Work of Nashua artist on display in Wolfeboro

WOLFEBORO – The phone call was from a man who said he had paintings made by his wife’s uncle during World War II, and he asked if the museum would be interested in looking at them.

Michael Culver was interested enough to go to Manchester and take a look, but the director of the Wright Museum of World War II wasn’t very hopeful.

"You hear that all the time," he said.

Since the Wolfeboro museum opened 20 years ago, many people have offered to donate items.

But then Culver saw some of the paintings by Charles Miller that had been stored in brown paper bags under a bed in the home of
Robert Dennis, whose wife was Miller’s niece.

"It was obvious to me they are a national treasure," Culver said. "I immediately fell in love with them."

So he asked to take some of the paintings back to
Wolfeboro to research them.

Culver learned that Charles Joseph Miller was born in Nashua, the son of Lithuanian immigrants, and joined the U.S. Army in 1925. In more than 700 watercolor paintings, he chronicled his years in World War II’s Pacific theater.

He gave away some of the paintings to fellow soldiers, but he never sold any.

Eighty-three of Miller’s painting are now on display at the Wolfeboro museum.

Except for 21 paintings shown at the Currier Museum in 1987, the watercolors had never been seen in public before.

"Charlie showed how GIs lived their lives during the war," Culver said.

He showed how they made an improvised washing machine, how they got along together.

"He gives an idea of what all soldier go through," Culver said.

One painting, called "Bivouac," shows soldiers washing their faces in water from their helmet, shaving, writing a letter, heating up food, sitting around talking near a captured Japanese flag – living together "normally" after the abnormal conditions of battle.

They were painted by a GI during World War II, but they look like every GI in every war, Culver said. Miller was an intimate eyewitness, and the paintings are artworks, but the descriptions on the back and front also make them historic documents, he said.

As they got older, Dennis and his wife, Nancy, decided the art was too valuable to be left under a bed, and they worried about what would happen to them after they died.

So, they reached out to friends who helped get the images on disks and sent to museums.

"Within a week, Dr. Culver came to the house," Robert Dennis said. "He was flabbergasted. The color is exquisite" because the paintings were shielded from the light.

The Dennises worked to get all the documentation they could on Miller’s life and military service, although the military records were burned in
a fire in 1971.

Miller would have been surprised at the attention his paintings are getting. He regarded himself as "just a guy with a hobby," and was entirely self-taught, a "very reclusive man who did almost nothing but practice his craft," Dennis said.

He left school in the sixth or seventh grade to help support his family during the Depression and worked during his civilian life as a laborer or custodian and never married. He served stints in the Army between 1925 and ’35 and was inducted back in ’42, serving until ’45, mostly in the South Pacific.

"Charlie emphasized that we are truly looking through his eyes, or as he said of his work, "You see what I saw," Culver said.

Kim Palmer, a library media specialist at Milford High School, is Miller’s great-niece. Her family took her to the Currier Museum when she was a teenager to see the 21 paintings on display, but they didn’t mean much to her then.

But recently she and teacher Steve Vetack took about 25 students in his World War II history class on a field trip to Wolfeboro.

Some of the students were engaged with the display, and the style reminded them of graphic novels. Everyone was surprised at how bright and vivid the colors were, said Palmer, who told them the little she knows about Miller and his art.

The exhibt of Miller’s work, "The World War II Art of Private Charles J. Miller," will be open through October.

The Wright Museum has more than 14,000 items, including about 16 military vehicles, in its 20,000 square feet. Its goal is to show how the war managed to unite the country in a way that allowed the United States and its allies to win, Culver said, and to "help future generations understand just how much the Greatest Generation did."

"It all changed on a dime, and united us the way we had never been united before," Culver said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com

Work of Nashua artist on display in Wolfeboro

WOLFEBORO – The phone call was from a man who said he had paintings made by his wife’s uncle during World War II, and he asked if the museum would be interested in looking at them.

Michael Culver was interested enough to go to Manchester and take a look, but the director of the Wright Museum of World War II wasn’t very hopeful.

"You hear that all the time," he said.

Since the Wolfeboro museum opened 20 years ago, many people have offered to donate items.

But then Culver saw some of the paintings by Charles Miller that had been stored in brown paper bags under a bed in the home of
Robert Dennis, whose wife was Miller’s niece.

"It was obvious to me they are a national treasure," Culver said. "I immediately fell in love with them."

So he asked to take some of the paintings back to
Wolfeboro to research them.

Culver learned that Charles Joseph Miller was born in Nashua, the son of Lithuanian immigrants, and joined the U.S. Army in 1925. In more than 700 watercolor paintings, he chronicled his years in World War II’s Pacific theater.

He gave away some of the paintings to fellow soldiers, but he never sold any.

Eighty-three of Miller’s painting are now on display at the Wolfeboro museum.

Except for 21 paintings shown at the Currier Museum in 1987, the watercolors had never been seen in public before.

"Charlie showed how GIs lived their lives during the war," Culver said.

He showed how they made an improvised washing machine, how they got along together.

"He gives an idea of what all soldier go through," Culver said.

One painting, called "Bivouac," shows soldiers washing their faces in water from their helmet, shaving, writing a letter, heating up food, sitting around talking near a captured Japanese flag – living together "normally" after the abnormal conditions of battle.

They were painted by a GI during World War II, but they look like every GI in every war, Culver said. Miller was an intimate eyewitness, and the paintings are artworks, but the descriptions on the back and front also make them historic documents, he said.

As they got older, Dennis and his wife, Nancy, decided the art was too valuable to be left under a bed, and they worried about what would happen to them after they died.

So, they reached out to friends who helped get the images on disks and sent to museums.

"Within a week, Dr. Culver came to the house," Robert Dennis said. "He was flabbergasted. The color is exquisite" because the paintings were shielded from the light.

The Dennises worked to get all the documentation they could on Miller’s life and military service, although the military records were burned in
a fire in 1971.

Miller would have been surprised at the attention his paintings are getting. He regarded himself as "just a guy with a hobby," and was entirely self-taught, a "very reclusive man who did almost nothing but practice his craft," Dennis said.

He left school in the sixth or seventh grade to help support his family during the Depression and worked during his civilian life as a laborer or custodian and never married. He served stints in the Army between 1925 and ’35 and was inducted back in ’42, serving until ’45, mostly in the South Pacific.

"Charlie emphasized that we are truly looking through his eyes, or as he said of his work, "You see what I saw," Culver said.

Kim Palmer, a library media specialist at Milford High School, is Miller’s great-niece. Her family took her to the Currier Museum when she was a teenager to see the 21 paintings on display, but they didn’t mean much to her then.

But recently she and teacher Steve Vetack took about 25 students in his World War II history class on a field trip to Wolfeboro.

Some of the students were engaged with the display, and the style reminded them of graphic novels. Everyone was surprised at how bright and vivid the colors were, said Palmer, who told them the little she knows about Miller and his art.

The exhibt of Miller’s work, "The World War II Art of Private Charles J. Miller," will be open through October.

The Wright Museum has more than 14,000 items, including about 16 military vehicles, in its 20,000 square feet. Its goal is to show how the war managed to unite the country in a way that allowed the United States and its allies to win, Culver said, and to "help future generations understand just how much the Greatest Generation did."

"It all changed on a dime, and united us the way we had never been united before," Culver said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at

673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com

Work of Nashua artist on display in Wolfeboro

WOLFEBORO – The phone call was from a man who said he had paintings made by his wife’s uncle during World War II, and he asked if the museum would be interested in looking at them.

Michael Culver was interested enough to go to Manchester and take a look, but the director of the Wright Museum of World War II wasn’t very hopeful.

"You hear that all the time," he said.

Since the Wolfeboro museum opened 20 years ago, many people have offered to donate items.

But then Culver saw some of the paintings by Charles Miller that had been stored in brown paper bags under a bed in the home of Robert Dennis, whose wife was Miller’s niece.

"It was obvious to me they are a national treasure," Culver said. "I immediately fell in love with them."

So he asked to take some of the paintings back to
Wolfeboro to research them.

Culver learned that Charles Joseph Miller was born in Nashua, the son of Lithuanian immigrants, and joined the U.S. Army in 1925. In more than 700 watercolor paintings, he chronicled his years in World War II’s Pacific theater.

He gave away some of the paintings to fellow soldiers, but he never sold any.

Eighty-three of Miller’s painting are now on display at the Wolfeboro museum.

Except for 21 paintings shown at the Currier Museum in 1987, the watercolors had never been seen in public before.

"Charlie showed how GIs lived their lives during the war," Culver said.

He showed how they made an improvised washing machine, how they got along together.

"He gives an idea of what all soldier go through," Culver said.

One painting, called "Bivouac," shows soldiers washing their faces in water from their helmet, shaving, writing a letter, heating up food, sitting around talking near a captured Japanese flag – living together "normally" after the abnormal conditions of battle.

They were painted by a GI during World War II, but they look like every GI in every war, Culver said. Miller was an intimate eyewitness, and the paintings are artworks, but the descriptions on the back and front also make them historic documents, he said.

As they got older, Dennis and his wife, Nancy, decided the art was too valuable to be left under a bed, and they worried about what would happen to them after they died. So, they reached out to friends who helped get the images on disks and sent to museums.

"Within a week, Dr. Culver came to the house," Robert Dennis said. "He was flabbergasted. The color is exquisite" because the paintings were shielded from the light.

The Dennises worked to get all the documentation they could on Miller’s life and military service although the military records were burned in a fire in 1971.

Miller would have been surprised at the attention his paintings are getting. He regarded himself as "just a guy with a hobby," and was entirely self-taught, a "very reclusive man who did almost nothing but practice his craft," Dennis said.

He left school in the sixth or seventh grade to help support his family during the Depression and worked during his civilian life as a laborer or custodian and never married. He served stints in the Army between 1925 and 1935 and was inducted back in 1942, serving until 1945, mostly in the South Pacific.

"Charlie emphasized that we are truly looking through his eyes, or as he said of his work, "You see what I saw," Culver said.

Kim Palmer, a library media specialist at Milford High School, is Miller’s great-niece. Her family took her to the Currier Museum when she was a teenager to see the 21 paintings on display, but they didn’t mean much to her then.

But recently she and teacher Steve Vetack took about 25 students in his World War II history class on a field trip to Wolfeboro.

Some of the students were engaged with the display, and the style reminded them of graphic novels. Everyone was surprised at how bright and vivid the colors were, said Palmer, who told them the little she knows about Miller and his art.

The exhibt of Miller’s work, "The World War II Art of Private Charles J. Miller," will be open through October.

The Wright Museum has more than 14,000 items, including about 16 military vehicles, in its 20,000 square feet. Its goal is to show how the war managed to unite the country in a way that allowed the United States and its allies to win, Culver said, and to "help future generations understand just how much the Greatest Generation did."

"It all changed on a dime, and united us the way we had never been united before," Culver said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.