You Could See Hell in His Drawings

By | June 20, 2020

[June 20, 2020]  American Legion Magazine in its July 2020 edition, highlights drawings of Ugo Giannini of Trenton, New Jersey.  Participating in the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, Ugo was haunted by the memories of that terrible day and found that his art could help his healing.  His wife, Maxine, researched Ugo’s journey, traveled to France, talked with veterans, and read after-action reports to fulfill her goal of better knowing her husband.  You could see hell in his drawings, she said.

Ugo’s drawings are on display in the Italian American Museum located in Manhattan, New York.  A small number are included here.  This museum is a real treat.  If you are ever in “Little Italy,” the museum is located in a red brick, two-story building on Mulberry St.  It’s worth the effort to stop in.

Maxine published Ugo’s artwork in Drawing D-Day: An Artist’s Journey Through War last year.  The book is a powerful reflection of the watershed event of the twentieth century.  Ugo Giannini landed on Omaha Beach with a platoon of U.S. Army military police.  Only six of the 37 men in the platoon made it off the beach.

These are the only known drawings from that historic day.  Drawn in pencil and pen, in a gritty, realistic style, the images depict heavily burdened infantrymen trying to stay afloat in seawater, crawling on the beach, and death among the ruins.  It portrays the horror of war in a profound and personal way.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

25 thoughts on “You Could See Hell in His Drawings

  1. Maxine Giannini

    Thank you for writing this article about my husband Ugo Giannini. He was born in Newark,N.J. There were various ethnic enclaves in Newark and various migrations. It was a mirror of the settling of America. One distinct set of migrants after another. Irish = English German Italian Now Black. Prejudice was overt and rampant. Name calling was not uncommon. The Jewish population in Newark migrated to the Oranges and north after the Black population hit 50percent. This was in the late forties and early fifties.
    Ugo died in 1993 at the age of seventy three..and left his correspondence in the war to his first girlfriend and to his family. He was always an artist..and there are over six hundred works in the studio. His last works were all war related. Maxine Giannini missig 29@aol.com

    1. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      Mrs. Giannini, it was my honor to write about your husband and to hear from you. My wife is of Italian descent and she often tells of her relatives who also struggled when they came to America. Please accept my humblest thanks for what you and your husband have done for us and for keeping his memories alive.

  2. JT Patterson

    Yes, this was indeed a troubled man but also one that found his calling thru his artwork that some good can come from bad.

  3. Tom Bushmaster

    Great drawings and done under the most difficult circumstances a human could be subjected to.

    1. Newtown Manager

      Good info Stacey. Glad to see you on the blog forum.

  4. Mr. T.J. Asper

    Thanks, Gen. Satterfield for introducing this man to us. The world is a better place because of him and those who are like him. From his service on D-Day to his artistic talents, this is the type of person we should all attempt to be. That is how we as individuals can make the world a better place.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Very true, Mr. TJ. Like us, Ugo was not sucking off society or whining about it. He did his job and created a loving family. He focused on his responsibilities and didn’t look to what others could give him.

  5. Scotty Bush

    I can’t imagine trying to draw and shade a picture while bullets are flying over your head.

  6. Gil Johnson

    His wife Maxine said, “He never talked about the war, but it poured out through his art,” she said. “When I look at his work, I’m struck by how powerful they are. You can feel the terror of these men when you look at them.”

    1. Maureen S. Sullivan

      ? I found some additional info too. I’m glad that Ugo has been recognized for his service and his artistic abilities. Unfortunately, he died in 1993. Too bad for us all. A loss that cannot be replaced but we can see his art and that can give us something.

  7. Danny Burkholder

    Drawing is not easy even if you are trained for it. But to do so, as Ugo Giannini did, is an amazing feat.

  8. Kenny Foster

    I wish that I had his skills. Some might say the drawings are crude but given the environment of the battlefield he was under, I’m really shocked he was able to draw at all.

  9. Tony B. Custer

    Wow, interesting article but more interesting the experiences this guy had. He struggled (without govt help, I might add) but married, had kids, and got a good job. Sure, he got the GI Bill but other than that, he did what he had to do and there were no “safe spaces” for him to hid in.

    1. Wilson Cox

      Tony, well said. None of the snowflakes we see today (usually found in college) could do what this ordinary man did. Today, we encourage weakness and stupidity … also we don’t encourage common sense and I’m talking about even in our politicians.

      1. Eric Coda

        He He …… yes, we do have weak men today. I guess that is the first step toward communism. Emasculate the men and promote feminization of the nation. Then, take over the govt.

      2. Xerxes I

        Well said, we should be doing something about it so I joined a Boy Scout troop to teach boys how to be men.

    2. Lynn Pitts

      Yes, that is what men do, Tony. They do what is right. They may struggle at it, fail sometimes, but they keep coming back until they get it right.

  10. Stacey Borden

    The drawings must have been particularly difficult since he was under fire and had seen so much death and destruction. I’m not so sure I could even hold a pen or pencil. How did he even get the paper out and keep it dry and clean enough to work it?

    1. Dennis Mathes

      As Ugo Giannini said, he didn’t understand how he came out of the attack on Omaha Beach without a scratch.

  11. Doug Smith

    I welcome this article for the pure artistic flavor it gives. Looks like this man actually was able to find an outlet for the terror in his mind.

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