displayed here in a naval museum, will help to prevent war by showing it without any retouching.
What does Hamilton find difficult to paint? "A calm sea," said the old British Army officer. "Give me . . . " he began, and then his arms started churning like the crowded seas depicted around him.