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Painting War

George Plante's Combat Art in World War II

Kathleen Broome Williams (author)

ISBN: 9781682474266

Publication Date: Apr 2019

Format: Hardback

Discusses Scottish artist George Plante and how his art served an alliance. The wartime production of propaganda art provides a little-known example of one way the otherwise much studied Anglo-American relationship was built up and sustained.

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Examines the Scottish artist George Plante and how his art served an alliance.

The most critical of World War II alliances, the longest lasting, and in many ways the most unique was that of Britain and the United States. Theirs was a bond based on shared democratic principles that was altogether different from the cooperation of necessity with Stalin's Soviet Union. The wartime production of propaganda art provides a little-known example of one way the otherwise much studied Anglo-American relationship was built up and sustained.

George Plante did not enter World War II as an artist, but as a volunteer radio operator in the British Merchant Navy. There, he spent more than two years engaged in the long running and fiercely fought Battle of the Atlantic ploughing his way between Britain and the United States. But while dodging U-boats and battling the elements, he never stopped painting. Every time his tanker docked in New York he pursued contacts in the art and advertising worlds, hoping to interest them in his latest work and persistently promoting his talent. Even in the midst of a devastating conflict he never lost sight of his devotion to his art, and very quickly he caught the attention of agents of the British Ministry of Information (MOI) and of the War Artists Advisory Committee (WAAC).

They recruited him to use his paintings of the war at sea for what was seen as a vital effort to secure American support for Britain. In March 1943, Plante's nautical days ended abruptly and he was reassigned to work closely with the Americans in Egypt and Italy – this time, to use his art as overt propaganda both to demonise the Nazi and Fascist enemy, and to arouse opposition to them among occupied peoples under their control.

Plante's unusual wartime career spanned three continents moving from the North Atlantic to North Africa and the Mediterranean. Both at sea and on land, Plante's war was far from the policy making strategic or even operational level. He took no actions nor made any decisions that directly changed the course of the war. Rather, the decisions he was called upon to make dealt with colour, style and layout. He was just one very talented man with unusual opportunities and a job to do. Yet seeing the war through George Plante's vivid and articulate letters and memoir and through his art adds a granular ground level view that both expands and enriches the historical record.


"George Plante fought World War II with brush, pen and ink. Kathleen Williams describes how Plante's paintings of war in the North Atlantic and illustrations for propaganda materials targeting enemy forces in the Mediterranean contributed to Allied victory. Her deep research, keen eye for telling details, and clear writing make this a highly readable contribution to understanding a largely ignored facet of World War II." – James C. Bradford, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, Texas A&M University

"Williams' biography of her stepfather tells the story George Plante's war with the rigorous eye of a veteran historian and the touching affection of a devoted stepdaughter." – Richard L. DiNardo, author of Germany and the Axis Powers

"The book is about George Plante's combat art, but it's a much larger story than that, recounted by a talented author." – Virtual Mirage

"There are numerous memoirs available that describe what it was like to fight against the U-Boat menace, but very few books that look at the events from the point of view of a non-combatant. This book helps to fill that void." – StrategyPage

"Broome Williams' biography of her father, her careful research, and meticulous writing give the reader a good understanding of a wartime life in the fine grain of history and a worthy addition to the library of the Second World War." – Sjovasendet
Pages 304
Dimensions 229 x 152
Date Published 30 Apr 2019
Publisher Naval Institute Press
Subject/s Painting & paintings   Individual artists, art monographs   Military history   Warfare & defence   Second World War  
Dr Kathleen Williams was raised in Italy and England and has taught in Puerto Rico, Japan, and Panama as well as in the United States. She has published extensively in naval history and will spend the 2018-2019 academic year at the US Naval Academy, Annapolis as the Class of 1957 Distinguished Chair in Naval Heritage.

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